Saturday, April 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Wildeman

Word came to me today about the death of Wildeman, our marvelous Haflinger, who went to work in Michigan teaching handicapped riders after I moved here to Hawaii. His photo had been on the school's website until last Spring as a featured "teacher," and when I noticed it had disappeared, I wondered why--and had this subtle intuition that perhaps he had left this world. An email today belatedly confirmed it.

He died peacefully last Spring and was found in the school's pasture when staff went out to bring him in for lessons. They think his heart just finally gave out.

That, too, does not surprise me--because this horse had a great and generous heart that worked overtime as he tried his best to please his humans.

We bought him as an "unbroken" three year old, part of a trio of Haflingers for sale at an auction. Friend and instructor, Peggy, took his brother and half sister, while we took Wildeman.

Thus began a relationship that yielded many ribbons, trophies and championships over the years. Wildeman (along with his brother and half sister) became a star in the horse show world when he really would have much preferred staying home eating grass. He performed in English, Western, dressage and driving. Few could beat him in any discipline. He and his brother dominated Haflinger competitions for many years and he was the grand champion driving horse at the Ohio State Fair.

Most of all, he was a treasured friend--sweet, gentle, kind, a little bit lazy at times, a little bit spirited at other times, occasionally opinionated, and always...always a confidante and empathetic listener. You could tell him anything. He was wise in ways that most humans never achieve. He seemed to know what you were thinking and feeling without any words needing to be said...and he was there for you.

Was he perfect? No, and I have old Wildeman-related injuries to prove it. But even those were pretty much MY fault. A bucking fit on a cold frosty morning told me that he'd been given too much grain by the staff at a boarding barn where we had him so we could keep him working all winter long. When he kicked my cart to pieces at a show and tossed me high into the air, it was because of a pinched nerve I had failed to notice despite a few obvious clues.

Perhaps his favorite human in the world was Christina--for whom he worked his heart out and gave his all on so many occasions. They were beautiful together.

Wildeman taught me so much, and he went on to teach handicapped kids who can't run or play like normal kids. He gave them the joy of riding a fine horse and having four sturdy legs under them, instead of two sometimes useless or uncoordinated ones. Astride Wildeman, they could move across the earth with the thunder of hoofbeats echoing in their hearts, and they could share that special realm of rainbows, smiles and magic.

That's what a good horse does; he brings you magic.

Wherever he is now, I hope there are green meadows, clear running water, wildflowers to tickle his nose and a few horse buddies to hang out with.

Goodbye, old friend...'til we meet again.

You weren't just good; you were the best.

A kiss on the nose for a fabulous horse!


  1. {hugs} well said, Aunt Pam.

    xo, Catherine

  2. what a great life he led. sorry aunt pam:(

  3. My goodness but you can "sit a horse"...Would so much like to see some more picks of the rest of your family of horses. Such pretty pictures of you all and this gentle giant...Share more please?

  4. Sounds like Wildeman was a great friend to you and many others.....A horse so special will never be forgotten !!!! Barb

  5. Such a sweet little Beastie he was. - keeks