If You’ve Ever Owned An Ugly Horse

The following is a true story and a tribute to an animals undieing devotion.It is long and you may prefer to print it out and then read it.  I believe it is worth your time and if in some small way I have given recognition to the spirit and heart of our beloved friends and you remember R/C as a great and beautiful horse I will be forever greatfull.
 
How can I begin to tell you of this big dumb, ugly horse?   How can you see and feel the heart of this remarkable fellow?  This story is for all of you who have thought ”Gee that’s an ugly horse, and for those of us lucky enough to have had them.  Another’s Ebony Sun was born Memorial Day weekend 1989, and when we saw him we wanted to hold a memorial !
 
This was the ugliest foal ever born.You know the statement all babies are beautiful, well not in this case.  His head was huge, more mule than horse.  He was hide stretched across bone.   I hoped when he filled out things would improve.  Nope, he got worse.   He was unproportioned, rafter hipped and still that head !   I didn’t think it possible for him to even walk without falling over that head. We began calling him
Rochester,  I don’t know why it just seemed to fit.   My husband commented constantly, "That’s got to be the ugliest horse I've ever seen"  . I, as any protective mother tried to resist but I knew he was right.
 

Here is Al showing the beautiful Stoney, Halter Champion of Michigan, and then there’s me.   Here I come with what surely could have been a great before and after commercial, it was embarrassing! People approaching us would go directly to Al commenting on how pretty Stoney was, then the uneasy moment as they felt compelled to say something to me.   Desperately trying to think of something, "He’s a big one, was all the best of them could come up with.   Most of the time they’d just walk away in an uneasy silence.   Embarrassed, I’d threaten my ugly horse with,  "You’d better behave or it's Alpo City for you. No one else would have you your so darn ugly."
 
At the age of 2 I rode him not because I wanted to but because it needed doing.   How I longed for a pretty horse, one I could be proud of.   I'd think although he’s ugly he’ll mature into such a good ride - NOP!  He paced, because he was so long strided his stepping pace was not bad but the minute you speeded him up he beat you to death.   I thought temperament - NOPE!   At 2 he would spook at a leaf and jump side ways leaving you in the dirt if you weren’t on guard all the time.  Would I ever be rid of this pacey, spooky, ugly horse?  I contemplated the rest of my life on him because heaven knows I didn’t know of anyone else who found these qualities worth while.   He did have one saving grace he liked people.   He’d lie down and put his head in your lap, the kids loved to climb all over him - so I guess I was stuck with this big ugly dog.
 
The following year was better - OK he was still ugly but at least he wasn’t spooking and he did love people.   I think he knew in the wild he’d have been abandoned at birth!   Even the other horse’s seemed to know, they just didn’t want to be around him and treated him horribly.
 
Rochester’s first claim to fame came at the age of 4 during the Michigan shore to shore ride,  276 miles across the state.   Camping and ridding for 2 weeks.   Although still the ugliest horse in camp, people started to be drawn to him and he started picking up nick names like R/C, Rollo, Mickey, Chester and others.   The kids in camp brought him a pillow and banky . Everyone thought it amassing he would let you put his head on the pillow and stay down for you to sit or lie on him.
 

On the trail he now went where ever you pointed him, he might shake all over but he went with no added means of encouragement other than a cluck.  We found he really loved sticking his head completely under water and blowing bubbles.   I thought at first it was a way to finally hide that head , but he seemed to truly enjoy the bubbles.  At 4 he was 16.1H big, black, and unfortunately still ugly.  People would say how
nice he was if only he weren’t soo- ugly.   Rochester’s fourth year we covered over 800 trail miles.   His flat walk covered so much ground he could out do most.  It was during this fourth year I began learning what beauty was.
 
R/C was now the horse to borrow for children needing a reliable mount or adults wanting to enjoy the trail. He lead without tack and you could ride him with nothing but halter and rope.   R/C needed neither bridle or saddle to carry what he considered precious cargo.  Because our 2 year old grand daughter was to small to actually ride or physically control a 16H horse we taught her verbal commands and she rode R/C in pee-wee “walk /trot” by simply saying ,”Chester walk” and “Chester whoa”.  By 5 Rochester was becoming a legend, yes ugly and all. I can’t begin to tell you all the stories. I was free, free to go any where and do anything for R/C always took care of me.
  

July 94” we spent 3 weeks in the Smokie Mts..   We traveled 20 some miles a day from altitudes of 2-6000ft. Although terrified of heights I was free on my horse to see things I’d never dreamed possible. Most people bring pack horse’s when going back country but our horse’s were young and strong enough to handle the terrain, gear, feed and rider.
 
Although still embarrassed by R/C’s looks he was the best trail horse and I rode him every where.   I kept up with the best of the “Cowboys” and went places allot of women I know wouldn’t go. Always R/C was there making me look as if I could ride.
 
At base camp there arouse an uproar. A group of people were talking about the biggest ugliest horse they’d ever seen. I knew right away who it was, R/C !  I suppose all the years of being abused by other horse’s had taken it’s toll. Now R/C was big enough and strong enough he wouldn’t tolerate strange horse’s being picketed with him. I sat and listened how my horse was not only ugly but the most ill creature they’d ever seen.  They asked my opinion and I said, “People with horse’s like that should leave them home”.   I was so embarrassed.
 
We spent the rest of our time back country and when the tail end of the hurricane hit we were 6,000ft up the mountain in a very remote area. R/C’s trail buddy and stable mate fell over 350ft straight down the mountain as the trail simply washed out beneath him. I hung on to R/C’s tail and Al looped his arm through the stirrup and R/C started taking us both home.
 
I swear he knew, every step he tried and at any questionable spot he would stop.   Al and I would climb with our fingerholds and then call for R/C to come. 
 
He brought us over the miles and treacherous terrain threw the blinding rain and collapsing trail.  He was never given instruction he just some how knew.   Periodically he would stop and call to Stoney then continue on. The barriers, the obstacles would take more paper than could be read, some I spokeof in the rescue story.
 
Ugly Rochester has taught both children and adults to ride.   He has carried them safely through hurricanes , floods, swamps and mountains. He has saved at least 2 lives after knowing him I have learned what beauty is-
 
Beauty is knowing your rider will come off if you lounge when sunk in a swamp so you power drive 1 leg at a time until out.
 
Beauty is knowing your rider is terrified of heights and falling so you carry her down steep grades ever so slowly on your own while she keeps her eyes shut.

Beauty is when you hear your rider crying because she is frightened you stop and wait for her to say OK to continue.
 
Beauty is as the rock and soil fall away from beneath your feet you hear your rider calling and you respond.
 
Beauty, why Beauty is a horse named Rochester!  alias R/C,Mickey,Rollo ect.
 
 
Update To “If You’ve Ever Owned An Ugly Horse’

Another's Ebony Sun alias R/C is now living on a 200 acre farm with two lakes and nothing but sand trails. He went there with his buddy Stoney.   At almost 10 years old he is teaching a brand new family the precious gift of love and the true meaning of beauty.
 
R/C’s new family has 5 children and he is in his glory with all that attention.   Mom told me everyone slept in the barn the first night.   The next day all the kids were hurrying around fetching this and that for the horse’s when the smallest child could not be found.  The mother now terrified soon spotted the 5 year old.  Big ole R/C had his head between his front legs watching this little tike as she ever so calmly stood under him reaching up brushing his belly! 
 
I feel as one does with a child who has grown admirably into adulthood.  I miss him yet he has far more than I could ever give him and I am proud of him.  The lessens all of the children will learn will be taught safely by the most beautiful horse I have ever known.
Niki Oliver


 
The Author sent Gaited Horses this version to place here, another version of which first appeared in the premier issue of The Gaited Horse, Spring
1998, and subsequently was honored by American Horse Publications as the First place winning "Personality Profile" from a small circulation magazine for 1998.