Lessons in Lifelong Care for Horses From an Unexpected Reunion

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Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

BY DANI SCHNEIDER

Some horses find their way back to their person, and that is exactly what happened to Jackie Attwood-Dupont and her horse, Legacy. But before the reunion, we have to start at the beginning.

“My mom rode horses and her parents were not horse people, so when she was young she decided her kid was going to have horses.” Jackie said. “I feel lucky to have been born into a family that loved horses and put me in riding lessons at a schooling barn right away. I don’t even remember the first time I rode it was that long ago.”

Growing up, Jackie did pony camp, trail rides, lessons, and some horse shows, but started to compete seriously as a teenager in the Children’s Hunters on a horse named Legacy. Jackie trained with Paul Turner then David Lohman in Maryland.  When she was ready to move up, David continued to help Jackie in Maryland while she also trained with Bob Braswell out of Ocala, Florida. Jackie would fly to Ocala to compete in the Equitation, Junior Hunters, and the Junior Jumpers.

“When I was in high school, we moved to a farm in Maryland so were able to have the horses at home. We had my four horses and a few boarders. We loved being able to have the horses at home, but my mom changed jobs and my family moved to San Antonio, Texas, so when I went to college, we sold that property,” Jackie shared. “I was so lucky I got an amazing 2.5 years of having the horses at our own barn. The show horses would come to Maryland when they weren’t competing in Florida, and it was so nice being able to have all the horses in my backyard and be able to care for them. It was heaven.”

To focus on her studies, Jackie sold her horses and stepped away from showing. But then something strange happened. Checking her email, she noticed a strange message from a stranger: Hey. I googled Legacy and it looks like you used to own him so I’m writing to you because I’m really worried about him and I’m wondering if you can help.

Legacy was Jackie’s first real show horse that she got when she was 12 years old. “He was the best horse in the world; you could ride him bareback on the trails then compete at Harrisburg the following week for what was NAL Finals and we would be perfect at both,” Jackie remembered. Legacy was only ten when he retired from the show ring, but after a lot of time on the show circuit Jackie and her mom decided the best thing to do for a young horse was to sell him at a reasonable price to an amateur who wanted to trail ride and flat.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

So naturally, she was shocked about the message. “I was sitting there thinking I had sold him eight years ago to an amazing home, that he was super happy, and nothing was wrong,” she said.

After responding to the message, Jackie found out that Legacy had been used as a lease/lesson horse at the barn he was at and the owner wasn’t riding him anymore and wanted to sell him as a Children’s Hunter at WEF. The person messaging Jackie was worried that if Legacy went to Florida they may never be able to find him again.

Luckily, Jackie’s mom is a lawyer who had a buyback clause in the original sales contract, so they got Legacy back and he went to live with Jackie in Washington D.C. “I would drive to where Legacy was after work, a reverse commute at 5 p.m. to go take care of him. The poor guy was being hacked around at 6 p.m. and it was this ridiculous situation, but I was just happy to have him back,” she shared.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

“It’s an important thing for anybody who is going to buy and sell horses to consider, check and think about what is happening to the horses and the life they are in. The situation was a real lesson for me.”

Being a horse owner again made Jackie want to get back in the show ring. She talked to her mom about showing Legacy in some lower Adult Equitation divisions, but her mom suggested keeping Legacy but look into getting a show horse. “Legacy was a gateway drug back into the sport, I now have a lot of horses,” she laughed. “I’m back to where I started, with a lot of horses. That means I have a lot of horses that I have to think about their lifetime of care and not just showing them.”

Now Jackie takes the lessons from Legacy with her other show horses. One of her horses, Sandy, stepped down to the 2’6”-3’ divisions with her stepsister after Jackie herself showed him for six years. Earlier this year, they decided to retire Sandy from jumping after some issues with his fetlock.

Photo © ESI

“Sandy didn’t owe anyone anything. He had an amazing career and deserved a happy retirement,” Jackie shared. “We kept him at the barn and just flatted him around because emotionally, I wasn’t ready for him to leave. Even our head groom, Jose said he was retiring when Sandy retired.” Sandy stayed at the barn and was ridden bareback, like Jackie had done with Legacy for years.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

Another superstar horse, Bally, suffered an unfortunate neck injury after a high of winning the Amateur Owner WCHR Challenge Championship at Capital Challenge with Jackie. “I had never had a horse with the kind of potential he had. He is such a special horse,” she said.

Photo © Alden Corrigan Media

Bally had some wear and tear on him from his years of competing and at the end of last year Jackie consulted with vets about what is best for him. “Essentially they told me we could try some things to help hum but he would never be the same horse I had before. Bally didn’t owe me or anybody anything and I never want to be riding a horse where I’m wondering if it’s happy or healthy enough,” Jackie explained.

Photo © Shawn McMillen Photography

Jackie knew Bally would have the most longevity if people don’t ride him with his injury. “This wasn’t a situation where I could trail ride him around the barn and do that for a while so we decided if it’s Bally’s time to retire, then maybe it’s Sandy’s time too and they can go together.”

Sandy and Bally, along with Jackie’s sister’s Children’s hunter, headed to retirement at Kingfisher Farms run by Katie Fisher in Santa Ynez, California. “They are all happy at the farm. Katie takes amazing care of them and I live about 10 minutes away so I can visit often. It has worked out perfectly,” Jackie shared. “They all settled it quite nicely, but it took Bally a while, he wasn’t really a fan at first. Which I think is a thing that people don’t really think about when they retire their horses—especially ones that were just showing.”

Bally’s working life didn’t slowly wind down like Legacy’s, and the sudden change was hard for him. Retirement wasn’t his choice, which was hard for Jackie to watch unfold, but she knew it was the best choice for him. He’s now settled and is enjoying the relaxed life.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

“I have since come to the self-awareness that when I am buying a horse, I am going to have them until their last days,” Jackie said. In both cases, Jackie thought Sandy and Bally had potential and decided to see what would happen. What happened is they became permanent family members.

Photo courtesy of Jackie Attwood-Dupont

Legacy, 27, Sandy, 19, Bally, 14, and Hans, 14 are happily enjoying retirement and Jackie hopes to eventually have them retire on their recently purchased property. “Right before COVID happened, we purchased 20 acres with the intent to building it up over the next five years to keep young and retired horses on,” Jackie explained, “We’re not in a rush though they are all in great care and close to us. It will eventually be a dream come true to have the horses back in our backyard. We’ve always joked that their most important job is to be beautiful lawn ornaments and soon we’ll have the perfect environment for that. And of course, to enjoy them and spoil them through the rest of their life, which is what they deserve after giving so much in the show ring.”

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