Shelby: 1989-2010

August 9, 2010 at 6:51am
A colleague of ours received this email late last week, and after reading it, I emailed Shelby's owners and asked if I could post this on the Facebook page. "Please feel free to share Shelby's story with everyone. He was a very special horse to us and many others and if in any way his story can help to adopt just one more horse or give one more person the motivation to hold and move forward with their mustang, that would be wonderful."

Shelby: 1989-2010

We refer to our wild ones – Mustangs of the West – as America’s Living Legends. They truly are. Today we have lost one of those legends.

Few of us are blessed with that once in a lifetime horse. The one who became your best friend over the many years together; read your mind; safely carried you through places other horses would never think of going-but because you asked he went.

Even fewer have a presence bigger than themselves. A presence that made people stop and take notice. A presence that everyone saw and admired. He was small in stature but larger than life. No one can explain it-he just had “it”.
Shelby was truly a wild horse. Adopted as a stallion, he was John’s first horse. He proved daily his wild nature, chasing and biting John while he patiently tried to gentle him. He was not an easy or quiet horse to work with. You earned every inch you gained with him. John and Shelby made it all look so easy later in life, but the reality of it was that it took years to gentle and train. Every mistake ever made in gentling and teaching was made with Shelby. Everything we learned about wild horses, we learned from Shelby. He was forgiving-always through his lifetime, but especially when he was young. When John broke through his tough facade, he quickly became his best friend, completely and totally. We all saw the connection, the friendship that was there.

It was not without the effort of a great many people that we were successful with Shelby. We are eternally grateful to all of you.

John’s dreams of a trail horse were dashed when we discovered Shelby excelled in jumping – and of all things dressage! Shelby could jump the moon-and if he had a rider on his back while doing so, all the better. He loved to free jump. Put him in the arena with jumps set up and he would jump and jump and jump some more until we made him stop. Shelby loved dressage-John not so much at first. You could see the enjoyment on Shelby’s face in the ring-he honestly had fun with it and so did John finally. They worked their way up to first level-quite an accomplishment for what some called a little backyard Mustang and that other’s thought limited in any ability because of his breed! We quickly learned from Shelby that the only limitations were the ones you placed on him. And so what he could do was limitless. They showed at Southern NH Dressage and Combined Training for many years bringing home year end awards for most. The USDF (United States Dressage Federation) shows were far more difficult but Shelby thrived in the show ring and we all enjoyed traveling around the Northeast together. He earned the respect (and ire when he beat them) of many dressage riders and judges alike. Showing at the University was one of his favorite times. He had a fan club of students who ran the show. They would always see him coming and excitedly remark, “here comes Shelby and the guy that rides him!” Talk about a blow to John’s ego J.

Granite State Carriage Association was a great group to trail ride with-even if we didn’t have a carriage. Shelby enjoyed the attention he received at Mount Chocurua and John decided to give showing a break and trail ride to spend time with his friend. They would trail ride for hours and Shelby would “hum”, obviously enjoying the trail as well. He would find their way home when John got lost; he would take the lead when another horse became scared and lead them through whatever obstacle was frightening them. He taught his friend Comet how to be a wild horse and when put out in a group situation, would stand a far distance away, doing his job as a stallion, surveying the landscape wary for predators.

Few knew that Shelby was the first Mustang to be a part of the Massachusetts Equine Affaire Pfizer Fantasia. He loved the attention he received when we volunteered every year for the wild horse and burro program. At his last group demo in 2009 he led a contingent of twelve former wild horses into the Mallary arena and received an ovation. So many people in the stands knew him-it was amazing.

They were “masters” of the round pen. Shelby learned it all and John was so proud of the accomplishment. He would follow John like a big dog-never needing a leadrope-unless that patch of clover called his name too loudly.
This past week, they took their usual trail ride around the farm, never realizing it would be their last. They trotted around the perimeter like they always did and when Shelby wanted to run, John let the reins go. His hooves thundered and shook the ground scaring the horses up the hill in the indoor arena. The barn owner hopefully didn’t see the two screaming across the field full out-without John wearing his helmet. I’m glad they had that last memory to share.
It is because of Shelby that we possess a passion and love for wild horses. It is because of him that we are devoted to the American Mustang. In his death, we hope that his life will inspire others to adopt and see past the false limitations placed on them to know that they are - America’s Living Legends.