About the Author and His Friends
Bud, David, and G on the towpath.1
David Stang, author
I have loved wildlife and the outdoors all my life. As a kid on Long Island’s Great South Bay, I camped with the Boy Scouts, messed around in little sailboats, swam, and explored the water world. Three times I got to go horse back riding while on family vacations. Those three hours were the highlight of those summers. I guess I liked horses back then.
As an undergraduate, I majored in “General Agriculture”, and took courses in ecology, wildlife management, soil and water conservation, ichthyology, and ornithology. In Phys. Ed. my sophomore year, I could take electives. I chose horse back riding and water polo. David Pimentel once invited me to be his grad student in ecology, an offer I should have accepted. But despite fumbling as an undergraduate, I managed to get it done, and got a B.S. from Cornell University, an M.S. from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. I put my way through school.
My first career was as an experimental social psychologist; my second in software development, computer security, and business development. In the course of these careers, I taught college, wrote a dozen books and hundreds of articles, and gave hundreds of seminars around the world. My books include the Pollyanna Principle, Introduction to Social Psychology, Dictionary of Social Psychology and Social Research Methods, Preparing for Graduate Study in Psychology, The Computer Virus Handbook, Defend your Data: A Guide to Data Recovery, and Network Security Secrets.2 This book and Horse Play will likely be my last, but I hope to revise them until I get it right.
I love computers. I love animals. Writing about horses with my computer is just about perfect. My wife and I have a bunch of cockatiels who fly freely around our office. As I write this, I have a bird sleeping on my thigh and two sleeping on the top of my monitors. We have a large goldfish pond, a large koi pond, and a large system of interconnected salt water aquariums. Every day I fill a dozen bird feeders, and most every night I sit with the raccoons, who eat from my hand. Yes, I’ve had my rabies shots, and no, they don’t have rabies.
I happen to live on a farm, so it seemed only natural that instead of buying a sailboat to waste money on, that I’d buy a horse. My first horse has taught me that they are just as good as a sailboat, maybe better. You can buy one for less, for instance. You can have a great time on them even if the wind isn’t blowing. You can ride up the side of a mountain, which is hard to do in a sailboat, and you won’t get bored with the scenery in the woods, the way you can when you are surrounded by ocean.
I found a dollar horse, off the track, with a very big heart and good attitude toward life. His name was Guerrero, and he has a tattoo inside his lip. But they called him “G” when I met him, and that’s his name now.
One dollar bought a lot of horse. It bought a horse with a great pedigree:
- His father is Sir Cat, who retired from racing with seven wins from 14 starts and earnings of $401,185. Sir Cat was sold to Chile in 2005, where he continues to stand on stallion duty. Sir Cat’s dad, Storm Cat, was a stallion whose breeding fee during the peak of his stud career was $500,000. Storm Cat sired 180 stakes winners worldwide, with combined earnings over $128 million. One of his yearling colts sold for $9.7 million. According to Wikipedia, Storm Cat had a 24-hour armed guard. Storm Cat was the grandson of Northern Dancer and Secretariat
- G’s mother was Linkit, born in 1986 from Linkage . Linkage’s major wins include the Forerunner Stakes (1981), Blue Grass Stakes (1982), Louisiana Derby Trial Stakes (1982), Lecomte Stakes (1982), and Black Gold Handicap (1982). On G’s mother’s side, War Admiral won 21 of his 26 starts, won the triple crown, was American Horse of the Year, and had many other honors. Tom Rolfe appears as a sire both on G’s father’s and mother’s sides. Tom Rolfe was the leading colt of his generation in the United States, winning the Preakness Stakes and being voted American Champion Three-Year-Old Male Horse in 1965.
G did well at the track, finishing in the top three in 65% of his races. Most of his races were at the Charles Town, West Virginia track, where he won four races, came in second in 7 and third in 6. But G broke his ankle early in his racing career during training or in a pasture accident, and surgeons bolted it back together with 3 long screws. He never won another race.
G was loaded on a tractor trailer with many other horses, and sent to Canada, where he would become dog food. Except that the truck developed mechanical problems, and returned to the farm where G was being kept. As G unloaded with the other horses, Vera Chterba, a local Russian horse trainer, spotted him, and remarked that “he’d be good across the street.” Across the street was Great and Small,3 a therapeutic riding non-profit that rescued lots of kids, but just about one horse a year. Great and Small agreed to buy G, at what his owner would have gotten for him: 10 cents a pound.
There were several miracles here. Vera knew horses, and should have known that a 17.1 hand thoroughbred just off the track would not be good for kids with severe disabilities. Great and Small had never bought a horse before, was short on cash and overloaded with horses that no one wanted. Sarah Phelps, the founder and manager, bought G with her own money. And then, for two years, no one rode him once. When I came along, he was languishing in a weed-filled pasture, with three rough characters. When I started to climb the pasture fence, to go in and say hello to him, my friend said “No! Don’t go in there!”. Nothing looked dangerous about the situation to me, and I went ahead. G stretched and groaned as I scratched his chest, and stretched and groaned some more when I scratched his neck. You would too if you hadn’t been loved in two years. When I asked my trainer what she thought of him, she said “I wouldn’t get on him.” I couldn’t tell whether she said that because he was dangerous, or because she’d lose the $20,000 she was asking for one of her horses. Not long after that, I bought G, and took him home to the farm where my new house was being built.
Since then, G has aged and is now 17. I’ve aged too. He has learned lots of tricks, and learned how to be handy on trail rides. He has become fearless in the woods and cooperative. He is affectionate, smart, and gentle, likely to be the protector of the lowest ranked horse in the herd. He’s an independent thinker, and I like him that way, even if we don’t always agree on things in the woods. If he comes to a low branch, he’ll go around, even if he doesn’t have to duck, as a kindness to the guy on top. At 17.1 hands, that’s a lot of branches. You’ll learn about him in this book.
G and I don’t always see eye to eye, but nose to nose works.
G has a new friend that you’ll also meet in these pages: Bud, a 2 1/2 year old gaited mule. Bud is sturdier than G, with no metal in his ankle. Unlike G, he was never twitched. In fact, he was first ridden only a month before I bought him. He’ll be able to do some great conditioning rides, and I’ll ride him in Endurance when he is old enough.
Bud moments after I bought him.
So that’s us. There will be plenty of pictures through this book, if you want to see more of my handsome boys.
1 Image source: Anne Parker.
2 You can see a partial bibliography here: https://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=%22David+J.+Stang%22&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C47
3 Learn more about this wonderful place that saved G’s life. http://greatandsmallride.org/