My Own War Horse

What could draw me out to my first Christmas day movie? Well, a story about a horse….of course! It is encouraging to me that Hollywood still sees the draw of the equine as a box office hit material.

The story line prompted me to share with my boys the story of my very own ‘war horse’, Scrapper. Scrapper is the one and only foal that my mare, Bay, ever had. I bred her once and Scrapper was born. I did all of his training including taking him to college with me my sophomore, junior and senior year. He was the first foal I raised and the first horse I trained from start to finish…and then I was married. We were broke and in debt except for one asset…a horse worth $5,000.00 I cried and promised him that someday I WOULD buy him back. I promised.

His first job involved becoming a roping horse where they nick named him ‘Pinky’ because the tie down they used on him rubbed him raw and the medicine they put on it was pink. He was sold again and was used as a mounted police horse because of his size, temperament and high training level. He then sold again and became a AQHA show horse winning Ohio Quarter Horse Association year end awards and earning 67 AQHA points in mainly showmanship and horsemanship (thank you Findlay). He was also ridden in the AQHA Horseback Riding Program.

I owned him for six years, sold him for six years, and then bought him back. He had five different owners during that six year period and countless experiences both good and bad. I followed him through each move including a trip to Tattersalls horse auction in Kentucky in an attempt (failed) to buy him back. Eventually he began to have soundness issues and the last owners were happy to sell a not quite so sound horse for $5,000.00.

While the story line may not be quite as dramatic as ‘War Horse’ I think the story meant more to my kids. To be able to hear about their parents being broke, making and keeping a promise, and for them to be able to feed Scrapper an apple and take him for a ride makes it all the more real. My very own war horse-home for good.

(This is a video of the first horse I ever raised, Scrapper, being ridden for the first time by my son Joshua. I know that Scrapper is sore in the video and you will be happy to know that his heart bar shoes with wedge pads have helped tremendously.)

War Horse was good. Not quite as amazing as I had hoped, although this is one of those times where I do wonder if my experience does hurt my ‘movie watching enjoyment’. I actually think that noticing the multiple horses used, as well as the scene where from all but one camera angle the horse has a halter on (it is missing in one angle, but reappear) made it harder for me to lose myself in the story. Having said that there were many wet eyes in the theater. Will you please share your thoughts?

27 Comments

  1. Kimi B. on January 24, 2012 at 9:37 am

    I also so the movie on opening day and i thought it was an amazing story. I did notice it to be very noticable which scenes were fake and which werent. I later found out they had a robotic horse to help with certain scenes they could alter thru the computer to make look “real”. But nontheless i loved the movie! I will probably buy it when it comes out! Lol And it actually was more or less a true story which made me like it even more!

  2. lacee on January 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    your story about Scrapper and teaching your kids made me cry! Thanks for being such a great example to us also!

  3. Karen Guyer on January 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Wow @ Jane’s story. I’m teary eyed now. I want to see War Horse, but keep procrastinating. I dont like crying in movie theaters…

  4. ScrapperFirstRide.MOV | おもしろ映画 on January 2, 2012 at 4:10 am

    […] Here is a selection from my blog about the movie War Horse explaining more about Scrapper. http://stacywestfallhorseblog.com/2011/12/25/my-own-war-horse/"The story line prompted me to share with my boys the story of my very own 'war […]

  5. Amanda Accordino on December 30, 2011 at 1:53 am

    I saw this movie today! I too think that my experience with horses made it harder to get lost in the story as well. It’s incredible that you are able to re-own the horse you raised yourself! The horse I use has been owned by the same owner since she was a weanling. She will be 13 next month. Despite her having the same owner and her owner seeing how far she has come, she also creates her own little stories along the way. She mostly has helped so many people as a 4-H project (including me) and has many experiences even though she has been owned by the same owner for almost 13 years. Now her owner feels like she is mine, so I don’t know what I will do if she decides she doesn’t want horses anymore! I’m hoping my sister will carry on with her once I’m in college because I would be left heartbroken!
    (sorry for spelling or grammar errors-on an iPod & can’t review what I wrote haha)

  6. Jane Chastain on December 29, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    haven’t seen the movie yet…but the tears come easy this time of year…I have to share the story of Mac…a 13 year old cutting horse…he’s won some money and people know him around here in the midwest cutting pens…I bought him in April as a war horse that could teach me. I have never been in this particular position…as he was dead eyed and so neutral..body sore, poorly shod. Yet, when on a cow..he could flat out get it on…and I could ride him…
    I decided, after alot of trepidation about his possible soundness issues and the blank look he had..almost as if he was somewhere else…to buy him…planning on not even calling him by name, or keeping him any longer than necessary to use him to up my game. He was like a machine…wanting no part of any affection or attention…he turned away from me..and never looked me in the eye…was always parallel to me…in the cutting pen..he was a professional and a machine.
    One day after having him for a couple of months…riding with a trainer..showing him a couple of times and doing well..I decided to take him out of the barn..and just ride…he was frightened of everything..even a small pieces of paper on the ground, I brought him back into the barn and decided to turn him loose in the whole arena..which was forbidden in this barn…he walked into the center of the arena and rolled…and rolled..and rolled…and then he walked off…with a stilted gait…then he trotted…choppy and stilted…then he started to extend…further and further..until his head was up….tail up…and suddenly I saw a proud horse again..alive and free….moving like I had never seen him…..beautiful and wild…elongated and freely extending all his muscles…he took my breath away…and brought tears to my eyes as I saw him in moments become a horse again..and no longer a machine whose mind had gone somewhere else..as a result of who knows what kind of treatment
    then I realized..I had no clue if I could catch him..as he hardly let me catch him in the stall and now with his new found freedom would he even let me touch him?
    I walked with his halter in my hand into the arena…and whistled as I do for my other horses…he was at the far end of a 200 ft long arena…as I whistled..he looked in my direction..and then I could see and feel him connect with me..his eyes met mine..he dropped his head, he chewed and licked…then dropped his head further and trotted the full length of the arena to my side…from that moment forward he is mine…I cry when I think of what he must have been thru…and who loved him in the beginning…of his life..because I believe there must’ve been someone he trusted somewhere for him to be such a wonderful horse to me.
    Now when people see me ride him…and believe me..I’m not that good…he makes me look good…he feels me when I am off balance and waits on me..in the middle of the pen…when the cows get tough..he gets tougher..when I dismount..his eyes are on me…he constantly looks for me..when we are in other arenas..so much so..that people notice how bonded he is to me..he trusts no one else.
    So..here..the horse that I never planned on keeping or naming or getting attached to…has taught this old cowgirl something new..he has opened me up in a way I would never have guessed…because when I look at him..I see me…I was closed off….suffered many losses..the last of which was a very painful divorce, and I trusted no one, suppressed my feelings, and felt dead emotionally…not wanting anyone to see the pain I was in..or how lost I have felt..even my children had no clue how closed off I was…
    I have already had several opportunities to sell Mac..and make good money on the deal(how often does that happen) but he has a home with me for as long as he wants…we have healed each other and he is now my “go to ” horse..on the ranch as well as in the arena. He is my hero.
    thanks for letting me share this story…and I hope whoever loved him…knows somehow he is home.

    • Stacy on December 29, 2011 at 9:00 pm

      Jane-Thank you so much for sharing this. I love it. I have seen those horse, those man made robots, and it is sad (we have rehabbed some in a similar way). I am so happy you helped this one…and so happy that he has helped you too!

  7. cmsq on December 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    I go to the movies to watch a movie for the sake of the the movie, its entertainment value. Yes I noticed a lot of the horse issues but I chose to focus on the story. I stole this next part from a FB friend but it fits my perspective perfectly. “It’s a movie. Entertainment. For lifting the horse up, for his part in human history including all of our wars I appreciate that. To enlighten people of that fact… For it’s portrayal of the humans, for every uncaring person the horse encountered there was a kind person, English,German, .People are the same worldwide in lots of ways. I loved the humour thrown in. Any movie Hollywood puts out that isn’t filled with foul language, nudity, drugs, etc I’m all for. Plus, I love a happy ending.”

  8. Rainbow Dash on December 27, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    😮
    I havent seen the movie yet! I live in Norway and it isnt coming out for another week or so. But im defentily gonna watch it as soon as possible :3
    I love your work btw Stacy, ur an amazing woman and have given me inspiration and courage to work with my own horse in a better way :3 Thank you so much! ^^

  9. The Rose on December 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

    My husband (not a horse person) took me to see War Horse on Christmas Day and I watched it through the overly complex eye of a horse person. I left the theater feeling frustrated and then proceeded to over analyze the movie. I managed to make my husband and myself quite miserable in the process. Being a very kind and loving person my husband suggested we go back and watch the movie through the eye of a horse. We did and it was like watching a completely different movie. We came away feeling like we had been handed a special gift. Watching it through the eye of a horse made us realize it is a simple story but then most things are simple when it comes to horses. Humans make things complex and it is sad because losing simplicity is a great loss. If nothing else the movie helped us better understand how much suffering and pain the war produced for horse and human. It made me realize how truly blessed I am to have these loyal animals in my life and to have a husband who supports me…

  10. Al Trippe on December 27, 2011 at 7:47 am

    The best parts of the war horse movie was showing the bond horses can with each outher and with people. It can be stronger then most people thaink..

  11. Dorie on December 26, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Stacy, I read an article a while ago that if you have a horse, treated him kindly, and are separated from him for several years, the horse will never forget you. Years ago I had to sell my beloved horse that I had owned for 4 years. (He was a master at getting out of a fence..mostly he jumped out, something I had taught him to do.) About 8 years later I was driving to a relative’s house for Christmas and I just happened to look to my right as I was going through town and I saw this “Bald” face. I new immediately that it was Toby. He was a beautiful bay with 4 short white socks and quite a bit of white on his head….and 2 beautiful blue eyes. I drove into their driveway and ran to him…I was hugging him and crying. His owners came out and wanted to know what I was doing there. I explained he was my first horse. I had taught him to shake hands.. I also taught him park out I showed his owners. They were surprised and didn’t know he could do this. They asked me how old my horse would be..I said 16 yrs…They said Baldie was only 10 years old – so I had made a mistake. He did remember me….and this was a very lovely Christmas present I think about every year.

  12. Angelique Aia Hill on December 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Stacy please help me, im about to sell my first horse that i raised my self but im not really sure if in doing the right thing.
    hes just a pony and i think im getting a little to big for him, but not much. im going to ride a freestyle reining in July on him and then i think im going to have to sell him cause im going to the US for a while and it just not fair to let a horse thats as good as him just stand there. But hes so special to me and hes learned me so much, this is really hard for me. what do you think i should do?

    • Stacy on December 26, 2011 at 8:54 pm

      I will try to find an article I did on when to sell. Here is a quote from the article, “While it’s rarely easy to end a relationship, sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Many horse owners hang onto their horses based on the idea that they are the only ones in the world who will take care of them. There are many responsible horse owners out there, and for one of them, your horse could be that special once-in-a-lifetime partner.”

      • Angelique Aia Hill on December 30, 2011 at 9:47 am

        thank you, now i have got something to think about, and i will try to find a good new partner for him, i think its the best thing for him even if it will hurt. you inspire me a lot, and i hope i might meet you some day. thank you.

  13. Sherri on December 26, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I am so happy Scrapper is enjoying his Ohio home… Maine misses him but I will see him soon. Loved the War Horse piece and you had me crying again! I n’t wait to see the movie.
    Love you, Mom

  14. Cyn on December 26, 2011 at 8:21 am

    I’m so glad Scrapper is back with you. Amazing story. I haven’t seen War Horse yet, I’m not sure I can.

    As far as experience making a difference in watching movies, I’m a dog trainer and that definitely effects my movie watching. I can’t help but see the dog’s line of vision, count the different dogs used, see how they chained behaviors to make one. Some are good, some are just awful.

  15. Larry Wahweotten on December 26, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Wet eyes in Kansas also

  16. Jessica on December 25, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    I did hear that eight differant horses played Joey.

  17. Drucilla on December 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Embarrasingly I was one of the wet eyes in the theator. I choose not to look for things that take away from the story and am grateful I am able to not notice. I feel bad for those who cant (my husband is one of them 🙂 ) but he to enjoyed the story! I think they did a good job of getting you to feel empathy for the people and especially the horses. I literally cringed and jumped when Joey ran through the barbed wire. Yes we know it is a movie but I still felt all the feelings.
    Horror when the horses were pulling the tank up the hill.

  18. samantha on December 25, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I too have a story about my thoroughbred. My dad and I bough him together when I was 14 he was 4. I basically trained him myself since the trainer I had at the time said he was no good. I tought him to jump and he became a great mound on the eventing circuit. My dad died almost 5 years ago and quit riding for a year. After watching your video of your bareback and bridless to tim mcgraws live like you were dying I got back on and as a tribute to my dad rode in my 1st show in over a year. We didn’t win any ribons but I didn’t care. About 8mo later Lovie came up lame took xrays and it was ringbone. I had purchased another horse to continue riding but couldt take care afford to take care of 2 horses. So I gave Lovie away to a lady in Redding offering him a forever home… 6 months after I gave him away I found out the lady was a horse trader and searched craigslist everyday for him. Just before my birthday this year I found him. My boyfriend offered to buy him back and I started crying like a baby. We drove 4hrs to pick him up and now lives in a pasture fully retired with my mare and a couple other geldings. He has gained about 300lbs since he came home. There were times when I never thought I would find him and thought the worst had happened. I think with the determination I had and with a little help from my dad in heaven I was able to get him back. Thank you for all that you do.

    • Sherri on December 26, 2011 at 9:11 am

      I’m so glad to hear you found Lovie… and took the effort to get him home. Thanks for sharing… Stacy’s mom, Sherri

      • samantha on December 27, 2011 at 11:44 am

        thanks Sherri!
        the lady that I bought him back from didn’t know why he was lame they paid $800 for him and they said he was so skinny he almost died on them. He was still skinny when I got him back but he’s a hard keeper and I don’t think they knew what they were supposed to be feeding him. Now he gets grass hay 2x’s a day and as much pasture grass as he wants. As soon as I pulled up to him with the truck and trailer I started crying and when I got out he put his head in my chest and sat there. The year and a half he was gone I kept telling my mom that something was wrong and I felt it in my bones. Sure enough poor thing had been through 2 owners and I was his 3rd in a little over a year. When my boyfriend opened up the back of the trailer Lovie practacally drug me in. I knew he wanted to go home. He will be 14yro in March. I have had him for 10 years. I don’t count the years he was gone because he never really was.

        Sam

  19. kim on December 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Love this story, so glad you got Scrappy back!

  20. Rion on December 25, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Hello Stacy,

    I Noticed the same things as you did about the halter too and the different horses at times. The movie was a really good story for a horse and the ending was really nice that the boy got his horse back. I loved your story about your horse too. I think we all have a war horse story that has happened one time or another in our life. The movie was better than I though it would be. You have a great day and Merry Christmas 🙂

  21. Jamie on December 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    I saw the movie a few weeks ago at an advanced screening and I loved it . It not only was a story of a boy and a horse . It was a story about a boy and his father . A relationship between two horses . The situation between three countries England and the horse ties it all together . Yes I thought it was great entertainment

    • Stacy on December 25, 2011 at 9:46 pm

      That is true, they did a great job with the relationship part. Emily and Grandpa…that will make you cry just thinking of it!

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