My love for ponies remains even though I grew into horses and stayed through every available 4-H year, earning me the ten year 4-H pin. Fair week is still among my favorite memories spent solo with my mother who also mothered anyone in need. Her inner beauty was equaled by her exterior, which was noted by a fashion house in NYC where she made her career for several years as a model. Her sense of style and fashion directly resonated with my brother, Brian, who was an icon fashion designer for rock bands, such as Kiss, AC/DC, and Ted Nugent, just to name a few. Later I learned that I was in good company after a hat trick of horrors befell me.
The crash of ’08 hit hard and with a punch that still keeps a constant crease in my stomach. My husband and partner died with no notice that October, right after the championships in Ohio. The shock and the loss are still there, like a slice of Swiss cheese that really shouldn’t be riddled with holes. While I was working through a variety of business issues, my horse Paxem was hit with his own personal storm, as he was diagnosed with Potamac fever. Thankfully he was under the watchful eye of an excellent horse woman, Kat Heys.
She saw something and said something. The vet suggested an item that I was unaware of, called “cold boots.” Donning my concierge hat, I went full-throttle into rescue mode by refashioning my husband’s wetsuit into said boots. After three days and nights over the fourth of July weekend, the boots were attended to with a dock box of ice. Pax pulled though, and I keep an extra wetsuit at the ready to this day.
The “sport of kings,” no longer fit my new life as an added pang of angst that I wore like a vest. The family attorney suggested I let my house go to Fannie Mae and “just go brush horses.”
In reflection, I wonder how much that advice cost?
Actually, it may have been just what the doctor ordered. I definitely did not feel comfortable in the lane of losing. I summoned a personal trainer or two, and fought through the pain, both physical and emotional. I was peeking out of the hole when I suffered career-ending injuries, sending me to a brain clinic in NYC and forstalling my lifelong plans to play with “ponies.”
The logical thing to do was to part with my favorite dance partner. Logic doesn’t resonate with the granddaughter of a Danish calvary man. Let alone, the daughter of a marine who was in the first wave ashore Iwo Jima. Damn the torpedoes!
It was as if my mother was heaven-sent through her best friend, Jean, a lovely lady approaching the age to qualify for a visit with Willard Scott who does daily Tai Chi and Manhattans. Jean asked her son to keep my horse until I could get back on my feet. I thought, if she thinks I can, then maybe I should think so, too!
Pax was moved out to an 80-acre slice of heaven on a hay field, dotted with apple trees, honey bees, and the nicest folks I’ve ever had the chance to call friends. He became fast pals with their paint horse who was in need of a partner in crime.
Being around the horses was healing in and of itself. I would sometimes stay in the next barn apartment and appreciate all the sights and sounds they offered.
The horse bug had firmly reinfiltrated me, so I also restarted my voluteering at the Cheff Center Therapeutic Riding. “Ride…Recover” is their motto. We fit like a glove!
This parlayed into my dabbling in some work at various venues as well. A few years later I was afforded a few rides by big, overstuffed, sweet, and sane ponies. I asked the dog, who said I lived through it, so next I made a deal with Pax. You get extra treats if you try to keep me from falling off. A blood bay fur-covered saint carried me and tried to guess which way I was going and would have fallen and beat me to the floor to save me. Tit for tat, he figured, I guess. I was definitely feeling like I had a firm foothold back in the saddle.
Working at the finals at the Kentucky Horse Park took my attention and breath away when they cranked the music up and the freetyles hit the floor. I tap-toed all the way back to Michigan, secretly planning my own comeback freestyles.
And, sure enough, from pasture to centerline, we danced to our own music in front of Lilo Fore’. It was our first opportunity to ride in an arena in eight years. We hit every mark. I could palpate every footfall as if each step were a gift from God. Apparently I held it together until the final salute where I was overcome with tears of joy during the halt, which looked more like a seizure in the saddle.
A few dances later, we were invited to compete at the championships. What a thrill! For starters, this called for a celebratory cake which I brought to the show then, and the two championships I was treated to since. It’s a thing. “Here comes Debby with her big cake!”
The afterglow can only last so long. I was craving a piece of wearable hardware to accompany my 4-H pin and went on the hunt to find said treasure, to no avail. Feeling crestfallen that I had done the impossible, and that Pax had allowed me pull him out of a pasture after years of recess gave rise to a badge of some sort of honor. For we had “nailed it,” and thats when it hit me: Out came the colored pencils and crayons and the Farrier Colletion was born. Gold and diamonds in the shape of a farrier nail. Every color, every length, every ride. The perfect symbol for those who are equestrian enthusiasts, or, like Elaine from Seinfeld put it in an episode about Europe, “Who leaves a country packed with ponies?”
Not, this girl. Not now, not then, not ever. You had me at pony!
Author, turned Designer, Debby Buck DeJonge forged the Farrier Collection out of her love for all things horses and to commemorate her comeback with a wearable symbol celebrating equestrians. You are invited to peruse The Farrier Collection at RideStarRx.
Please see The Farrier Collection on Debby’s Equestrian Website:
or contact her directly 616-634-2802