Telby: A good horse with a rough past |

Telby: A good horse with a rough past

Tony Vagneur
Aspen, CO Colorado

It was Christmas Day, 1990, and there was an air of excitement as we hurriedly walked down the road, a royal procession at the least. My cousin, Wayne Vagneur and his wife, Lois, had given my daughter a horse for Christmas, and we were leading him from his home across the river over to my place, about a mile away. We didn’t use a horse trailer as we didn’t want to unnecessarily alert 7-year-old Lauren to the big surprise. We stopped out of sight of the house and I placed a large, red ribbon around Telby’s neck, signifying the spirit of the occasion.

Telby (progressively named by Lois ” Tar’s Little Brother, TLB ” finally Telby), a good-looking, well-bred, stout, sorrel gelding going back to Sugar Bars and Cuatro Ellas, came into Lauren’s life almost by accident. We’d gone riding with Wayne and Lois, and out of a lack of a horse for Lauren that day, decided to give Telby a try, with a little trepidation. They got along incredibly well and it was obvious that a great match had been irretrievably made, or so we thought.

Telby’d had it a little rough. Early in his life, someone had borrowed him one weekend and somehow let him fall out of the horse trailer at about 50 mph. Wayne and Lois nursed him back to health with a lot of care and a vow to never loan him out again. Lauren welcomed him into her life with all the love a little girl can bestow on a horse and Telby reveled in it.

Until, that is, Lauren began taking him to her Roaring Fork Hounds Pony Club meetings. Telby refused to get into a canter, and when he finally did, he’d duck his head and give a good buck on the first stride. Several topnotch riders bit the dust over this, and Telby refused to change. One evening, decked out in a western saddle, he bucked hard enough to break the cinch rigging, but Lauren stayed on. We decided that Telby was destined to be a western horse and he never wore an English saddle again. After a couple more years, he gave up his bucking showmanship, but no one knew ’cause no one was riding him anymore except me.

And I didn’t ride him much. He became my main pack horse, and along with his half-brother Donald, the three of us covered the hills around Woody Creek for many years, packing salt for the cattle, then clearing government trails and checking on hunter camps in the fall. Those in the family who’d used him early on nicknamed him “Pack Man,” simply because he could pack an entire elk up a steep hill without much effort.

Telby seldom questioned the state of the world, although he could look incredibly worried at times. His favorite pastime was eating, and I often said that dynamite couldn’t get him to pick up his head when he was onto some good feed. Just this past fall, I took him a small basket of apples from the tree in his old pasture behind the house. He thanked me with guttural delight.

Through the years, Lauren fussed over Telby and occasionally rode him on family cattle drives, but two years ago, at 24, his arthritis was beginning to act up and we retired him to very light duty.

But don’t you know, a little girl was waiting in the wings for the horse of her dreams and soon Telby left our spread, becoming a good horse and friend to a girl named Emma. On our bookcase stands a picture of Emma riding Telby, a big smile across her face that only a child can emanate.

It wasn’t pretty, they said, but then, it seldom is for horses. Lauren and I hugged and cried, and you know little Emma had it worse, for last Sunday, while getting his feet trimmed, big, stout, beautiful Telby laid down for the last time.

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