The first time I saw Moe was on a cool March day in a horse barn outside of Jamestown, Tennessee. Alice opened the stall door and led out a tall, lankly, solid black, four-year-old, Tennessee Walking Horse whose movement was liquid. I was looking into the eyes of the embodiment of my childhood dreams of The Black Stallion, Fury and Black Beauty. I knew he would be mine.

At the time he was padded, meaning his front end was built up to exaggerate his natural gait. After we agreed on a purchase price, we made other arrangements with the owner and 24 hours late Moe was a flat shod gelding. He was going from show horse to trail horse. That was 21 years ago.

Moe and I traveled the distance to the moon and back several times. I often said that he may not be the perfect horse, but he was the perfect horse for me.

Moe was always calm and laid back , a rare combination in a speed racker from championship lineage. Speed racking horses tend to wild eyed and raring to go from a combination of breeding and handling.

February in Florida. We ate up those flat dirt roads.

Together we stalked old road beds where he could open up to his full glory. As we picked up speed, he would elongate his stride. We were flying just above the dirt road with only one foot at a time daring to graze the earth. I was still, no bouncing or posting. My eyes were focused between his ears and I had a firm hold on the reins, one in each hand with my bent elbows attached to my low ribs and my shoulders fully engaged. When he dropped his head, I knew to make sure I was firm in my seat, because when his head shot up we went supersonic. He was Pegasus taking flight and I was along for the ride. I learned not to look at the ground because it would scare me to see how fast it was going by below us. The fear was exhilarating.

There is an internet meme that says “to ride a horse is to borrow freedom.” I agree. There were several times as I pulled the saddle off after a day on the trail that I felt like my life was full, complete. I knew that If I died that night in my sleep, I would die happy.

During the spring and early summer of 2020’s COVID shutdowns, I spent more days riding Moe than I had in a long time. As I could not spend weekends at the farm with my aging parents, Dad would meet me at the trailhead with the horses every Friday. It was a glorious spring and we enjoyed seeing the weekly changes as trees budded and wildflowers came up in rotating stages. While celebrating the new I also knew that this was Moe’s last spring on trail. He could no longer hold gait, his recovery from stumbles was slow and his back end was stiff. He no longer glided, much less flew.

On the trail with Dad and Huck

My father takes great pride in the appearance of our horses. They are well cared for spend half of the day in the barn and half in the field and fed grain twice a day. Their shoes are reset every six-weeks and are kept on year round so we can ride as the weather allows.

Dad called me in January. He had Sam the farrier take off Moe’s shoes. I thanked Dad and hung up the phone to cry. Though I knew the truth, it still hurt like a sucker punch to the throat.

Once the shoes come off, they never go back on.

Twenty-five-year-old Moe now what Dad calls a lawn ornament in that his only job is to look good in the field. His longevity on the trail is a testament to Dad’s care, no injuries and luck. He will be hard to replace.

Shoeless Moe living the lawn ornament life

25 thoughts on “Shoes

  1. Carrie Cannady says:

    I appreciate the beautiful way you honored Moe and the special relationship you enjoyed. Your Dad’s care has no doubt made a difference in the quality of his life. I felt as though I was riding (flying) alongside as the two of you journeyed together. Poignant, yet beautiful. 💜🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Rodgers says:

    What a beautiful tribute to Moe and your long, special relationship with him. I especially enjoyed your description of riding him, something I’ve never experienced. It was delightful to get a taste of that freedom and exhiliration through your eyes. I hope Moe enjoys his retirement and that you get to visit often. You had many active years with your dear friend.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ladysag77 says:

    Sarah, this post tugs at the heart strings. What a beautiful blessto have the relationships you do with these majestic animals. Such love and care, beauty and truth. The best kind of life lessons. May your heart have peace. I can feel the deep sadness for your good buddy Moe. You honored him wonderfully. When I read your work it’s as though I’m right there beside you, it has a visceral quality that is so intriguing. Thank you for sharing your heart with us all here. This is a memorialized piece that has the ability to soothe . 💗🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Art of the Beat says:

    Love the story about you and Moe and so beautifully written. I could almost see you riding Moe down a sunny trail with out a are I the world. and I also could feel your emotions as you wrote this post. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. shoreacres says:

    You know, I’ve never ridden a horse, and I’m really not comfortable around horses, even though I admire them and the people who know how to work with them on the ranches. I have friends who have aging horses, and listening to them talk about what they imagine being without them will be like is touching.

    All that said, one line in your post jumped out at me: “Once the shoes come off, they never go back on.” My first thought was, “That’s true for people, too.” I think that’s part of the reason I’m still working, and enjoying it. I want to keep my shoes on as long as possible.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eilene Lyon says:

    It sounds like you and Moe made some beautiful memories together. I loved the reminder of the fictional horses I loved as a kid. I only had my own horse for one year, but it made it a special time in my life. Moe has earned his lawn ornament days, and I hope there are many of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Debbie says:

    Part of me is crying with you, Sarah. I know how hard it is to lose a beloved animal. But take heart … Moe might not be walking the trail anymore, but he can still provide love with dignity as he roams the fields. There’s something to be said for remaining active for as long as we can, isn’t there?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah Davis says:

      While there are some who still sore walking horses, it is not as wide spread as it used to be. The industry is cleaning itself up as it had gone too far in awarding gaits that could not be naturally achieved. Many show horses have long and full lives on trail after their career in the ring ends.

      Moe was not be mistreated. His owner needed to let him go and called us because he know Moe would have a good life. It was a win-win.

      Liked by 1 person

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