When Bud told me that he had bought Sampson – I was totally against it.
I was nervous at the thought of being responsible for the care and housing of a stallion first of all – and then the reputation of Sam was of this powerful outlaw. Did he expect me to actually ride this horse?
Bud and I and drove north with the truck and trailer to pick Sampson up for the Fl. Champ. Show. The trainer was to work with me for the 2 days we were there to help me get a feel for the horse that I would soon be riding and caring for in our own barn.
The trainer rode Sam first. Years of trainers getting on his back and immediately spurring him on had taught him that he was supposed to bolt the second he felt weight in the saddle. There was no convincing him any other way. He would get mad if you held the bridle to try to make him wait, that just made it worse. There all 3 of us stood in the arena, it was time for me to hop on – understandably, it took a few minutes for me to get up my nerve. I will always remember the trainer saying “just because he is Sampson, it is no different”. Sampson was a whole lot different than any other horse I had ever seen or been around.
I hopped on and we took off, he gave me a really great ride. Later that day I clipped, bathed, and got him ready for the ride home to FL and the show. I was still so nervous around him, Bud and the trainer were gone – I felt like I might as well be clipping a rattlesnake. I honestly did not know how he was going to react to any of this. He was patient and very respectful. Then we loaded our new stallion in the trailer and headed towards Jacksonville for the Championship show.
Sampson won the State Championship, with the trainer aboard. During the travel time and show, he began to show the softer side of his disposition to me. He started to relax and so did I.
He moved into our barn in Sarasota towards the end of January 2006. The first time we turned him out in the pasture was an event. Many of our boarders were there to witness it – I was not sure if I would ever be able to catch him again. Sure enough, after a couple of hours, he did not move when I went to put the lead rope on him. He walked quietly to his stall with me.
A few days later after getting to know this new place and people, it was time for me to ride him. Bud and I were standing in our small paddock with Sam all tacked up and ready to ride. 15 minutes probably. That was about how much time it took for me to get the nerve to put my foot in the stirrup. Bud kept telling me not to hesitate, just get up there and get on him – sure…. Honestly, he used to be like mounting a speeding bullet.
Time went by and Sampson must have realized things were pretty good. He started to relax a little when the mounting process took place, thankfully. Eventually, he was as easy to be around and work with as were the rest of the horses we had. Jan through April I had a great time riding Sampson in our arena and caring for him.
It was close to April when Bud and I decided we wanted to show him at the Breeder’s Cup in August and then The Celebration in Sept. We sent him to a training barn around May to prepare him to be at the top of his game. The barn was close by so that I could take an active part in riding and getting a good feel for his show gaits. I had never had a horse informal training and this was one of the best Champion producing barns, I was excited. I consider myself a decent rider, but the longer Sampson was in training – the harder it became to ride him. I blamed myself for not being the caliber of rider it took to have Sampson perform his best. We traveled to the Breeder’s Cup and to the Celebration in August and September of 2006 and were not able to show at either one of the events, Sam was not gaiting properly – I thought it was my not being able to ride the way the trainers did, turns out when the trainers got on after me – he still would not perform. Discouraged and done with it all – at the end of the Celebration in 2006, we moved Sampson to our stalls on the Celebration grounds from the Trainers stalls. Loved him, fed him carrots, and then made the trip home to Florida. By the time we were home, Sampson developed oozing sores on his lower legs. Whatever training “treatment” they must have done resulted in these sores. No wonder he wouldn’t perform, he was in pain. That’s when everything changed.
I consulted my Veterinarian about the leg problem, she recommended Oxydex soaks twice daily and antibiotic topical treatments until healing began and hair growth started. Most likely a chemical burn of some sort. The process of massaging the Oxydex on his legs at first was tricky – he wanted nothing to do with anything on his hurting feet. Then slowly he started to look for me and nicker when I came to take him out of his stall, he didn’t mind this new massage thing at all anymore.
After treatments and the healing process, I began to ride him “softly”. The next month we took him to SC for their Championship show and won the Reserve Open Championship competing against men trainers. Many who knew the past year’s show record finally could see what this horse and I were capable of – all-natural and absolutely no pain.
We had competed at some of the FOSH (Friends of Sound Horses) shows within our state in the past. I never fully understood the whole picture of their Mission Statement, with importance placed on education about the humane care, training, and treatment of all gaited horses. Having witnessed some of what that organization is trying to prevent – I became a FOSH member, supporter, and voice for their mission to everyone who would listen.