Farewell to a horse
By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Brooklyn - posted Mon., Sep. 16, 2013
Countless passages have been written praising the power and beauty and nobility of horses. Yet words so often fail to do justice to the bonds that connect horse and rider. It was important to Brad Herman, owner of Quarter H Ranch in Sterling, that we try to do that after his friend lost a horse.
Herman is a friend of Greg Shofner, owner of a Quarter-type Paint named Pete. Pete passed away during a barrel competition at the Brooklyn Fair three weeks ago. The two had been a competitive team for three years in barrel racing, pole bending and roping events. They were well known among the circle of riders they competed against, according to Herman. And they were good at what they did.
Pete was 15.2 hands high, with brown and white markings. He was beautiful, according to Debi McCready. “Everybody knew Pete,” she said. “Greg and Pete would go into the ring and everyone would clap.” McCready does barrel racing herself. At one event, she watched the two perform flawlessly. “His round was perfect,” she said. “After they finished, the announcer even said, ‘Now, that’s how it’s done.’ No way was anyone going to beat that.”
Pole bending and barrel racing pit a horse’s athletic ability and rider’s horsemanship skills against a clock. Team roping requires two teams of horse and rider to lasso a steer once it’s let out of a chute. The events can’t be more different, said Herman. “It was unusual to find a rope horse that could do barrels and poles,” he said. “A roping box is probably the most pressurized situation for a horse. But Pete was very good in the box. Pete was the exception.” Herman called the horse stoic and calm. “I’ve never seen the horse worked up,” Herman said.
Shofner had to travel to the western part of the country to find Pete. They were well suited, according to Herman. “Still waters run deep,” he said. “Greg is a solid guy. He and the horse mirrored each other.”
While Shofner may have been new to rodeo and gymkhana events, he wasn’t new to riding or horses. He’d been a jockey for several years in Oklahoma where he grew up, breaking and training horses, according to Herman. The two men shared many conversations about horses.
While Herman had always loved the creatures, he’d come to roping after a career as a probation officer. He considered himself tough, macho. “I played quarterback in college. I was a macho idiot,” he said. “Rodeo changed my life. It made me sensitive to other animals, other things. I attribute it to the horse.”
He’s seen the effect horses can have on others. “I’ve seen violent, hardcore guys changed by the horse. I can’t tell you what it is. They can’t tell you what it is. Horses are big. You can’t control them like a dog. They’re noble. They can toss you off in a second. There are so many things you have to do for them. I look at a horse and I want that horse to bond with me," he said.
Herman was in the stands watching when Shofner and Pete began their event at the Brooklyn Fair. The horse went wide around a barrel and kept going wide. He raised his nose in the air. He fell hard on his side. His legs kept paddling in the air. “People were screaming,” Herman said. There was sand around Pete’s mouth from the sand in the ring. Someone tried throwing water on him to clear it from his muzzle. Someone took his bridle off. Nobody could save him. He died where he had fallen.
A woman volunteered a flatbed and a group of people took Pete to the Quarter H Ranch and buried him. Herman gave a eulogy.
In the 1800s, British author Caroline Norton wrote a poem called, “An Arab’s Farewell to His Steed.” It’s about an owner recalling the magnificence of his horse after he decides to sell him. His regret leads him to change his mind. Flinging the gold back, he reclaims his horse and the joy he found riding him.
Selling a horse and watching one die are far different things. But the appreciation for the animal’s beauty, its strength and nature are the same. Below are lines from that poem:
My beautiful! my beautiful! that standest meekly by.
With thy proudly-arched and glossy neck, and dark and fiery eye!
Fret not to roam the desert now with all they winged speed:
I may not mount on thee again - thou'rt sold, my Arab steed!
“I believe Greg didn’t know how much he was attached to that horse,” Herman said. “This is about a friend valuing a friend.” It’s also about honoring a magnificent horse that was part and parcel of their lives.