From Chicken Soup for the Horse Lover's Soul II

The Little Clydesdale That Could

Today I feel like a sky-high pair of platforms in a closet full of flats.

Jennifer Chambers

Frost’s Erastus Sally was a short mare standing only 16 hands, so as a Clydesdale show horse she didn’t have a future in the show ring. Nonetheless, Sally distinguished herself from other Clydesdales in a unique way. She became the only show jumping Clydesdale in the Midwest, if not the United States of America.

We started training in October of 1994 and by February we were at our first show. “How exciting this is,” the look on Sally’s face seemed to say. The thought of a beer horse actually jumping a fence amused the audience, but laughter gave way to stunned silence as Sally completed the Jumper course without dropping a rail and doing the timed jump-off at the fastest speed. May 1995 found us successfully showing Sally in the Jumper ring where she continued winning championships and blue ribbons throughout the show season. Sally enjoyed the crowds and loved to jump, the bigger the better.

Of all the horses I have ever owned, ridden, jumped or done equitation on, Sally was probably the best. She moved like a cat, very smooth and elegant and she was also very protective of her human. When I made a mistake going over a jump and took a bad fall, there she stood, her head by mine, refusing to leave me as I lay on the ground waiting for help to arrive. When they were able to drag her away and head back to the barn, she nickered as she left the ring. Sally continued her show season with another rider in the irons and by the end of the summer, she moved up to the big jumps. After her appearance on ESPN, she was known across America and had fans everywhere. The mare who was too small for her breed standard served as an ambassador for the uniqueness and versatility of the Clydesdale.

Sally instantly became the star when she showed up at a horse show. Once, a woman in a BMW drove up to us waving her hand asking, “Is that Sally, the Jumping Clydesdale?” Never one to disappoint a fan, Sally graciously accepted the woman’s offer of a carrot and a scratch on the nose. Throughout her show career, she earned many blues and championships and was mentioned in numerous articles in horse magazines. Sally had made her mark on the show world, but what she meant to our family was so much more than accolades and ribbons.

While carrying my son, Sally had the endearing habit of putting her head down at my belly to feel him move. One day while turning my young gelding out, he kicked me in the head. I went down. Uncertain of how badly I was hurt, I didn’t move. Immediately, Sally began speaking horse and stomping to the gelding, keeping him at bay until help arrived. Sally saved my unborn son and me from further, more serious injury from my rambunctious gelding who knew no better.

At the age of fifteen, Sally went lame and we turned her out to pasture to enjoy a well-deserved retirement. The final day she was with us, I put my son on her. She nuzzled his leg and stood quietly as if she knew the intimate connection they shared. Oddly, the day after Sally peacefully went over the rainbow, a newborn fawn and her mom appeared at my back door. As I watched these gentle creatures graze on tender grass, the fawn noticed me and gave me a strangely familiar look. It suddenly struck me where I had seen that expression before and when I acknowledged her as “Sally,” she went back to her momma and friends. Whether the moment between us was simply my way of coping with the loss of an irreplaceable member of our family or a truly magical message from my friend, it was no less a comfort to know Sally was still watching over us.

Dawn Stumm

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