1984 - 2009
2009: Champ passed away on December
12, 2009. Champ has been an important part of Three
Gaits over the last 11 years and his contributions
will not be forgotten. Instructor Angela Frank and Program Director Dena Duncan
share their memories of Champ:
December 12, 2009 was a very sad day for me. It was the day
that Ruff N' Tuff Champ, my favorite school horse, had to be
euthanized because of a serious illness. I'm extremely
grateful for the medical care that he received to alleviate
his pain, but I'm very sad that we lost such an amazing
horse. Over the years, I made it obvious that I favored
Champ over every other horse (sometimes even my own horse!).
Volunteers were quite accustomed to me referring to him not
by name, but as "the most handsome horse."
However, I'm not sure that everyone realized how he earned
that designation. As I'm remembering my time with him, I
realize that he taught me invaluable lessons. I wanted to
share some of those lessons as a way of honoring his time at
learned from Champ:
Insects are evil
Anyone who knew Champ knew that summer was not his favorite
season. We spent more money on fly spray for that horse than
we did for the rest of the horses combined. It didn't matter
if the bug was actually on his side, Champ would overreact
to a fly landing on the horse next to him. He felt a little
braver when he wore his "batman ears" (a black fly
bonnet that made his ears look 3 times bigger than normal),
but he never gave up his comical grudge against tiny pests
in the air.
only thing we have to fear is… a white cat
In the 11 years that I knew Champ, he and I shared countless
trail rides. In fact, unless it was buggy outside, he was my
favorite horse to saddle up and explore the property. Champ
was not spooky by any stretch of the imagination. He would
walk past objects he had never seen before without any
hesitation. I remember a specific trail ride in which we
rode up next to a farmer on his giant, noisy farm equipment
and had a nice conversation like it was no big deal.
However, in all of the rides we shared, I only fell off
Champ one time. We were on our way back to the barn after a
nice, long trail ride when a white cat (Luke) came up from
behind us and sprinted across the lawn. Champ went right, I
went left. I landed in the grass, giggling, because I had
just fallen off as a result of an animal that Champ shared a
home with 24 hours a day.
Horse shows are for the birds
When I was still in high school, Champ and I participated in
a couple of dressage schooling shows held at Three Gaits. He
had been shown on the Quarter Horse circuit for years, so I
didn't expect that he'd have any problem trotting around a
ring on his own turf. However, I quickly learned that
ribbons weren't worth the trouble of convincing him that he
was having fun. He hated baths - probably because the water
on his skin felt like 1,000 flies attacking him at once.
However, getting him ready was only half the battle. Champ
was not a fan of being the only horse left in his stall when
his friends were outside. He would spin in his stall and
call for his friends like his life depended on it. By the
time I got him in the arena, he was covered in sweat and
completely distracted. I'm proud to say that I still have a
blue ribbon that I won with him… mainly because I remember
the epic battle that it represented!
Riding heals everything
Champ came to Three Gaits one year after I did. He was 14 at
the time, I was 15. When Dena brought him into the program,
I actually didn't care for him at all. He was brought in
with another horse who I liked more, and I resented the fact
that Champ worked out and the other horse didn't! However, I
started exercising him outside of lessons. As I took
dressage lessons with him, and saw the improvements in
myself as a rider, I quickly became attached to him. He
taught me so much about riding - from equitation to lateral
movements. I've never been a particularly athletic person,
but riding became a sport that I was capable of doing. I
gained an incredible amount of self-confidence because of
riding, and Champ had a lot to do with that. I can't express
how much I appreciated his predictability and character when
I was going through tough times. I knew that no matter how
much I was distracted by life around me, I could count on
him to take me on an amazing trail ride and everything would
be better. He became such a constant in my life and in his
own way, helped me through a lot of struggles that come with
your job, and do it well
When I calculate the number of hours I personally spent
riding Champ, I easily spent twice as many hours teaching
other people to ride Champ. Although he had his quirks, he
was an amazing school horse who had a specific niche that he
filled. He didn't provide the rider a lot of movement while
he was walking, so he helped a lot of fearful people feel
more comfortable in the saddle. He also had a perfect trot
for learning to post, and had excellent ground manners for
people learning to lead. Three Gaits always has a large
population of people still developing their horsemanship
skills, and Champ always stood patiently while he had a bit
twisted, or a saddle backwards. He was a favorite among my
day campers, and I could always rely on him to take good
care of his rider. Champ always did what we asked him to do.
He played a large role in making our program successful for
the past 11 years.
It is with
many tears in my eyes that I write this article, but I hope
that I will never forget the lessons that Champ taught me.
He was a goofy, yet reliable horse who created a legacy in
our program. I want to thank Three Gaits for allowing me the
opportunity to know Champ, he really had a profound impact
on my life. I will miss him dearly.
Gaits Program Director Dena Duncan:
Three Gaits has funds that have been donated for the
expressed purpose of purchasing a horse - and Champ was the
first horse that I purchased as Three Gaits program
director. At the time that we were shopping for "the
perfect horse" there were two horses at the barn where
Champ lived that we were interested in. Three Gaits had
limited funds, and our budget didn't allow us to purchase
both. The family that owned Champ agreed, after hearing
about our program, to lower their asking price to allow him
to become a part of Three Gaits herd. (And yes, as Angela
mentioned, the other horse didn't work out for the program.)
15, 1998 Champ arrived at Three Gaits. A little bay Quarter
Horse trained for the Quarter Horse circuit, Champ was
exactly what we were looking for. (Although he had a few
buttons that our dressage oriented staff had fun playing
with, he learned to adapt to us as we adapted to him.) He
had a very smooth jog - to the point where often volunteers
could walk just a bit faster to allow him to happily jog
along. Time and time again this gave enough confidence to
some of our more timid riders to accept that trotting could
in the 11 years he was with us, and we had recently been
talking about his retirement. We recognized signs of him
aging - and the signs that his arthritis was making his job
harder for him than it had been in the past - but we didn't
expect to say good bye to him this quickly. We're definitely
going to miss the "grandpa" of our herd.
thanks to several people for helping to make Champ such an
important part of Three Gaits:
Fournier Family - for their willingness and generosity
in sharing Champ with Three Gaits all those years ago.
While they moved out of state several years ago, they
still visit when they're back in Wisconsin.
and Cindy Frank for their sponsorship of Champ. They
began sponsoring him when our sponsorship program began,
and have continued throughout the past 7 years.
View Veterinary Service for their special care for Champ
throughout his 11 years at Three Gaits. While Champ was
one of the most difficult horses for the vet - he had no
patience for shots, dental work, or actually just about
any veterinary work - he was a favorite with Dr Batker.
She stood in his stall, many times with a shot in her
hand, laughing at his antics.
Name: Ruff N Tuff Champ
Birth: May 23, 1984
Former Owner: Jean
Arrived at Three
Gaits: January 1998
School Horse Specialty: Lots
of riders like Champ's smooth and adjustable gaits.
Life: Champ was a western show horse. He was shown
on the American Quarter Horse circuit. He did very well!
know?: Champ HATES bugs! We flyspray him a lot in
the summer. He is also picky about eating sugar.
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