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Former School Horses

Champ
1984 - 2009

December 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: 

From Angela Frank:

Saturday, 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 Three Gaits.

Lessons learned from Champ:

1. 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.

2. The 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.

3. 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!

4. 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 growing up.

5. Do 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.

From Three Gaits Program Director Dena Duncan:

Occasionally, 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.)

On January 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 be fun.

Champ aged 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.

Special thanks to several people for helping to make Champ such an important part of Three Gaits:

  • The 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.

  • Angela 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.

  • Country 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.

 

  • Registered Name: Ruff N Tuff Champ
  • Date of Birth: May 23, 1984
  • Breed: Quarter Horse 
  • Height: 15.1 Hands High
  • Color: Bay
  • Markings: Star
  • Former Owner: Jean Fornier (Purchased)
  • Arrived at Three Gaits: January 1998
  • School Horse Specialty: Lots of riders like Champ's smooth and adjustable gaits.
  • Previous Life: Champ was a western show horse. He was shown on the American Quarter Horse circuit. He did very well!
  • Did you know?: Champ HATES bugs! We flyspray him a lot in the summer. He is also picky about eating sugar.

Champ, full body p[hoto

Photograph at top of page courtesy of Shorthorse Studios

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Three Gaits, Inc.     Therapeutic Horsemanship Center
(608) 877-9086     3gaits@3gaits.org
Stable Address:  3741 Hwy 138 W     Stoughton, WI  53589
Mailing Address:  P.O. Box 153     Oregon, WI  53575

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