My nephew Matt Smith emailed me this morning to remind me that today, April 2, is Smitty’s birthday. Smitty (aka Dakota Smith) is the Appaloosa I purchased before he was a week old from Matt’s family. They live in North Dakota, on the farm that used to belong to our paternal grandparents. They raise a handful of Appaloosas a year, and Smitty was in the ’09 crop.
As his foalhood progressed, Smitty shed his sorrel baby fur to become a dark chestnut, like his dam.
I didn’t get to meet Smitty in person until after he was weaned. Hubby Ed and I met my brother Mark and wife Gail at a halfway point near Billings, Montana.
Once we had him home with us in Idaho, Smitty proved to be a fast and eager learner.
Some young horses go through a stage of the uglies and the awkwards, usually as yearlings. Smitty skipped that stage. At a year old, he was balanced, athletic, and almost impossibly pretty.
Smitty spent all of his yearling summer out in our pasture, learning to go up and down hills and working on his growing. But–as will often happen with yearlings–he came in one evening with a booboo. And it was a ghastly-looking one, with one side of his face torn and hanging down like a steak with hair on it. No idea how he did it, but that’s yearlings for you. Even though it was sewn up by our vet right after it happened, the wound didn’t close right at one corner, and had to be cosmetically repaired. Now, you’d never know it happened.
At 2, and on a regular ration of feed (nothing extra in an attempt to push development), Smitty was…well, he was a hunk. In the sense of whoa, baby, look at HIM! When he was down by the roadside edge of the pasture, drivers would honk as they drove by him. He had the wow-factor to catch a judge’s eye, no question. But I didn’t show him, nor did I have Smitty started under saddle at 2. Simple reason: He just didn’t stop growing. The growth plates of his bones were so busy that I didn’t want to take the risk of added any forced exercise.
Out in a herd of four, Smitty paired up with Corky, a retired mustang who was well over 30 years old. They did everything together. Sadly for the kid in this duo, Corky had to be put down last fall, as his old age finally caught up with him.
Smitty stayed beside his lost pal until the backhoe guy came the next morning to bury Corky. He whinnied for him the next couple of days. We learned a lot about equine herd behavior and relationships by watching him go through this.
This is Smitty today, as he turns 3. He’s 16 hands tall. He’s a sound, healthy, well-adjusted gelding who’s just about ready to be started under saddle. I have a good hunch that his next chapters will be as colorful as the first–no pun intended!