Tuck’s St. Aly

Loving a horse – It’s something unspeakable, something great. Some people like animals. Some people think they are good as therapy. Some people find them useful. But some people find them indispensable; and even if they cannot be near them physically, they surround themselves with books, pictures, movies and thoughts about the animals they hold so dear.

To me, horses were always like that. For as long as I can remember, I thought they were wonderful; and even before my parents bought me my first riding lessons, probably before I had ever even touched a horse, I had big plans in my little child mind to save up somehow and buy a horse, no matter what.

Years went by, and I met some very good people through riding at the polo club some miles from my house. I went from a pony, “Slow Joe,” that I seriously thought would fall over if he walked any more slowly, to an OTTB mare who thought she was back at the track any time she heard the polo ponies run by in the field next to the arena and challenged me to keep that racehorse heart satisfied by jumping and cross-country courses.

But through all of this, there was no ideal time, no possibility and no huge savings, as I had planned as a little girl, to get myself the horse I longed for. In my last years of high-school, because of various circumstances that put me under stress, my immune system became very weak, and I became slowly sicker and sicker. After a year of constant headaches and very little sleep, I hardly could think of riding a horse, much less being able to work to buy one or take care of one. To make a very long story short, I went to more doctors than I can count, my parents struggling to find out what was wrong with me after I had practically given up; but no matter how the rest of my life seemed buried behind pain, my schooling put on hold and everything seeming to hang in mid-time, I still had interest in the few things that mean the very most in my life – my faith, my family, and horses.

I couldn’t go to church. I couldn’t travel to visit my nephews who mean so much to me. I couldn’t ride horses, BUT I could still think about them; I could read about them ( during those three years, I accumulated more horse books than in the rest of my life), and I could still dream about them.

After two and a half years of doctor visits and desperation, we finally found out what I could be treated for, and I so slowly began to improve. I began to think again about how I would get a horse sometime. I talked to my mom and asked her if she would print things off of the Internet about horse farms when she was at work or at the library. Originally, I said Arabians, because I have always been fond of them. “Just anything, with beautiful pictures, and horses for sale” I said. Even if they were thousands of dollars too much, if I could see them and know the possibility was there, it was something to make me want to strive to get better.

As I became more eager, seeing the beauties that she brought me information about, we wanted to think about more feasible situations in which we might be able to actually afford the horses; and my mom ingeniously mentioned that, “You know what, there are some Thoroughbred rescue operations I’m sure; you should check them out. I don’t know if there’s any chance at all, but hey we might as well Google it.”

Type in off-the track Thoroughbred race horses and you get a multitude of links. My mom brought me many pages of sad looking horses, some beautiful, but not a lot that were “rideable;” and we thought we were on an interesting track so she kept looking for and bringing new things every now and then.

Then one day, when I called her at her office, mom said, “ I found a really neat looking site that kind of rescues ex-racehorses. Well not exactly rescues…” “Really?? What do they do? What’s it like? Does it show the horses?” I asked hungrily. She began to try to tell me about it and just said, “I’ll just print you off some pages.”

So that night, for the first time I saw the Bits & Bytes Farm green horses’-head emblem on the white page, with “what’s new, visitors photos, our horses, horses for sale, bargain barn horses,” etc. down the side. I was intrigued. I asked mom to open some of the links, and bring me more pictures, more pages ( We had no Internet at home at the time). I just wanted more, more, more.

She would bring me 10 or 15 more pages printed off every time she came home and I began to keep them in a folder and read about the horses and especially the success stories. I read about some so much that I am surprised I did not dream of them. They began to feel like a part of my routine, and after I had seen as much as I could of the different links that my mom could get when she had time, I , of course, discovered the prospect page and one of my most frequent questions to her on the phone and when she came home at night was, “Are there any new prospect horses for sale?”

At this time, I was away from home still, having treatment 3 times a week and my day involved staying in bed 95% of the time, looking at books when my headache wasn’t too bad, and watching my nephews play. The Bits & Bytes horses were my highlight; when mom brought home pictures of a new prospect I was thrilled, and asked her “Are there any more pictures of him?”

Finally, as I felt that I would go crazy if I did not get something more to keep me occupied, I decided to begin college online. Of course, not only did this open my college website to me, but Bits & Bytes Farm! For the first time, I was able to see the glossy page for myself, and now I didn’t have to worry about not seeing many pictures because mom didn’t have to print them off and run the printer out of ink. Now I could go to the horses for sale page, and look at the pages and pages of pictures; now I could find the more detailed pages, for example the pages with Tuck’s St. Aly’s training pictures and the page with the day of his birthday – our birthday.

After this I would check the website so many times a day. I would work on my school in the daytime and read success stories at night, all from my bed, able to watch the horses progress online. I figured that the horses for sale would be hard to get, more expensive, and as my treatment was still going on and I was very weak, I never thought I would be able to think of getting a horse anytime soon.

Almost two years passed with me watching the prospect horse page, and many times hoping a horse would not be sold, as I loved how its description went and thought I would be old and grey by the time I would ever be able to call the “Elizabeth Wood” number for serious buyers shown on the website, if ever.

Tuck’s St. Aly’s photo from the Bits & Bytes Farm Web site.

As I became a little stronger and also a little sadder at how the ones I liked so much on the prospect page disappeared so quickly, I looked at the horses for sale more; and I discovered in that time, with an “OH MY Gosh” shriek of wonder, that one of the horses on the page, the one with a “very Arab looking, sweet face” as I told my mom, shared the same birthday as I. I watched his page, and went to his “horse for sale” page many more times than I can count, almost every day, figuring to see the big red SOLD! on it anytime now.

I became more enthralled and pulled in, as you might say, to his pictures, looking more and more at just his page, even though I always kept an eye on the prospect horses. A few months before, I had seen a picture of a mare on a prospect horse page that I thought looked perfect for me and actually did call Elizabeth, but I had a short talk with her and made it obvious I wouldn’t be able to buy any horse soon, so the conversation didn’t go much of anywhere – except to leave me despondent.

I couldn’t be very despondent as I watched and looked at Aly’s pictures though, and one day I told my mom to look at him and commented again on his birthday, of course; she said playfully, “Is he the one?” I said something like, “Yes, he is.” Nothing much, but I was totally serious. I knew in my heart, even if I could never get him, there was something so special about this horse. His face is so sweet, so kind, and so special, so different. I loved looking at the pictures of Classic Casey and Foxy and all of the gorgeous ones on the “horse for sale” page, but I always wandered to Aly’s the most.

As I began to get up a bit more and I talked to my mom about Bits & Bytes Farm – it was a frequent topic, let me tell you, I began to say so frequently, I can remember, “I’m so afraid he’ll be gone, so , so afraid.” Then when I finally told my mom I was thinking I might be getting well enough to go home, we decided maybe I should call Elizabeth soon and just see what she said, if nothing else, about Aly. I had to at least call and see if someone else was trying to buy him. I had to stop the agonizing wonder. I am a procrastinator, especially if sometimes I don’t want to know the result of something or what someone might say. I wanted to know so badly what Elizabeth would say, but then again I didn’t, because I didn’t seriously think I would be able to get Aly or any horse anytime soon. I suppose though, I finally had groaned about the possibility of Aly’s being gone one day so much that my mom urged me more than normal, and I felt I had to know.

So I finally did it. I called and talked to Elizabeth, and from then on most doubts were removed. I knew I had to have Aly. If Elizabeth thought I was OK to get a horse from her, even if she didn’t seem too sure if Aly was the right one at first, I knew, if he was available, it had to be him. And sure enough, it was.

When God wants something to happen, time does not matter. Sickness does not matter. Miles don’t matter. He used wonderful people and wonderful parents to bring me through the hardest time of my life and to bring Aly through the rough treatment he had experienced between the time he was a five years old and the time when he lived at Bits & Bytes Farm – to make us both ready for the time when we could be together. It’s not shocking or an incredible coincidence that I never saw the SOLD! on Aly’s page when I looked countless times. God knew that I needed that beautiful Arab shaped face to look forward to kissing and having as my own to give me the strength to get over my sickness.

Now hanging next to me is the most wonderful and important red ribbon I have ever seen. The ribbon that was around my bay boy’s neck when I first touched him, around the neck of the handsome horse that a year ago I would never have dreamed would be mine. We went through extreme hardship before we became the A-team.

Everyone goes through extreme hardship, I suppose, especially the people that I think are so influential in my having Aly today – my parents, and my dearest Bits & Bytes friends, Elizabeth and Barry. I am sure more times than I looked at Aly’s page they have all wondered how could they endure the hardship that the things they love have put them through? How could they do it for one more day?

So just when you think you cannot endure anymore, remember the red ribbon that is hanging next to me, and remember, you are responsible for helping God save someone’s life. Not the red ribbon for breast cancer, not a ribbon for a soldier, but a ribbon that came with an animal that I found on a website that gave me hope when I had felt so much sadness and very little hope for three and a half years before. A brightness in the middle of so much dark, reminding me of the beauty of loving a horse- something unspeakable, something great.

Alex Kemper