Have you ever had a horse that you just could never live without. That's the story of Smokey Joe; I knew him since he was a little one in his mom's belly.
We had bought his mom and hired a horse trainer who we thought would be good to her. We never saw how he trained her; the day that we finally did, we were surprised. I remember as a little kid of 7 years old seeing him beating her over the pole with his riding crop and I was horrified. My mom had to quickly take her away from him and we brought her back home.
I remember one day when my brother and I were playing at the fort on our property and I heard my mom yelling and screaming. A farrier came out and accidentally smacked Joe's mother in the side, right in the ribs with his clippers. It wasn't long before we realized that she was pregnant.
I may have only been 7 years old but I saw the signs and I knew what was going on. I told my mom that we should make her a double stall, and make it as comfortable as possible for her. I figured in a few days from now she'd have a foal. My mom didn't believe me until that week when she saw that little brown head pop out. That was a first day that we met Smokey Joe!
Joe had made it into this world despite his mom having horrible infections in her mouth from her previous owner, being severely underweight, and had been injured by a trainer and the farrier. He was a healthy looking foal, and everybody thought he was a mule because he had long ears.
Joe and I weren't the best of friends at first. In fact, he caused me to be rushed to the ER when I was feeding him and he decided to take a big chunk of flesh of my arm. What finally bonded us was when he was gelded and the vet didn't give him enough to put him fully under; when he started cutting, Joe woke up! Freaked out, the vet gave him more anesthesics and Joe fell, smacking his head on the fence and causing the need for stitches. It was his recovery that bonded us.
As the years went by, Joe and I became really good friends.
I worked with Joe on the ground for quite a while and when I was able to get on his back, that's when the fun really started happening. Joe was around five and a half years old when I started riding him, although teaching him anything was like talking to a brick wall at first. But as we started trusting and learning from each other, we became an invincible team. When it came to barrels, he may have only been 14.2 hands high, but he still got out there with the big guys.
I remember one time when I was talking to my friend at a gaming event and I told Joe to watch what they were doing. He did just that. We were getting ready to pole bend for the first time and as he watched everyone else go, I could feel him shifting his weight underneath me. Once it was our turn, he was amazing; he got the third best time!
Joe and I were a great team. He never let me down and I never let him down. My father he had other plans though; he tried to sell Joe 3 times before that fourth and final time.
The first time was when Joe was young and not even saddle broke. He was sold to an Arabian trainer who didn't know how to handle him. Joe ran through the fence with wire fencing hanging off of him, the poles and everything dragging behind him as he was jumping wheel lines. The wife called us up and begged us to take him back. She said he was out of control and she didn't want him anymore. He had been running for hours straight and she didn't know what to do, so I told her to tell him that he was coming home. He calmed right down, let them take everything off of him, and jumped right into the trailer once we arrived.
The second time, he was given away to a little girl but it wasn't even a month before he came back to us. The parents said that he was an evil horse, claiming that he tried to attack the kids. The minute Joe saw me outside the trailer, he came running and put his head in my arms and seemed to start crying. Same thing happened with the third sale.
Through it all, I continued training Joe and we became a better and better team. I could blindfold him and load him in the trailer. I could blindfold him and barrel race him. I could even jump him blindfolded. We had a trust with each other that no one else had with their horse. He was my trick pony. I even fell asleep in his legs a few times. We even played tag.
But all of that was soon taken away.
My mother had leased Joe to a friend of mine. She put him in the same pen with a stallion who was twice his size who ended up injuring him. By the time I found out, Joe was already his own paddock but he was only on three legs. Joe had ended up ripping every tendon and pulling every muscle in his hind leg but thankfully it wasn't a break! Joe was laid up for 8 months straight and ended up becoming a babysitter for one of the horses at the stable. At the same time, I had dropped out of high school to help my mom with the stable once my father left and to pursue my photography, something I'm still doing professionally today.
My father had come back after about 2 months being gone, and considered Joe to be too much of a burden. He had no idea what was really going on, and decided to make plans to get rid of Joe just three months before my 18th birthday. I remember the day I learned Joe was going away; my mom nonchalantly came up to me and said that Joe would be leaving in 3 days! Soon, the new owners were driving up with the trailer and I had to go get my boy and hand over his lead rope. I handed the reins over telling them about his tricks, how he could speak to you before a gaming event, and his body language. They told me those are bad habits; to me, it was just him speaking to me. I whispered in his ear that I might not see him for a very long time, and that he needed to behave, change lives, and be the best boy who could ever be. I also told him I would search to the ends of the earth for him.
I followed them for a good 15 miles and watched Joe searching for me the whole time. As they turned right and I turned left, I heard the heartbreak of my boy calling for me.
That marked the beginning of my search for him. For the first 5 years, I had tried to get any information I could from the new owners. Their stories constantly changed which I caught onto but I had no idea where to look. I had searched the Eugene Pony Club, where they said he was. But I came up empty.
In the beginning, his new owners threatened to get a restraining order on me because I kept bothering them about Joe. My father told me to stop looking; a restraining order was serious. I didn't let it stop me and continued to look. It wasn't until 2010 that I got some information; a second set of owners came forward and told me that they got him within the first year of the former owners having him. The second new owers used him as a training lesson pony. Then another lady came in; she saw this beautiful little pony in a dark dark dreary stall and she had to buy him. It took me 6 months to find her but I did.
A news reporter for the Eugene Register Guard had picked up on the story on Craigslist and wanted to do an article on me, a feel good article about a young lady who was searching for a horse and finally found him after five long years. However, my father was less then impressed by this and after giving him contact information for the reporter, she soon stopped contacting me. A lead was lost.
Over the next five years, I had people say they had him. I've had people say that they knew where he was. I've had people say that they are going to buy him for me. When I was pregnant with my first child, I had someone say that they knew he was up for sale but that they would rather see him killed and then have him given back to me or allow me to buy him back. There have been so many people who have tried to hurt me in my search, but I continue to search despite what people say and do. I'm hoping someday that Joe's current owners will contact me and allow me to see him; I'd love for him to meet my husband and my little 5-month old daughter.
I don't know if any of you have ever had a horse that just meant everything to you, like Smokey Joe does to me. I've had plenty other horses but none of them compare to Smokey Joe. The continued search is worth it and if I have to search until I'm old and gray, I will do so. Since he is unregistered, it's like looking for a needle in a hundred acres of hay but I will continue my search.
Don't ever give up on the things you love! People will be haters, people will hurt you; we have to stay strong and keep carrying on. If you want to follow me and Joe's story just look him up at smokeyjoe1995; you can follow me and be there that big day when I find him again. Thank you for reading this and I hope you have a great day.