Between yesterday and today, I have made a decision. That may seem fast, but in truth this decision process started in April when Patriot bucked Morgan. There was a trainer here that day, a trainer that lives nearby and is retired from training. As soon as we knew that Morgan was okay, he turned to me and made no bones when he said, “Get rid of that horse.”

At the time, that statement seemed harsh. In fact, I just stared at him, overwhelmed, and burst into tears. I don’t bring an animal to my farm without making a commitment to them. Being new to horses, I didn’t know what to do, or what to think. I turned to the rescue, who helped me find a trainer who was open and willing to work with rescue horses, and we decided to adopt Zip. We had looked at Zip the same day we first looked at Patriot, but Zip had injured her leg getting out of the trailer that day and Morgan wasn’t able to test ride her. Maybe if she had ridden Zip that day, we would have taken Zip home to begin with and this never would have happened, but I doubt it. She fell in instant love with Patriot.

Having been told that Zip had more training and riding behind her than Patriot, we ended up sending Zip first to the trainer in order to get Morgan on a horse she could ride more quickly. Zip was like turning a page in a book, the trainer said. Every day, he discovered something she already knew how to do. She does, indeed, have a lot of good training in her background and she was quickly reminded of it and is the good riding horse we wanted her to be. And yet if you asked Morgan, she would tell you, “I like Zip, but I love Patriot.”

When Zip came home, we sent Patriot. I didn’t send Patriot with the expectation that we would bring home a horse immediately ready to ride, just like Zip. I sent him with the anticipation of a solid assessment and a training start that could lead to him being a good riding horse in time. Patriot wasn’t beginning at the same place Zip had begun, but I hoped to tap into his potential by infusing some fundamentals. An experienced trainer had turned on a dime and said, “Get rid of that horse,” in the same way that I might say without a second’s blink, “Throw out that jar,” if a brand new canner showed me some chicken they’d water-bathed instead of pressure-canned and the lid was coming up. I’d have the experience to say that about a jar of preserved food, but I know nothing about horses. The trainer that made that statement does, though–but I wasn’t ready to accept it. (I’ve had people argue with me about their jars of chicken, too.) I wanted a second opinion.

The first trainer, sight unseen, had also told me not to get Zip. Zip turned out to be an absolute jewel of a riding horse. (In fairness to the first trainer, he was concerned about our safety as new horse owners, and didn’t want us to make a second mistake.) I knew we needed to find a trainer with an open mind to rescue horses–because there are jewels like Zip out there. We already had Patriot, and I wasn’t ready to give up on him. By sending Patriot to training, we learned a lot about him. He has no training in his background. I asked Mike if Patriot knew English reining or Western reining. He said, “He knows no reining.” Patriot appears to be a 10-year-old greenbroke horse. Early on, he told me that he thought something was wrong with Patriot, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. He continued to work with Patriot every day, and made progress in his ground manners and eventually started riding him daily. At this point, I started feeling hopeful. The sense that something was wrong with Patriot never left Mike, though, and it all became clear the other day when Patriot bucked him. By this time, he’d been riding and working Patriot every day for several weeks. Patriot has an old, ugly scar on one of his back legs. After Patriot bucked, he was given a long workout. When a horse misbehaves that way, he has to be immersed immediately in respect training. (Luckily the trainer was actually able to get up off the ground and start working him.) Patriot’s leg, where that old scar is, swelled and the non-pliable skin at the scar split open.

Suddenly a lot of things made sense. Patriot’s unusual clumsiness. The way he holds his ears back too often to be normal. Not to mention so many random, bizarre behaviors–rearing up and busting out a light, throwing himself down in cross ties, and so on. It’s quite possible this old injury never healed properly and/or that he has long-term damage. This doesn’t excuse bucking in a horse, but may at least partially explain it and other behaviors. He may be in pain. The lack of soundness in that leg was “hidden” until he was ridden and worked regularly. (This is not something that would have surfaced during rescue care conditions.) It also doesn’t change the fact that he is at most greenbroke, and at 10, he has a solid set of bad habits. To overcome those bad habits and behaviors, he would need to be worked and ridden regularly in long-term training. Because of the lack of soundness in his leg, he can’t be worked and ridden regularly in long-term training. Whether or not something can be done about his leg, I don’t know, a vet would have to say, but it’s a very old injury and it’s probably too late or too expensive to address other than to allow him to virtually put his feet up. He is, indeed, most fit for pasture ornamentation. And he should not be a pasture ornament where any of his bad habits at any given time could harm someone. He sometimes suddenly lunges or kicks–randomly, in the field, around people. My farm is often open to the public, operates somewhat like a petting zoo, and is a magnet for children. Not only is Patriot a horse we can’t ride, he is a powerful and unpredictable large animal.

I found out what I wanted to find out from sending him to training–the conclusion wasn’t the one for which I hoped, but I did get the conclusion. Mike recommended that this was not the horse for us, and I had to have a hard conversation with Morgan and fight past my own emotional attachment to Patriot. I want to thank trainer Mike Trader for getting on Patriot’s back so many times–because there are a lot of people, even trainers, who would not have done that. (He might be slightly crazy for it, but he’s a really nice guy and also very diligent in pursuing a conclusion for his clients. If you’re looking for a horse trainer, I highly recommend him, and fortunately, he survived Patriot, so he’s still available.)

I also want to say a word about the Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue here–someone questioned in the comments yesterday if we were “stuck” with Patriot. Absolutely not. The horse rescue has been here for us this entire time. The vast majority of rescue stories go the way of Zip–a jewel plucked from neglect with a storybook ending. Rescues generally have little or no knowledge of an animal’s background, and they are upfront about that. If something goes wrong, they will take the animal back. They have offered to take Patriot back from the day he bucked Morgan. It was me who took so long to make the decision. HOP has been by my side to support me as an adopter all the way, and if you adopt a horse from them, you will find the same.

Today, HOP is going to pull up at Mike Trader’s barn and load Patriot into their trailer. He will not be returning to Sassafras Farm.
Photo by Jerry Waters.

We love Patriot, and we’ll miss him. This is not the ending that we wanted, but it’s the ending that is right.

P.S. HOP will also, at the same time, be delivering the little shortcake to Mike’s barn. There are a few days yet left on Patriot’s clock with the trainer and they will be used to evaluate her potential as a more safe and suitable fit for our farm.


  1. Diane says:

    When I read about patriot yesterday I was going to make the suggestion to give him back to the rescue. Just from what you said about his injury and behavior just told me he would never be a safe horse to ride. I do wonder what will the rescue do with him since no one will not be able to ride him?

  2. summerwindfarm says:

    Your making the right decision, as hard as it is. I’ve spent all of my adult life around horses, including doing rescue and rehab from slaughter auction. Between the bad leg and the spoilt behavior, rearing and falling in cross ties, he will never be a safe horse and when kids are involved safety is number one.

  3. Darius.Lander says:

    You have our deepest sympathy. It is hard to give up a loved animal for any reason. The good part is that you know Patriot will be well-cared for. Our family wishes you a successful adoption and many happy years of friendship with another horse.

  4. danielsfamilyof5 says:

    I know that had to be a very hard decision but I think you are doing what is in the best interest of the people and other animals on the farm. Hugs to you and Morgan!

  5. SarahGrace says:

    What a hard decision for both you and Morgan. I’m glad you have such a great trainer. Hope all works well with Shortcake.

  6. lattelady says:

    Oh, I am so sorry. I can only imagine the tears which have been shed over this.
    But, you went above and beyond the call of duty to try and rehab Patriot.
    Enjoy your little shortcake. She will be a gem.

  7. Stick Horse Cowgirls says:

    Yes, a very difficult, heartwrenching decision, but the right one! Safety for visitors to your farm and your own family has to come first. Perhaps there is a large farm somewhere that Patriot can retire to as yes, a beautiful ornament, but well cared for. He is what he is. Our local humane society is caring for 25 horses right now. Over breeding of all dogs, cats and yes, even horses needs to be seriously addressed, but the real problem is how to control people who will not get their pets “fixed”. My husband overheard people talking at the feed store and they were warning people to keep their pasture gates locked. In this bad economy, people are finding horses left in their pastures and they are even releasing them in wilderness areas in northern Arkansas to fend for themselves.

  8. Leck Kill Farm says:

    You made the right choice. If she doesn’t fully understand it now, Morgan will in the future. “Instant love” can be dangerous, my mom got struck by that and had a problem horse that only she could ride.

  9. Flowerpower says:

    It bothered me yesterday to read that you were thinking of sending Patriot back but there is something wrong with the horse. I said once who knows what that horse has been thru in his life. Horses are very large and very dangerous animals and to put your life or your children’s life in harms way is not good. Very sad to know that Patriot will be leaving but I do hope they can find him a home in somebody’s pasture who doesn’t want to ride.

  10. boulderneigh says:

    I anxiously await the next chapter, and hope it has a happier ending for you all!

  11. Teresa says:

    I am sorry to hear about Patriot. I am sure Tinia will find him a good home as a pasture pet. I hope Shortcake works out for you and Morgan. :hug:

    As for HOP…I also adopted a horse, Kate, from there and she has been totally wonderful! I am her second home through adoption and I will be her forever home!

  12. UlrikeDG says:

    If you’d known he was barely greenbroke 5 months ago, you wouldn’t be making this hard decision now. It seems strange that he was so docile that first day when you and Morgan rode him, but he’s definitely not a beginners’ horse. Hopefully, HoP will help you find a horse who can be happy at Sassafras Farm!

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Patriot IS docile at times–that is part of his unpredictability. He was only occasionally ridden during the time he was in rescue care, and looking back, the reason he wouldn’t do more than walk was probably related to his leg issue. It was only through training with regular riding and working that we were able to know that his original behavior had given us all the wrong impression.

  13. Heidi533 says:

    It can be so hard to make the right decision sometimes. My heart is sad for you and Morgan. I hope that Patriot is able to find the right home for him and that Zip won’t be too sad without him.

  14. lesliedgray says:

    I am sorry to hear about Patriot, but you made a solid decision. You have to look after your, your family’s, and others under your care’s safety first. It is a shame about Patriot, but it looks as if it can’t be helped.

  15. janet gordon says:

    You made the only decision to be made in a situation like this – be assured it is the right one for the safety of your family, friends and farm business. Good luck with Shortcake – I hope she is everything you wish for. And kudos to Phoenix horse rescue – doinh a difficult and thankless job with good grace and humanity.

  16. NancyL says:

    It’s a beautiful day here in Iowa, sunny and 77, and yet I’m tearing up – badly. Not only for you and Morgan, but for Patriot and whatever in his past caused the injury and his unpredictability as a riding horse. Mike is a blessing for you! I’m sorry Patriot and Zip will now be separated, but hopefully Patriot will find another close friend back at HoP. The new little shortcake sounds like a doll, and will probably bond tightly with Zip and Morgan. I’ve never had horses, but I’ve had to make that hard decision with a rescued dog and I cried all day when I returned her. Hugs to you all.

  17. joykenn says:

    I’m so sorry for you and Morgan. You had to make a tough and reasoned decision about Patriot but seem to have handled everything with sensitivity and intelligence. Running a farm is not all bluebirds and happiness like a kid’s movie but full of hard choices and grownup decisions. I’m proud to see you’ve shared the tough parts as well as the happy parts with us readers.

  18. stacey3940 says:

    So sorry that it didn’t work out. With you being new to horses and having so many people coming and going, I think you are making the right decision and I love that he is from a rescue so he can go back there and you know he will be cared for. There are people out there that need pasture mates for their other horses and don’t care if they can ride or not so I’m sure he will find the right home eventually. Actually I have one of those “pasture mate” type horses, not because I didn’t want to ride but because I knew I could handle the horse and he needed a home and I had room.

  19. cabynfevr says:

    lattelady summed it up perfectly for me :hug:

  20. brookdale says:

    Suzanne, you made the right decision. I know it was hard, but life often is. Patriot will continue to get wonderful care at HOP and there will be a perfect home for him somewhere.
    Good luck with the little Shortcake! She and Zip will become good friends I am sure.

  21. The High Altitude Tea Duchess says:

    What a hard decision to make but I’m sure you did the right thing.

  22. whaledancer says:

    What a difficult decision to have to make. Oftentimes the right thing to do isn’t the easy thing. I know you and Morgan must feel very sad.

  23. Janine E says:

    I’m so sorry Suzanne, but I have to say you’ve made absolutely the right decision. I’m sure Patriot will find a home where he can settle and that you will be happier with a safer horse to ride and to love. I do ride, I’ve been thrown and I’ve been bolted with and become unbalanced and fallen off. I’ve met beter riders than me that have suffered serious injuries. Now I’ve got more sense I stick to horses I know and can trust.

  24. Cheryl LeMay says:

    What a difficult decision to make, yet it was the only one you could make. I feel sorry for Patriot because of his past hurt but obviously working him isn’t good for him. Hopefully he will find a good home somewhere else. I sure hope you have better luck with Shortcake.

  25. Barbee says:

    This brings to memory the time my mother had a talk like that with me when I wanted to keep a stray dog, but it started stealing and eating eggs. I was very sad, but I lived.

  26. VikingMiss says:

    I think you made the right choice. Putting emotions aside, it will be best for everyone that Patriot finds his right-fit home. I think you also helped HOP with all the extra trainer evaluation from the time he was at your home until now. It will help them find a suitable home and not a potential danger to perhaps a younger child because of his injury and past (little) training.

  27. Country Blossom says:

    I’m sorry Patriot wasn’t the right fit but you are doing what is best for all of you. Patriot has a bright and restful future out there. He will find it. Good luck with ShortCake! 🙂

  28. Mandys says:

    I’m really sorry you had to make this decision 🙁 I can’t imagine how hard it would have being. I hope Patriot gets a nice home where he can live out his life in pasture without being ridden. That injury must have caused him a lot of pain and I hope they can help him with it.

  29. mds9 says:

    Looked at facts and options and made a decision not easy but right. Your a Farmer.

  30. Barbee says:

    I can’t quit thinking about this. I’ve been freezing corn and thinking about all of you. I’m sure Morgan wouldn’t want to hurt Patriot, and will want him to have the best fit for his home. Bless her heart, I feel for her… and feel like crying, myself. Okay, that’s all from me for today – back to the kitchen.

  31. yvonnem says:

    You did the very best that could have been done. I know you both love Patriot. HOP will make sure he finds the right home, they know so much more now, thanks to the time and money you put into him. I hope, and feel, that shortcake will fulfill the void. Can’t wait to see you both riding together! :heart:

  32. Rose H says:

    I can imagine the turmoil you must have gone through over Patriot, but you have to be sensible – you’ve made the right descision.
    :hug: for you and Morgan.

  33. princessvanessa says:

    ShortCake is a cute little horse. I would be sure to talk with Mike Trader to make sure that her short stature (13.2 hands if I remember right) and you and Morgan’s tall stature (I’m guessing 5’5″ to 5’8″) would not be a conflict to riding on a regular basis.

  34. Robin Wrenn says:

    There is a bright side to this! Now that the equine rescue people have a lot more information on Patriot they can give that to whoever adopts him next. No more not knowing anything. You did a good thing for him by spending the money and taking the time to find out his problems. This will help him find his forever home I’m sure. I don’t think you are letting Patriot down. You apparently were a much needed stop in his journey through life. You gave Patriot 100% while he was with you but this doesn’t have to mean you’ll remain 100% in his life – (I find “letting go and letting God” difficult too). Thanks for helping him.

  35. Miss Judy says:

    Suzanne, such a sad time for you and Morgan. This has really touched a lot of us…I feel compelled to pray for you and Morgan…and Patriot tonight. Bless you.

  36. MousE says:

    I’m so sorry about this outcome. Morgan must be very upset – and of course, you are too.

    But at least Patriot will have a good refuge with the HOP, and perhaps Morgan can visit from time to time.

    My best wishes to you all.

  37. Rainn says:

    :heart: So sorry u have to make this decision. Suzanne once again the strength we admire in you comes shining thru……hugs to you and Morgan thru this.

  38. RosieJo says:

    You show us the cute side of raising farm animals everyday and now the difficult side as well.

  39. Debbie Burgess says:

    I’ve had horses since I was a kid, and I’m 54 yrs. old now. You can feel great affection for a horse, but it is a horse and not a person. It outweighs you by hundreds of pounds, has a mind of its own, and has the potential to be lethal. Never let your emotions over rule common sense. You really went the extra mile for this horse before making that decision, but I agree that it was the right one. There are too many good horses out there for anyone to risk their life with one that has emotional or training issues.

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