September 11, 2019

Little Red, 1989-2019

I like to say that I came out of the womb loving horses, and that is definitely true, but my love of horses was cemented when I had just turned six years old and my mom got her first and only horse, Little Red.

True love

We put him to sleep last weekend at the age of 30.  Even though he was very much my mom's horse, I'm still struggling with it.  For the most part, I don't remember life without him.  From Kindergarten where I wrote endless stories about him, through high school and college, to getting married, through the first decade of my professional career, he was just always there.  And now he's not.

Megan!  It's me in the saddle you have now!

It's incredible to think about where my parents were in life when my mom got him.  My mom had just turned 30 (younger than I am now!) and stayed at home with her 6 year old (me), 4 year old and her 1 1/2 year old.  My dad was also 30 and was working his way up as a manager at Walmart, but he wasn't making a ton of money.  What money he did make, they were both very budget-conscious with.  Add that to the fact that he grew up working cattle in Southern Missouri and absolutely did not understand my mom's Chicago hunter/jumper horse bug, and you can see why I say this will always be one of the most selfless things he's ever done for her.

They said he was a 3-ish year old grade Quarter Horse at the small town sale barn she got him from.  She named him "Little Red" because Secretariat, her hero, was nicknamed "Big Red".  From the beginning he was a kind and patient ride (except for that one time he violently bucked my dad off, sorry dad).

He almost certainly would have ended up at the killer's out of that sale barn if my mom hadn't gotten him, and I told him he was the luckiest horse on the planet to have had such a soft landing.  My mom's best friend from the age of two always says when she dies she wants to be reborn as one of "Susie's horses".

I told Dawn to "kiss an ass" in a brief moment of levity last weekend and Festus cooperated. Mom and Dawn grew up next door to each other from the age of 2, and would scrape babysitting pennies together to afford whatever lessons, rides and one week leases they could afford all through their childhood.  Dawn came down from Chicago to be there when we put him down.  My mom was also there when Dawn's heart horse was put down a couple of years ago.
 She had never cared for her own horse before she got him, she had only ever taken lessons and leased, and this was the days before the Internet.  She learned a lot from the cowboys at the boarding barn she had him at, and she also read piles of books and had GREAT vets and farriers.  In the end when he passed I heard her say softly "We did it" and I knew what she meant.  It's one part luck, one part hard work and one part good relationships that everything about owning that horse went so smoothly for them both.

For me, he was a slim crack of an opening into a world I desperately wanted to be a part of.  We didn't have any lesson stables near me, so my mom taught me a lot - how to lunge, how to groom, how to tack up, how to ride.  It all felt like magic, and my elementary school teachers in particular heard a LOT about Little Red!

My mom rode him a lot the first couple of years when she was boarding, but it eventually tailed off.  She says she lost her nerve when she had kids, and he became her psychiatrist.  He liked that job. He and Festus, the donkey we got to keep him company, just hung out for the most part.

Oh except that time I bought Venice home for the summer and it was the MOST EXCITING THING Red and Festus had ever been a part of

He had been a normal, easy to manage older fella until earlier this summer when he inexplicably dropped a LOT of weight within the span of a week.  It was clear that something more than just old age was happening, and with winter coming on, you make a tough decision.  I was proud of my mom.  He was still bright eyed and hunting for cookies until the moment he passed, but one look at his body and you knew it was time.

Happier times at the boarding barn
I can honestly say this is the first horse euthanasia I've been present for.  Our vet back home is so good, and it went quickly and peacefully.

Festus, who is an absolute evil genius on another level from horses, as all donkeys are, was not sure about the backhoe, so I hung out with him.
While the vet was there, I held Festus off to the side (along with a bag of treats for bribery because #donkey).  I brought Festus over to him afterward, and he sniffed his foot once and then came back to me for more cookies.

Our last picture <3
It's not a stretch to say that without Little Red, I wouldn't have gone to SMWC for my Equine Studies bachelors, wouldn't have met my husband, or discovered my true passion and career, or met Lisa and Welsh Cobs, or my trainer.  In short, without this horse, my whole life would be different.

I'm proud of my mom.  For having the guts to chase her lifelong dream of owning a horse even when it was at times really tough, for finding the right people to have in her corner through the years, and for always doing the right thing by him, even when it was so hard to make the decision at the end.

Rest in peace, Little Red, you were so, so loved.


  1. Your post made me cry. What a beautiful tribute to your mom, your dad and Little Red. May we all be so blessed to know such love. God Bless, Little Red.

  2. What a good boy. How lucky you all were to enjoy so many decades together.

  3. i am so sorry for your loss for all of you! What a great story and what a great horse. He had a wonderful life. Your mom is amazing thank you for sharing!! Hugs

  4. Aw, Little Red... What a great touching story. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. I'm not crying.. you're crying *sniff* Condolences to your family, he sounds like a lovely animal that really touched your lives and make it richer.

  6. Aw, what a beautiful tribute to a wonderful family member. I welled up at "We did it," because that's how I feel when I look at Solo. I'm sorry you had to say goodbye, but so glad you got to experience so many gifts from this guy. <3

  7. Oh gosh. I am so so sorry that you had to say good bye to this member of your family. He and your mom clearly had a really deep connection, and I am sure you are all missing his sweet red face.

  8. Ugly crying here 😭 what a life Red had with your family! The pics of bebe Jen and Red are 💕💕💕 you and your mom (and Festus) will be in my thoughts 💔

  9. This is a wonderful tribute to Little Red. What a wonderful horse he was for your family, and it sounds like he had the most perfect life with you all. I'm very sorry for your loss. <3

  10. Sniff. What a well-loved little man. Please send your mom our condolences, and hug Connor extra hard. <3

  11. You can tell from the pictures and your post that he was well loved. <3 I'm sorry for your loss. *hugs*

  12. What a great tribute! I can my first horse at 40. Hugs to your mom and you.

  13. Thank you for sharing this lovely tribute. Your mom is an awesome horse women. "We did it" got me too.

  14. I definitely cried buckets reading this. What an amazing member of your family he was. <3

  15. I'm just catching up on posts and I'm so sorry for you and your Mom's loss. Little Red looks and sounds like he had a gentle soul. You can tell that he was well loved and cared for, especially to live to the old age of 30. That's so special that you and your Mom shared the horse bug, it makes me smile to think of her teaching her eager to learn daughter on such a sweet horse. Hugs!