SUMMERFIELD KING'S HONOR (Quietude Seneca x Shenandoah Cassia)

Conner's Story

by Jordanna McMillan

The first time I saw Conner was in a black and white ad in a local horse classifieds directory listed as an event prospect. His photo quickly caught my eye. He was standing smartly and stretched tall to all of his 15.3 height. The expression on his face, visible from even a small grainy photo was priceless with head up ears back listening to his rider. He had a spunky, Let's get on with this' look that made me immediately contact the seller.

One month later we arrived at the farm where he was being trained and was being offered for sale. We met him in what looked like a large foaling stall, which he usually was not in, being pasture kept. He stood off to one side, unfazed by the entrance of three women as he contentedly munched his hay and mulled over his good luck at being inside with a big pile of hay all to himself. We caught his big brown intelligent eye and that was it, we were sold. He calmly took us in, kept munching, and turned to look at us every now and then as we checked him out.

His trainer took him out and tacked him up without crossties. Next we tried him out in the ring. His trainer got on to warm him up (or wear him out a little). Having not ridden in two years since the passing of my first pony, his forward gait and energizer bunny style was hard on my not fit riding muscles. We took him out in the pasture and his step picked up a bit. The owner went inside to get his Morgan registry papers and show off his clean-blooded Lambert Morgan bloodlines. When my younger sister got on him she decided to ride across the field up the far hill. We thought that cantering uphill would slow him down. Little did we know at the time that two little boys at the farm used to jump on him bareback to gallop as fast as they could up the hill. He thought it was just all fun.

Watching from
across the pasture we saw his speed and we stood mumbling to ourselves, his trainer turned him in a circle to slow him down. Seconds later he was cantering down the hill and then he shot off at one of the fastest gallops I have ever seen from a non-racehorse with what looked like a minimal effort. She tried to pull him up as he handily jumped a ditch, slid through the mud, turned through a gate and headed to the barn. We ran in and found them both unharmed. Conner just wanted to be back in the barn where he had run into the aisle and stopped, 'Well that was fun! Now I can finish my hay?

Despite the somewhat rocky, but nonetheless exciting start, we decided to buy him. Besides his almost flawless conformation, he had the most incredible hooves I had ever seen on a barefoot horse. His impeccable Lambert bloodlines with Criterion on both sides of the family tree didn't hurt either. Two weeks later Conner arrived by trailer at the farm we were going to board him at, he unloaded calmly and lined up for our vet to check him out. Situated on a hill, the wind would rip through the barn and outbuildings and that day the wind was swirling through. A tarp that covered the shavings had come lose and was blowing around furiously like a wild scary ghost. The vet, observing Conner's demeanor, jokingly commented on how wild and anxious he was as Conner stood there calmly looking around and obviously undisturbed by anything.

Althought I was
still in high school our training started out with both of us having alot to learn. We had some highs and lows, some frustrating days and some great ones. I no longer took for granted that a horse traveled in a straight line or would turn with slight pressure on the rein. Once we got a trainer Conner and I progressed rapidly. He took to dressage but preferred jumping and the faster the better. For 15.3 he cleared two and three foot jumps as if they were nothing as he stretched out and tucked his feet up close.

After a few years the barn closed and we moved down the road to a newly built hunter jumper farm belonging to friends. As I was not able to afford stall board Conner was pasture boarded on lush green grass. Half a year later Conner foundered. Ass we were completely unfamiliar with laminitis we learned a lot in the days after as Conner pushed through the incredible pain and diet changes uncomplaining. Our vet told us that he was an easy keeper, that you could put him in a parking lot with a flake of hay and he would still gain weight owing to his hardy breed. Although his hardiness and musceled breed predisposed him, it was his Morgan hardiness and good feet that he recovered to not only be ridden but to jump again.

We attended his first event a Hunter Pace that is a combination of cross-country and trail riding in groups. Connor handled it as if he had been hauled around to strange places with strange horses his whole life. He unloaded and immediately started eating. When we tethered him to the trailer he stood there looking around like this is fun. He was as cool as a cucumber, totally unflappable. He led the horses and riders in our group and jumped almost everything with only a slight look down at the foreign fences and with lots of clearance. His only downfall was getting a little carried away when he threw in a few bucks and squeals and got a little fast. At the end of our second time through the course instead of walking down a five foot embankment he decided to jump off it. He would have galloped the whole course in record time if I had let him. I didn't blame himas it was the first time he had gone through anything remotely like a cross-country course. He made me so proud. He reminded me of a husky as he would have done it a hundred times if I had asked him.

When I first bought Conner I went online to see if I could find out where he had originally came from. I found out a bit about Connerís background, he was originally called Honour taken from his registered name Summerfield King's Honour. He hailed from a Morgan breeding farm in Montana. The website had pictures of their Morgans trotting through what looks like three feet of snow and to this day Conner despises the heat.
His internet page had a dozen or more pictures of him as a gangly yearling galloping and trotting around with a beautiful natural extension. As a three year old he was sold to someone in California and then on to Georgia where we found him. I bought him when he was a 5 year old and believe that Conner was never mistreated by anyone in his life. He does not have any of the trust issues other horses have (due to humans). He innately trusts his vet, farrier, and others who handle him. When I ask him to do something new he obliges, with only a little curiosity. He has never been head shy or herd bound and loads onto a trailer as if he ís walking into a feed room.

Conner will stand at the gate and nudge it with his nose when he wants to come in out of the field to his stall when its hot outside or he is bored. If his humans
don't take the hint, he will start banging it with his foot. We have always been able to ride him in a halter whether in the ring or on a trail like we started out with his training. You can swing a lunge whip around and over his head and back till the cows come home, he will look at you trustingly knowing you wouldnít hurt him. His trust is something I never take for granted. And while he generally trusts humans, there are some people he has the good sense to stay away from. I've seen him almost fall asleep as one of the best vets in GA poked and prodded him when he foundered. I've also seen him go from being extremely calm to snorting and fidgeting with an incredibly high pulse and heart rate with a vet that was scared of horses and who generally seemed like a shady character. When my future husband first met Conner, Conner was incredibly aloof and acted disinterested. When we walked him out to the pasture and we were holding hands, Conner would move and get in between us to break us up. He was the perfect chaperone. A hundred carrots, half a decade and a lot of attention later Conner loves my husband like he is his best pasture buddy, but still likes to give him a good nudge every now and then just to show how he feels.

Family members have brought their kids over to ride him. Even though he had not been around children he stood calmly as they ran around squealing every now and then despite our attempts to try and keep them quiet. Usually a little fidgety in the crossties Conner stood dead still as they brushed him occasionally turning to look back at them so curious about the little hands on him. I knew that he would behave when we put them up on him but I was so impressed when I saw just how good he was. As I led him with a lead line and halter over a bit-less bridle with reins for them to hold onto. I asked the four year old if he wanted to learn how to stop a Conner. He vigorously shook his head yes. Conner walked extremely carefully and slowly. Connor flicked his ears back listening to his precious cargo, fully aware that a little and vulnerable person was up on top. When the boy asks him to whoa barely making contact with the reins, Conner stopped quickly and quietly.

Conner has always tried his hardest for me, albeit while expressing his opinion. A few times I have jumped him he has bucked with excitement after. Once, feeling me lose my balance, has stopped like saying, Hey I didnít mean to get rid of you! while he waited for me to right myself. In the almost ten years I have owned him I have fallen off about three three times. Each time he jumped to the side to avoid stepping on me and then stood there confused as to why I was on the ground. He has never refused a fence and no matter how deep in he found himself he'd launch back on his haunches and bunny hop over as if the idea of dumping me, running out or stopping was not even an option that existed.

He has helped me through some hard times in my life and I through his life. Morgans are the most fascinating breed of horse I have ever ridden and have had the privilege to know. Conner prefers to be with his humans, his herd, rather than with other horses. When he is with me, he is jealous for my attention. He has stolen my mom's cell phone when he felt she was talking too long and will stamp his feet or turn and look at you with an irritated expression, ears back, to let you know that he deserves your attention. He is a loner in the field and will go out of his way to be by himself. I have only seen him attached to one horse, one who looked like his identical twin. Perhaps because he has moved around so much, he has decided that it's better not to get attached.

Having foundered, Conner went through a time where he hated having his feet shod. His incredible farrier took it in stride saying that even though Conner was technically no longer in pain a year after foundering he was remembering the pain of foundering. A lot of patient shoeingís later and Conner once again was a perfect angel for the farrier, well almost. One farrier would keep his hat in his back pocket and Conner would turn around, gently grab it, throw it up in the air and then stand there like, What? I didnít do anything. With another farrier Conner would hang his head over the farrier's shoulder as he shaped his front feet on the stand as if inquiring about what was going on that he couldn't see. With Conner's curious head in the way of his work the farrier asked him can't you just NOT be a Morgan for two seconds?

I have ridden $300,000 Arabians, champion hunter jumper ponies, mustangs, thoroughbreds, quarter horses and a dozen other breeds, but nothing compares to the Morgan. The Morgan mind and the Morgan heart are unmatchable. What they lack in height that would make jumping large fences easier, they make up in heart. I've been honored and privileged to own a Lambert Morgan for the past decade and even though I initially picked Conner from a tiny black and white photo amongst hundreds of other horses in a magazine I am convinced that in the end it was Connor who really picked me!