By Becky Adler Fagan
I was born on an American Army base in Landstuhl, Germany in 1971. My father, a radiology resident at the time, was drafted in 1968 when my brother, David, was only 6 months old. My parents made the move to Germany with little David in tow and Dad spent three years working as a radiologist at 2nd General Hospital, now Landstuhl Army Medical Center. He started out as a Captain and was later promoted to Major.
Now a family of four, we returned to the States and my dad finished his residency, continuing on to a successful medical career. All the while he was very supportive of Mom’s horse activities and ultimately mine and David’s too. He even managed to find time to ride once in a while (Mom had given him some lessons along the way).
After all the hard work I had put in over the years, Dad realized that riding was more than just a hobby for me and understood when I decided to pursue a career with horses after graduating high school.
When we brought our horses home, Dad became more involved with the daily horse routine, often after a long day at work and on weekends. He even still enjoyed an occasional ride. When we started a small boarding and lesson business, Dad’s help was indispensable – fence repair, stall cleaning, medical and moral support when horses were sick or lame. Watching his little girl practice backing up the horse trailer was a new challenge for Dad and he had to trust the great job he had done teaching me to drive. A passion not originally his was becoming a way of life.
After almost two decades of learning about and experiencing all the ups and downs involved in life with horses, the arrival of Grady on the farm added a whole new dimension. On the day that Grady had broken loose with the crossties chasing him, Dad was awakened from a nap by the sound of thundering hooves. Looking out the window, he saw that he was not dreaming.
Then there was the time that Dad was standing near the paddock when Grady leaned against the aging fence just enough to cause the top rail to snap. Grady curiously tip-toed over the remaining lower rails to see if the grass really was greener on the other side. Dad calmly walked in Grady’s direction raising his arms and Grady turned and stepped back into his paddock. Another fence to fix!
Perhaps the most memorable story is the time I was having a lesson on a late December day and it started to get dark. Grady and I had been having issues and I had just started working with Jayne, a trainer that a friend had recommended. During this lesson, as the sun lowered in the sky, Grady began to have a breakthrough and we were really into it. We had to keep going and could still see perfectly fine. However, it had gotten so dark that Mom had to stop recording because she could no longer see us.
As Grady was figuring out what we were asking of him, he began to whinny which he sometimes does even to this day when he is having a particularly poignant lightbulb moment. Toby, our older quarter horse, began to answer him from the barn. We took it as a good sign but poor Dad, hearing the commotion from inside the house, wondered what was happening and came out to check on us. It was only my second lesson with Jayne so he had no idea what a wonderful and compassionate trainer she is and he couldn’t figure out why we were riding in the dark. To say I was mortified is an understatement. Here I was, 40 years old, riding with a new trainer and my daddy comes out to “save” me. Fortunately, we were almost finished and Mom was able to explain to Dad that we were ok and that Grady was having a big moment. Jayne, being the cool person that she is, totally understood my dad’s concerns and we still have a good chuckle about it all these years later.
There were often times that Dad was doing some yard work while I was riding, but Grady had become very sensitive to noise and Dad usually had to go off to do something else as Mom or I would call out “you’re spooking Grady!”. Dad came to understand and knew to pick quiet chores if he saw us heading out to the ring.
That noise sensitivity eventually became a big problem for Grady along with some other issues, and he went through a period where I could barely ride him. I’ll go into much more detail about this in later posts but needless to say, the original plan of selling Grady was becoming less likely. And besides, in going through the process of working through his issues, our bond had grown and I just knew that he was meant to be with me. Once again, Dad understood and the little bay Thoroughbred who stole his daughter’s heart became a member of the family.
Thank you, Dad…for everything.