Denny’s Story – Part 1

I’ve known Tamar Baker for many, many years now. She continues to astound me. She’s gone from a self-confessed amateur to someone I’d be delighted to send one of my own horses to for work. Throughout her journey she’s just got on with it, with little fanfare and plain hard work. How she also manages this with three school aged children makes me want to lay down! This is Part One of a story which I’m sure many adult riders will feel familiar with. I hope you enjoy her story…..
Tamar’s website is at:

If you ask any horse person about their ‘heart horse’, they will know immediately what you mean. We have all had one of those ‘special’ ones, the ones that find their way into your heart and leave their hoof-prints there forever. I have been fortunate enough to have had two such horses, and both of them came into my life in such a way that it is so obvious they were meant to be there, that they served much purpose in this world than to be just a horse!

This story is a bit of a long one, but I feel that for the reader to really understand it, it needs to be told in full. So if you are up for a read, grab a cuppa, maybe a TimTam, sit down and settle in!

I was a horse mad kid. Like many little girls I had pictures of horses all over my bedroom walls. I was so jealous of others I knew who owned their own ponies. I would go watch Pony Club meets and gaze longingly at the ponies, wishing so badly for my own.

My favourite movie was The Man from Snowy River, I loved the horse ‘Denny’, and how he would have walked through fire for his rider. My Dad owned Clydesdales whilst I was growing up, but coming from a family of six children money was always tight and my non-horsey mother always hoped I would outgrow my obsession.

My Dad was ill a lot, but whenever I could I would tag along with him to the horses and steal a ride on one of the many horses on his friends property. They were uneducated and I couldn’t ride to save my life, but I lived for those days. My favourite memories were plodding along on an old stock horse named ‘Blue’ who put up with my lack of skill and was a patient old fellow.

When I was around 12 years old my Dad’s friend brought a little bay palouse pony home. He was named Lucky, had a large spotted blanket over his rump and a star on his forehead. I was smitten with this little fellow, he was around 18 months to two years old. I was allowed to catch him and bring him in for grooming as I pleased. I adored him. On my 13th birthday my Dad came home and announced to me that Lucky was mine. I was SO excited. It really was a dream come true. I promptly re-named Lucky ‘Denny’ after the horse on The Man from Snowy River. Denny went off to be broken in by my Dad’s friend and soon after I had my very own pony.

Now I can hear you saying as you read this “green broke pony, inexperienced kid!?” Well yes, it sure was a disaster at times. Young Denny knew I knew nothing, and my Dad by this stage was so ill he could not help me. Denny would wipe me off under trees, take off on me, and buck me off, but, being a kid I was resilient. I loved him more that anything in the world. I would always get back on. Denny was my pony and for me that was everything.

Very sadly when I was just 14, my Dad passed away. My Mum, left with six kids and without a horsey bone in her body told me I had to sell Denny. I can still remember the ad in the local weekend paper. We sold Denny for the grand sum of $200 to the first person who came to see him. I was heartbroken. I had lost my Dad, I had lost my pony, I was 14 years old and grief-stricken. With nothing to hold onto, to say things were a downward spiral for me from then on, well that would be an understatement.

At this point we fast forward nine years. I was a young married mum with two kids and for whatever reason I had decided that I would like to become a horse owner. I had no horsey friends, and you know what they say about a little knowledge….it sure was dangerous!

I wanted an Appaloosa and I ended up buying a green broke 4 year old Appy gelding I named Dallas. No doubt Dallas and I were never a good match, but he played his own role in this story. After about six months of owning him, making some friends and learning a few basic groundwork skills, I decided in all my wisdom that I would like to buy an ‘unspoilt’ youngster.

I absolutely had my heart set on finding myself a Denny replacement. For me, that meant the ‘dream Appaloosa’, a bay with a spotted blanket. It was a frustrating journey, but it all along was leading me to finding my first ‘heart horse’. I found a lovely bay weanling with the spotted blanket whom I placed a deposit on. He injured his leg quite badly and I pulled out of the purchase. I looked and searched with no luck for that elusive youngster.

One weekend I spotted an ad in the local paper for QH and Appaloosa foals. I convinced a good horsey friend to come and look with me and we set off to Redwood Stud. Of course I still had this picture in my mind of the ideal youngster, but not one coloured foal at the stud caught my eye. We were wandering through the broodmare/foals paddock when a little chestnut with a pretty baby-doll head caught my eye….yes she was chestnut! And her ‘colour’ consisted of one tiny white spot on her rump, but she had me. I loved her!

We struck a deal there and then standing in the paddock and I left feeling like I was walking on air. I can still remember how excited I was! That little chestnut filly was indeed the true beginning of the feel good part of my story. I picked both her paddock name ‘Matisse’ and her registered name ‘Skipa Clu Betty Boop’. She was a 2003 Appaloosa filly by the imported QH ‘TQ Skipa Clu’ out of the lovely ‘Northbound Southern Rock’ (Appaloosa mare.)

Matisse was a lot of ‘firsts’ for me as a horse owner. She was my first youngster, and she came to me a bit feral so I had my work cut out! I knew I had a lot of nay-sayers at my agistment centre, but once I set my mind to something I sure don’t like to fail. Despite still not really having much of a knowledge base I managed to do a pretty okay job with Matisse. I adored her so much she truly was my first heart horse and I learnt so, so much through the first couple of years owning her. I even backed her as a two year old and had a few rides!

The problem with Matisse occurred when as a yearling she put her hind leg through the fence. I was convinced by the time I started to ride her that she was not sound on the leg. I had purchased Matisse with this dream of her being my Western Pleasure show horse, and if she couldn’t be ridden…well she would not be able to fulfil that role. I very sadly came to the conclusion I would have to sell her. I ended up contacting an Appaloosa stud and swapped her as a broodmare for one of their weanlings. Funnily enough (although I didn’t think so at the time), the first weanling I picked out was a bay colt with a blanket. But sure enough he injured himself and I ended up picking a black colt.

We did a swap/drop off at a halfway point to suit both parties and I handed my Matisse over. And yes, I regretted it everyday afterwards. The new youngster did not replace her. All he did was remind me of how much he would never measure up to her. I had specified to the new owner that if she were ever to sell Matisse on that I would like first option and clearly expressed how much Matisse meant to me. Perhaps by such a time, my situation may have changed and I could have her back to just sit in the paddock. I kept in contact regularly to see how she was going.

I owned quite a few different horses over the next couple of years. I think I was always chasing for that special one, but not one ever replaced Matisse. After Matisse had produced a foal and had a season off, the owner contacted me and said she had put Matisse up for sale. I was desperate! I absolutely had to have her back. I was cash poor, but put a deposit on her and started making weekly payments. She was priced at $2200. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but we were pretty broke at that time. By the time I had paid $1100 off, we had something else come up and I had to pull out of buying her back.

Imagine my heartbreak when the very next day the current owner re-advertised her, for $1100. It was a total kick in the guts. I remember being beside my self in tears. Matisse was sold and I had no idea where she was… girl was essentially lost.

Another two years went by….I was sitting at a friends place having a coffee and browsing horse sale sites. I was bemoaning that fact that Matisse had dropped off of the face of the planet and swore that if I ever found her, she would for certain come back home…it was uncanny, for no sooner as the words left my mouth I spotted a small pic of a chestnut mare on HorseYard…..”surely not” I said….Long story short, yes it was Matisse. She was home with me around five weeks afterwards.

Matisse, very fortunately for me had been purchased by a lovely girl named Lindy, but Lindy was the third owner in line since the stud had sold Matisse on. Poor Matisse had truly been ‘lost’ her paperwork disappeared and it was my luck that Lindy had been smart enough to follow the trail. She got Matisse’s paperwork re-instated and registered in her name, in doing so ‘brought her back’ and that was how I had found her.

I will never know what life my girl lived in the two years that she left the stud. But somewhere between Lindy and one of the previous owners, unbeknownst to all of them Matisse had been served by a colt and was in foal. And just six weeks after Matisse came home to me, it was clear as to why I was not meant to buy her back the first time I had the opportunity. Six weeks after Matisse came home she foaled me the most wonderful gift…

If you hadn’t guessed it by now, she brought me home my dream Appaloosa; a bay/brown colt, complete with a big spotted blanket and a star. She brought me home my ‘Denny’. My first heart horse, clever thing she was. She brought me home my second heart horse. And yes, this is where the story REALLY starts to get good!


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