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Big Horse, Big Heart
On September 5, 2021, my horse Rebel received his angel wings.
Rebel was around 33 and age was catching up to him as it will with all of us. He would occasionally get down and need assistance getting up. This was the day when there was no longer any “try” left in him, despite being surrounded by many friends trying to help him. We physically tried to prop him up with hay bales to allow him to regain the strength to rise, but not this day. His body was tired, and his spirit finally agreed.
Despite getting his wings on this day, we all know that he has always been an angel here on Earth. He has touched many lives with his versatility and his quirky sense of humor. He had developed quite a fan club over the years and people often asked about him.
Rebel started out life as an Amish horse in middle Tennessee. When he was purchased by a small commercial carriage company, owned by a friend’s family, I was invited to become one of their drivers. I rarely got to drive him at that time as I was a “newbie” and I had low seniority in the company. Since he was the best horse in the company, he was always in demand. His compact, powerful build made him ideal for city work and his work ethic was always appreciated.
My husband and I were given the opportunity to take over the company after the owner passed, and we spent the next several years bonding with Rebel. As an ambassador for the City of Memphis, he showed many visiting families the historical sites and river views downtown. Our wedding reservations were always given to him since he was a sought-after gray, and he looked beautiful pulling our white and black carriage. He was never fazed by massive city fireworks. He was also a favorite of little girls who wanted to pet the giant unicorn. Sometimes his regular driver would painted his hooves with glitter polish, pink and silver, or red and green for holiday season.
I decided to give up our downtown driving life and he was retired and began his life as a pleasure horse. I was always curious about the pleasure driving that I saw at the Germantown Charity Horse Show. I remember being impressed by the ponies that Dr. Ruth Wilburn drove there. When I decided I wanted to start showing again, we joined the Nashoba Carriage Association. Rebel’s favorite class was timed obstacles, as he was quite fast for a big horse.
During this time I was heavily volunteering with the carriage group and, being the show manager, I was unable to show. Rebel provided a solution: teaching several people to drive, and one of them, Aaron Jones, showed him in the 2016 Nashoba Carriage Classic.
At my wedding, I decided that I wanted a grand entrance and I thought, “Let’s do it side-saddle.” In typical Rebel fashion, he tolerated my insanity and he got me there safely. Plus, he was quite photogenic with his beautiful flea-bitten gray coat and he even made the cover of the December 2013 Mid-South Horse Review. In an unexpected twist, this received so much attention that it led to the founding of the Mid-South Side Saddle Association. We later rode aside in several opening hunts with the Longreen Foxhounds, and in parades and expos.
Rebel was proud to volunteer with Warhorses For Heroes, where he was the big, sturdy horse that the veterans could always depend on. He also taught two veterans to drive. One of them, Tim Lester, got to compete in a driving derby at Rebel’s last show in 2019. To open the show that night, Rebel got to carry the flag in. His previous owner, Lt. Dan Kaltreider, USMC, veteran of the Vietnam era, would have been very proud.
The last year or so he has been allowed to roam “free range” over Kimberlin Farms in Olive Branch, Miss., originally with his best friend, Cloudy, and recently, a little lonelier, by himself. He has greeted guests staying at the Horse Farm Hideaway Airbnb, has made friends with the chickens and pigs, and has always been a character ready to say hello and ready for his next snack.
Today Rebel and Cloudy are together again under their favorite shade tree behind the barn at Kimberlin Farms.
Take this opportunity to kiss your old horses, give them their favorite treat, and tell them how much you love them.
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