Riding

Retired Matchmaker

This gelding pulled a few tricks in his younger days to bring his owners together.

America’s Horse

When Diane Washburn started trail riding at North Carolina’s Falls Lake State Park in 2000, marriage was the farthest thing from her mind. The Wake Forest, North Carolina, native was in her mid-30s, happily single and in need of a hobby because she was working too much.

As luck would have it, her search for an enjoyable pastime took her to a trail-riding stable, where the owner, Bill Washburn, Sr., was a persistent father, intent on finding his son a bride.

He put Diane on Ole Whats His Name, a then-26-year-old son of The Old Man, affectionately known as “Guy.” The older gelding had done it all. Having little riding experience, Diane was relieved to have a calm horse to teach her the ropes, but Guy had other ideas about being an instructor.

“One time, I rode him, and he didn’t feel like going out on the trail, so he just turned around, went straight into the barn and stood in his stall,” Diane recalls. “And I didn’t have any experience, so I just sat there yelling, ‘Help, help!’ ”

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Other than a few mutinies, Diane credits Guy with teaching her confidence on horses and giving her a great hobby.

“In his infinite wisdom, Guy taught this 43-year-old city girl how to ride horses 10 years ago,” Diane said in 2008. “But most importantly, he taught me how to listen to horses, and that is a gift I will treasure forever.”

Convincing Diane that she should talk to the stable owner’s son, Bill, took a bit longer. Diane spent a year happily trail riding Guy and ignoring remarks about Bill.

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It was at the barn Christmas party that Bill’s father managed to corner the reluctant couple, and Bill and Diane finally met.

“A week later, his father gave him my number, he called me and we went out on a date,” Diane says. “We just knew on the first date. We were married within 11 months.”

Realizing that they had both worked at the same company in Raleigh and had lived in the same area, yet never met, brought a shock to the couple.

“It seemed like we were constantly crossing paths with each other throughout the past 20 years, but it was the horses that finally brought us together,” Diane says.

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Bill, a construction manager, lost interest in horses years ago but still has fond memories of Guy as a younger horse. In fact, the horse was only five years younger than the man, and Bill rode him often when he was a kid.

“He had one of the smoothest gaits of any horse I’ve ever ridden,” Bill recalls. “When I was in high school, he was one of the fastest horses I ever rode. When I got him into fifth gear, I just hung on!”

Bill and Diane took over the care of Guy after his retirement from trail riding at age 29. The hardy gelding lived to be 35, enjoying retirement in his own pasture, courtesy of the happy couple.

“It became my quest to maintain a high quality of life for him in his retirement years,” Diane says.

With cool water, electrolytes, oatmeal and chopped apples every day, Guy lived out his golden years in style and comfort.