Showing

The Unpredictable Champion, Part 2

Horse-showing star Silky Socks becomes a champion with his young rider.

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

In Part 1 of “The Unpredictable Champion,” you read about Silky Socks, an American Quarter Horse with a curious personality and exceptional talent. We left off where Silky Socks was sold to the family of a young girl named Lindy Thompson.

The magic between “Silky” and Lindy was near-instantaneous.

Jan Thompson, then of Plymouth, Michigan, purchased Silky for her daughter Lindy. “He was a project, he really was,” Jan says. “He was super

awesome, but he was a coward, basically. He was scared of a lot of things. At that time, (citizen band radios) were prevalent. He picked up the name ‘Super Chicken,’ and so that became my CB handle.”

But that didn’t apply when Lindy was on him.

Colleen Miller was Silky’s previous owner who sold him to the Thompsons. “Once, I saw her just climb up the side of his leg and get on - no mounting block or anything,” Colleen says. “He just stood there. And I saw him quit (a fence) with the professional rider, but I never saw him quit with Lindy.”

The 45-pound girl had been riding fearlessly since age 3. She showed the gelding in everything, youth classes and open ones, even riding him in western occasionally.

“He was just a great guy, he really was,” Lindy remembers. “When we first got him, a lot of people said, ‘Oh, that horse is terrible; I can’t believe you bought him for your child. He’s going to kill her. He’s real spooky.’ But he and I got along great.”

Putting safety first is a vital component of enjoying life with horses. In AQHA’s “The Horse Lover’s Answer” DVD, you’ll learn insightful tips, including how to assess your horse’s energy level before you ride.

Their relationship was special, Jan says.

“He carried Lindy for a couple of years, he really did,” Jan says. “He took care of her. But then when she got to where she knew what she was doing a little more, if he just didn’t like that jump, he’d run right up to it and shut down.”

Lindy has a long list of Silky’s quirks.

“He wouldn’t step off the trailer,” she says. “He wouldn’t walk into the wash rack. When you washed him, he was afraid of the soap bubbles.

As he got older, he did get better. He would stop quite often at horse shows. He would always stop at the first jump or the last one. If you could make it around, you were good. You were golden. He did have quite a peek in him. But he taught me how to ride, so it was great.”

Still, he continued to amass points, and he qualified for the 1974 AQHA World Championship Show in bridle path hack with Jan, who decided to enter. At the time, no one knew that a world championship would become such a prestigious honor. Jan just knew the Louisville, Kentucky, location was within her driving range, and bridle path hack was a class that Silky was good at - sort of.

“If you rode him on the flat, you had to - well, you didn’t throw his reins away,” Colleen admits. “She said the last thing (the judges) did (at the World Show) was call for a hand gallop, and they wanted them to run when they called for a hand gallop back then. Then they said, ‘Stop and drop your reins.’ ”

Jan’s heart was in her throat, but she stopped Silky’s gallop and dropped her reins. Silky stood quietly.

And together they were the first amateur world champions in what’s now known as hunter under saddle.

Proper ground manners make handling your horse much safer and easier. Learn how to handle your horse on the ground in AQHA’s “The Horse Lover’s Answer” DVD.

“You know, English was brand-new then, and when you went to a (Quarter Horse) show, nobody really knew how to set courses or anything,” Jan says. “But it was fun. It was pioneering.”

Jan eventually quit riding Silky Socks, but with Lindy, he was year-end high-point youth working hunter in 1975, 1976 and 1977 in AQHA competition in addition to their successes on the hunter-jumper circuit. And in 1977, Lindy showed him in open working hunter at the World Show against all the adults and trainers to a reserve world championship.

The 1964 gelding by Doty’s Socks and out of Coker’s Troubles by Hank H - the troubled gelding who feared bug bites and soap bubbles and would spook whenever he darned well felt like it - ended his AQHA career with 280 points in youth, open and amateur, a world championship, a reserve world championship, multiple appearances at the world shows and three year-end high-point awards.

And he gave Colleen one more little bit of satisfaction. Remember that trainer from the original barn who didn’t care for Quarter Horses?

At a big show in Detroit that included A-level hunter classes and a few Quarter Horse classes, that trainer pulled up in a trailer with a dozen high-dollar, high-caliber, highly maintained horses with absolutely no Quarter Horse blood in them.

“We put (Silky Socks) in all the working hunter classes, the A circuit ones that weren’t Quarter Horse classes, and he won six straight and beat (that trainer) in every class,” Colleen says. “And he came up to me and said, ‘That’s Silky Socks? We couldn’t even get him over a fence!’ ”

She smiles.

“It’s extra-rewarding to rehab one and have him become a star.”