#MyRootsRunDeep: A Life-Saving Story

How a frightening day cemented a love for American Quarter Horses.

The American Quarter Horse Youth Association

Avery and her first American Quarter Horse, Max.

When I was 10, my grandpa gave me my first horse: an unregistered 4-year-old Quarter Horse I named, “Max.” My grandpa lives four hours away from me, so I didn’t get to see my horse often, but he was my baby. I didn’t have very many friends when I was younger, and people would tease me and call me “horse girl.”  I received some pretty harsh remarks from bullies who targeted not only me, but my horse, as well. I was only in third grade at that point. But every time I went to my grandpa’s house, Max was waiting. It was like he knew what day I was coming. He would wait at the fence, and when he saw my parents’ car pull up, he would start neighing and run back and forth along the fence until I ran up to him.

He loved sugar cubes, so I always brought him one or two. My grandpa and I trained him, but I was never able to bring him to my own house. When my grandpa rode Max, he was hard to handle and would sometimes buck. When I got on him, he would walk and trot around the pasture with no tantrums. If anyone except me was on that horse, he would test them. But he never did anything when I was on him.

When I got big enough, I would wrap my arms around his neck and rub his withers. He would wrap his neck around me in a kind of horse hug. He followed me around the pasture like my dog, and if one of the other horses came near me, he chased them away.

One day, my grandpa had the farrier come and trim the horses’ hooves. After she left, we went into the pasture to ride. The pasture stretches out to the road from the house … which is a long way. My aunts, my mom and my grandma were inside.

My grandpa’s mare had just had a foal two days before, and my grandpa decided to halter break him. He clipped a lead rope to his halter and got on the mare. The foal squealed at the pressure on his head and ran behind his mom, trying to get away from it. The lead rope wrapped around the mare’s backside,  and she reared up and fell over backwards – on top of my grandpa. It all happened very fast, and all I knew was that my grandpa wasn’t in a good situation.  As I looked at him lying still in the grass, I knew I had to act quickly. The mare got up, staggered away from my grandpa and fell down, blocking my only way in between the sprinkler and the fence to my grandpa. The foal was now freaking out, and I was crying – I didn’t know what to do.

In the midst of the madness, Max seemed to know he needed to remain calm. There was a disoriented and distressed mare and foal in between me and my grandpa, and Max seemed to act as a mediator, allowing me to safely reach Grandpa’s side in the tall grass. At this point, I was clinging to his neck and sobbing into his mane, as he calmly walked over to my grandpa and let me get off. I talked to my grandpa until he came to, then somehow, I half-dragged him to the fence. Max stood guard next to him, occasionally nudging him with his nose. My grandpa didn’t remember anything that had happened since the night before. I ran out the gate and up the long driveway to the house.

When I got there, I couldn’t make the words come out of my mouth, and I was sobbing. My aunts and mom ran out of the house, and someone got the car to bring Grandpa back to the house. My grandma was crying and comforting me. When they got Grandpa back to the house in the car, they had forgotten to close the gate, and Max followed them back up the driveway. My aunt took Grandpa to the hospital. My uncle came and tried to take Max’s reins so he could unsaddle him, but I wouldn’t let him. For hours until we got news, I stayed outside with my horse, sobbing into his mane. My grandpa had to be life-flighted to a hospital five hours away but he was OK. He had a concussion and a broken nose, and a gash in his knee and his forehead. Max saved us that day.

A few years later, my uncle got on Max and he bucked. My aunt, who thought it was in my best interest, declared Max “unsafe for me to ride.” I had Max until last year, when my aunt finally convinced me to sell him to her. When I did, I used the money to buy a “safer” mare. That was last year. My mare and I are doing great, but I will never forget Max and how much he meant to me. I love my American Quarter Horses, and that’s why my roots run deep.