A few years ago, Nicole Matthews decided she was ready to adopt a horse.
“It was a big, but natural decision for me,” said Matthews, who has owned horses off and on throughout the years. “My grandparents raised me, and horses were always a main element in my life. I was a horse crazy child and that has never changed.”
When a local barn advertised they had a stall for rent, Matthews knew the time was right and began looking online, where she stumbled upon a good-looking Thoroughbred bay gelding named Pouf Postive, who was stabled at Shannon Hahn’s Double L Equine Rescue and Sanctuary near Argyle, N.Y.
“Shannon was more than helpful in helping me determine whether Poof was a match for my riding ability, my experience, and my goals in owning a horse,” said Matthews, who after meeting Pouf was even more determined to bring him home. She renamed him Puzzle Quest, and calls him Quest for short.
“We chose that name because my little guy has autism and a puzzle piece is the symbol for autism, and we are always on a quest to overcome the barriers that autism has put in his path,” said Matthews of her son.
Quest, who won just once in 13 career starts while racing on the northeast and Florida circuits, was campaigned by Parting Glass Racing, a Saratoga Springs, N.Y.-based partnership group headed by Tom Gallo. The gelding had sustained an injury at one point where he had pins put in one leg, but he was approved by veterinarians as a sound pleasure riding horse.
“Tom Gallo has always been up front with us about his horses and that makes him a trainer we try extra hard for when a horse needs a home,” said Hahn. “To have an ex-racer with pins needing a home in the middle of winter is a tall order, but the stars must have been lined up right because Nicole came along right away and a great match was made between her and Poof Positive.”
When he first arrived at his new home, Quest was stabled with more than 30 Quarter Horses and 20 cows. “Imagine my surprise when we dropped him off at his new home and he was the tallest horse there, the only Thoroughbred in a barn full of penning Quarter Horses and cows,” said Hahn. “But he learned to adjust very quickly and became a cherished member of Nicole's family.”
“The barn where Quest moved into his new life was an active and competitive Quarter Horse breeding farm where they taught and held team penning, sorting, and other gaming activities,” Matthews explained. “At first he was a bit nervous around all the other horses, and especially the forever mooing cows. However he settled in nicely and they became part of his everyday existence.
“I started with lunging Quest for short amounts of time to increase his flexibility and to gain his trust. It didn't take long before I could see that he was ready to have me on his back. We started on the lunge line, however moved quickly to riding in the pasture (yes, where the cows were).”
Matthews said Quest’s personality was sometimes “full of vinegar,” but he was never out of control or tried to hurt her. “He has always been very sweet and calm in the stall and has learned very quickly that our rides are to relax and see the scenery,” she said.
Quest has now had several riders.
“My 7-year old son is able to sit on him and be lead around, and you wouldn't know that Quest was once on the race track,” said Matthews. “A young cousin (age 21) also rides him and has no difficulty with handling him at all. At first, he put her in awe and fear from his size, but he has proven to be a trustworthy mount.
“Quest now lives in a barn with only one other horse and a huge field to graze in, and he seems to be just as happy as when he was with his bovine buddies,” Matthews continued. “Quest will never chase down cows to sort them into pens, and he certainly won't be running for the roses, but he will be cherished and pampered for the rest of his life, and I think he is just fine with that!”
In the past, I have highlighted Hahn’s Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary on this blog, and I’ve decided to do so again in lieu of the facility’s upcoming Valentine’s Day fundraiser.
The purpose of the fundraiser is to continue helping the facility’s horses in need. Some of the sanctuary horses help local people through Double L’s handicapped volunteer program and the Alternative Sentencing program with the Washington County Court System.
Many of the horses who come into Double L’s program are in need of rehabilitation, and the only way the facility can continue to help them is to rely on others for financial aid. Double L has no paid staff and operates as a not-for-profit organization.
“We are asking the folks who can to send a Valentine card to the horses here at the stable and include a single dollar bill inside,” said Hahn, who has hosted similar fundraisers in the past. “Of course you can send a bit more if you are able, but each dollar helps us to keep up our work here. Cards will be accepted all through the month of February. Each card will be hung in the barn for visitors to see. At the end of the first week of March all the cards will be put into a feed bucket and a winner will be chosen to receive a $20 gift card to Tractor Supply. The gift card can be used online or in the store.”
Cards should be sent to:
Double L Stable Equine Rescue and Sanctuary
9 Tilford Rd.
Argyle, NY 12809
“We usually raise about $500 and it helps more then you can imagine,” said Hahn. “(Beyond the Blinkers) has some very wonderful readers! So many of them will send notes of thanks or encouragement with their dollar, and it is so uplifting to know we have friends keeping our rescue in their thoughts even if we have never met.
“So many ex-racers have so much to offer after the track. Helping them move on to new families is very rewarding. Just think, Quest was once a fired up speed demon racing around the track reaching and extending to carry his rider as fast as he possibly could, and now he is meandering through fields with an 7-year-old with autism on his back. Amazing!”