Cigar: The Early Days

Ellen Pons, wife of Country Life Farm’s Josh Pons, was six months pregnant and knew she had no business working directly with horses. But she just wanted to help out this one time and felt it was pretty safe just leading out a mare and her one-month-old foal.

But that one-month-old, as it turned out, was no ordinary foal. When he eventually was sent to Allen Paulson’s Brookside Farm as a baby, the son of Palace Music acquired a reputation for being feisty and mischievous. He soon became known by everyone on the farm as “The Hammer,” because every time anyone would try to touch him on the forehead or pet him around the ears, he would get up on his hind legs and strike at them with his front legs.

“Watch out, The Hammer’s gonna get you,” became a familiar cry around the farm.

But at one-month old the foal offered little threat to Ellen Pons’ safety. Or so she thought. Of the 20 mares and foals on the farm she decided to take out Solar Slew and her colt. As she led them out to the field, the foal got a step in front of her and before she knew it there was a hind leg heading right at her. It landed just under her belly and slightly off to the right.

Ellen was more embarrassed than anything, having taken such a risk with her first child coming. But she couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of what might have happened had he kicked her with full force. She felt so foolish she didn’t tell anyone about it for a while. Fortunately the incident proved harmless.

Three months later, after the foal had been sent to Brookside and weaned, Mac Carr, son of farm manager Tedd Carr, was away on a hunting trip to Colorado when he received a phone call telling him about a weanling who had been injured pretty badly.

Yes, it was The Hammer again. Alone and without his mother, the colt became spooked when several deer got in his 15-acre paddock and he started running wild right toward the V-mesh fence surrounding the paddock. He crashed smack into the fence, ripping 30-feet of V-mesh off its panels and into a twisted heap.

But more important, he had also ripped open his chest, and stood there shaken and bleeding from a large gash. When Carr returned, he discovered the colt’s chest had been ripped so wide open, it was almost to the bone.

They managed to sew up the wound, but the stitches didn’t hold, eventually rotting out. They used hydrotherapy, or water hosing, and a spray called scarlet oil, also known as red coat. It causes the tissues to granulate from the inside out. The colt healed up well, but the scar was always visible.

As cantankerous as mischievous as he was as a foal in his “Hammer” days, it was amazing to everyone to see him make a complete turnaround. Now named Cigar, he became so docile that Carr would often pop his girth and hop on him bareback and ride him around for people to see. Carr said he was so laid-back, he looked and ran as if “he couldn’t outrun me.” He figured the colt was so slow, it would only be a matter of time before they sent him back home and he could make a pony out of him.

It therefore came a shock to Carr when Cigar kept betting and better, and he soon became convinced the colt was a freak.

He was right about that, but he wasn’t right about predicting Cigar’s ultimate future. As the colt gained fame around the world, all Carr could think of was, “I’ll get to see him when he comes home as a stallion. To me, he’s the greatest horse who ever walked the earth, and I’ll get to take care of him until he’s old and gray.”

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