( Applevale Commander X Oklahoma Glory)
1980 bay rabicano mare, 14.3
June 24, 1980- October 30, 2009

We bought Marie, our first Morgan, in 1984 as a very green four year old from her breeder Barbara Niemi of Treble Clef Farm in Calhoun, Georgia. Being young newlyweds, we did not have the funds for tack or anything else except the mare's board, so I started riding her bareback in a halter and quickly progressed to bridleless. While bridleless riding is very popular amongst today's Natural Horsemanship trainers, thirty years ago it was a rarity mostly reserved for trick or circus horses. I was inspired in my endeavors by the New Canaan (CT) mounted drill team, whose horses, all grays, did synchronized riding in formation on the flat and over jumps- without any sort of tack. Marie was the first horse I ever trained start to finish and she quickly became a successful show mare, winning many titles and year end awards in hunter, western pleasure and dressage. I also taught her to drive.

At the time I acquired Marie, I had no idea who many of the horses on her pedigree were. With the help of friend and breed historian Laura Stillwell, I began to learn about the "mystery" horses behind my new mare, and thus began a life-long love of Morgan history and bloodline research. Marie had some very interesting old lines. Most people will recognize Kingston in her sire's pedigree, as he was one of the better known sons of the famous Upwey Ben Don. But Oklahoma Glory, Marie's dam, has lines which are equally respected among breeders of old type Morgans. Glory was by the famous California palomino parade and show horse, Desert Sands, bred by the actor/bodybuilder, Steve Reeves. Mr. Reeves was one of our earliest breeders of colorful show Morgans, producing many champions by his palomino stallion Dickie's Pride (Desert Sands' dam, Lady Sungold, was one of them). Glory's dam, Cresta's Silver Leaf, was from old government and old California lines which included horses bred by William Randolph Hearst.

Due to her steadiness and reliability under saddle, Marie was the number one horse in our lesson program and taught many children to ride from 1985-1997. She also gifted me with two offspring, daughter Willy Remember Me (by Treble's Willy Wild) in 1986 and son Patented (by Big Bend Doc Davis) in 1990. Marie was working at third level dressage when she had to be retired due to metabolic founder in 1997. We then tried for two years to breed her once more, this time to a lovely palomino son of Californio, but unfortunately she did not conceive despite all efforts.

Despite her problems with insulin resistance, Marie remained healthy into her old age. It was a surprise when she colicked one day in late September 2009. Actually it was not a typical colic, as her gut sounds were normal and everything felt normal inside when my vet examined her. She took a few days to bounce back. One of her ears somehow got infected as well- we think while she was down and struggling, she scooped dirt into it- but it cleared up with antibiotics. In retrospect however, this colic was a premonition.

On the evening of October 20th Marie once more became stricken with colic-like pain that came and went. Her bloodwork came back normal (actually "excellent for her age", according to my vet). He also checked her for sand, which was negative. Gut sounds were again normal.  Stumped, we put her on antibiotics in case it was some sort of infection. Things did not improve over the next 4 days and I was ready to euthanize her, it just felt so hopeless and it was awful to watch her feel so horrible and there was nothing I could do. My vet suggested giving her a few more days, since she would get up and eat and act mostly normal for hours in between her bouts of pain. "Where there's life there's hope", he said. He also suggested that she could have ulcers, so I put her on GastroGard.

For the next 5 days Marie continued to be up and down. Instead of her usual confinement to a drylot, I  kept her on pasture to encourage her to eat and with the nagging thought in the back of my mind that I wanted her to be happy if it was getting close to her time. She would lay flat out for hours, usually having a peak period of pain when she would roll, then get up and graze and act fairly normal for 12-24 hours. I had hoped and prayed we were dealing with something curable but now began to think (again) that the problem was much more serious than ulcers. On the morning of October 30th Marie went down again. Since it was raining I put her in her stall and went to the house to grab a quick lunch and her GastroGard. When I came back she had cast herself. I had quite a time getting her back up without any one else there to help. I put her out into our biggest field and she quickly laid back down.

Heartbroken, I went up to the house to place the call we all dread- the one I've never had to make before.

When I came back Marie had cast herself again- this time up against the fence. All of the other horses were lined up on the other side, watching, as if they knew something very serious was going on. There was more struggling by myself to get her up again.

I walked her to the place we had chosen as her final resting place. Always obedient, she followed. Dr. Wright arrived and examined her. He commented on all the weight she'd lost since he'd seen her just over a week earlier. It was obvious something was very wrong with her. Marie was grazing again, but frantically, almost as if to distract herself. Dr. Wright apologized to her as he gave her the shot. About 4:30 PM on October 30, 2009, my beautiful Reminiscing went very peacefully into the next life.

Marie was my first Morgan. I had her 25 years. She is the reason I do what I do. I'll be forever grateful for her patience with me as a novice horse trainer twenty five years ago. She taught me so much during her life, and with her passing she continues to teach- how to grieve, how to cope, how to heal from the loss of a loved one.

I take comfort in knowing that Marie enjoyed some of her last time on this earth grazing all day, something I would not have allowed otherwise since she was insulin resistant. The night she passed on, I left the gate to her drylot open.  Now she can run free on the grass,  eat all of it that she wants, and she will never hurt again.

Shortly after Marie got sick and I worried that she was nearing the end, I had decided that if my 2010 foal out of Katie (leased mare) was a filly, her barn name would be Marie. My dear friend Nancy Harris (Frosty's breeder), has the soul of a poet and she always writes the most eloquent things in her emails to me. When I told her of my plan, she wrote:

I always rejoice when a new foal looks to me in the knowledge that we have been together before. Death and birth bring the same tightening in the throat as we realize how much there is beyond our understanding. Time brings distance, to enable letting go of the angst. I can only hope that Katie's foal will look to you with that knowing in its eyes, and you will be rejoined and bonded once more, together for another lifetime!

Applevale Commander

Kingston Upwey Ben Don
Colony Maid Colonel Dygert

Oklahoma Glory

Desert Sands Merry Warlock
Lady Sungold
Cresta's Silver Leaf Ramona Warrior
Cresta's Lady Helen
You can view Marie's complete pedigree here.
It includes pictures of many of her ancestors.

More photos of Marie
(click on thumbnails to enlarge)

Marie as a foal with a canine friend at Treble Clef Farm in Calhoun, Georgia. Summer 1980.

We made both the morning and evening editions of the Atlanta Journal/Constitution, October 12, 1984.

Marie and I relaxing away from the action at the Greenwood Saddle Club Open Show, October 1984. This was her first show. We just showed in hand as Marie had only been under saddle for about three months at this point. We got a third in a nice sized class of saddle type halter horses, which included a local champion palomino Saddlebred. I love this picture, although I wish I had unbraided her mane and tail first! That is Stone Mountain off in the background, to the left.

Here we are in the class. Greenwood Saddle Club, October 1984.

Marie working bridleless, 1985, after 8 months of training.

Backing up, bridleless. The neck rope is easily understood by horses who've been taught to move away from gentle pressure on various parts of their bodies. Spring 1985.

Bridleless horses tend to move in a very low frame as there is no bridle "containing" the energy created by the hindquarters, compressing the horse's outline. Still, Marie's shoulders are elevated, her back is raised and free swinging, and her hind legs are engaged and working well under her body- all prerequisites for collection. This is a wonderful feeling to ride! Spring 1985.

Sometimes we'd just skip the saddle and neck rope! Summer 1985.

Marie, as one of the most reliable horses on the farm, often gave "pony rides" when we hosted a group of schoolchildren, as was the case here with a pre-school class. She helped many girl scouts earn their equestrian badge and patiently taught many beginners to ride over the years, as well. April 1985.

Opening the gate after a ride...

...and closing it. Marie sometimes would "help" by shoving the gate with her nose! We put this daily gate practice to good use in trail classes. August 1985 photos.

I taught Marie to drive to help her stay fit throughout her first pregnancy, thinking it might be more comfortable exercise for her later in gestation than being ridden. I had never taught a horse to drive before, but had no problems with Marie! Fall 1985.

Standing ground tied in a trail class at a Rolling Hills Saddle Club Show, Summer 1988.

Marie schooling over three foot fences at home, 1989. She is two months pregnant with Pat here.

Marie on her way to winning the Western Pleasure Championship at the Georgia State Championship Horse Show, 1991

Here is another shot of Marie going bridleless, this time with Claudia Ellerbrock from Germany up. Claudia visited us several times on her tours of US Morgan dressage barns. Marie was also used quite often in lessons without a bridle, as it is a perfect way to emphasize to riders the importance of proper seat and leg influences. June 1993 photo.

Amy Venable (then age 13) had been taking lessons once a week on Marie for about two years when this photo was taken in January of 1997.

Feeling frisky, spring 2002, age 22.

Hanging out in the shade on a hot day. August 2002. You can see her interesting facial marking, a roaned star, in this picture. It may indicate the presence of sabino. There is no pink skin under this marking; it is just a collection of roan hairs. Her daughter Mimi has the same roaned star, but it skews towards the right side of her face instead of the left like Marie's. Son Pat has a smaller roaned star as well. Roaned facial markings are not uncommon in Morgans- a thin roaned blaze is almost a hallmark of Jubilee King breeding, for example- and there are roaned leg markings as well. Marie was a minimally expressed rabicano (as is her son, Patented). She had a bit of rabicano roaning in her flanks, as well as the characteristic "coon tail".

Marie at age 23, June 2003.

Marie at age 27, September 2007.

I figure we never know how long we are going to have with our animals. I don't know how many times I've heard people say they wish they had taken more pictures (or in some cases, any pictures at all) of their now deceased beloved pets. So I planned to take the time to give Marie a bath and get some pictures, and finally got my opportunity. Marie looked pretty darn good for her age, I think. June 2008.

Marie had been doing exceptionally well in the fall of 2008 as far as her soundness went. I began to get a silly idea about riding her again. My friend Cassidy was coming over for a lesson, so afterwards we saddled Marie for the first time in ten years. I began to have second thoughts when she threw in a few bucks on the lunge! But not to worry, she was fine under saddle. She still remembered everything and it was wonderful having my "Cadillac ride" back for a few brief minutes, even if all we did was walk. This would be our last ride together.

March 1, 2009- Georgia gets snow! Marie was playing so hard in her drylot (which had iced over places in spots- EEK!) I had to let her out to really stretch her legs. The old gal still had movement that would put many a younger horse to shame!

July 2009-  I just love my old horses. They are so cooperative. Marie seemed to know how I wanted her to stand and she also moved around a bit for me. One trot pass up the fenceline made me wish I had the video camera!

Marie's topline remained smooth- no sway to her back at all- but her age did show in the dip in front of her withers. She always had it to an extent, although in her younger days, when she carried more crest (not a good thing, in retrospect), it looked more filled in than it did later. I read somewhere recently that this dip in front of the withers can be a warning sign of insulin resistance and metabolic problems, which indeed, Marie had.

My tribute to Marie and her beautiful daughter, Willy Remember Me (who we lost in January 2014 due to pneumonia) appeared in the May 2014 issue of THE MORGAN HORSE magazine. It was a gift from the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association Board as a thank you for the many years of ad, newsletter and Directory work I have done for the club. This very kind gesture is much appreciated and is something that I will remember forever.

MANY tears were shed while doing this layout. The poem really got me. It is not readable in this reduced size jpg file, so here it is:

If you bury him in this spot,
the secret of which you must already have,
he will come to you when you call,
come to you over the far, dim pastures of death.

And though you ride other living horses through life,
they shall not shy at him,
nor resent his coming.
For he is yours, and he belongs there.

People may scoff at you,
who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall,
who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears.
People who may never really love a horse.

Smile at them then,
for you shall know something that is hidden from them
and which is well worth the knowing
The only place to bury a horse is in the heart of his master.

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Jim and Laura Behning
75 Glass Spring Rd.
Covington, GA 30014
(770) 385-1240
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