This week, I’m pleased to hand the blog reins over to my friend and fellow rider Holly. Like many equestrians, Holly was a horse-obsessed youngster who delayed her dreams until she was an adult. She’s graciously shared the story of how her life intersected with that of a curmudgeonly ex-police horse named Roscoe. You can find Holly’s own website with links to her scholarly work (plus photos of her Irish setters!) at www.hollykruse.com.
I grew up as a horse-crazy girl without a horse, whose mother wouldn’t let her ride, so I had to sneak around to very occasionally get to ride a friend’s horse. I always hoped to someday own a horse, but in the meantime I channeled my love of horses into horse racing fandom (eventually causing me to write this book), and I started showing the family Irish setter. I am, at heart, an Irish setter. I was raised as one, and now I have a tiny dynasty of them from the bloodline of my first champion, Tristan, who I got from California when I was in high school in Iowa.
My horse ownership dream never quite went away. As an adult, however, it looked less and less practical. I finally understood how crazy expensive it is to have a horse, and how difficult it is to move with a horse… and I was moving a lot. I lived some places, like the horse havens of Louisville, Kentucky and northern Virginia, where people were paying insane amounts of money for the most rudimentary boarding arrangements. As I moved from place to place, it was hard enough to find a halfway affordable place to rent that let me have three Irish setters. Why would I want the additional burden of a horse?
My pre- and post-doctoral travels eventually landed me in Tulsa, Oklahoma: first, for a job at the University of Tulsa, and then at nearby Rogers State University, which at the time – 2010 – owned a therapeutic riding facility. Finally, I was able to spend time around horses! (Also, I met and befriended a certain blogger who was working at the facility and became one of my closest friends.) The first student with whom I volunteered was a disabled adult, and the horse that the student rode in his lesson was a former Tulsa Mounted Patrol horse named Roscoe.
Oh, Roscoe. He had been at the facility for over a year, since the Tulsa Police Department disbanded the mounted unit, and already, he was a terrible therapy horse. He enjoyed stopping and not moving during lessons, so while leading him, I was forced to find techniques to make him move forward. He discovered that throwing his head wildly while children were mounting and dismounting was an effective way to stop being used in lessons with children. Word on the street was that I was the only volunteer for whom Roscoe would do anything. I overheard at least one other volunteer say, “I hate Roscoe.”
Do I need to even say this? I’d fallen in love with Roscoe.
Public opinion about Roscoe hadn’t always been negative. As a police horse, Roscoe got lots of good press (note: this story says that all of the police horses were Quarter Horses. This, as we’ll see, will turn out to be not quite true). Even after he became a therapy horse, he was celebrated in the news media, as in this 2010 propaganda piece on local television news that was filled with lies about what a great therapy horse Roscoe was.
Clearly, Roscoe and I were meant to be together…