Kimberly K, known around the barn as Gina, died peacefully at home in Oklahoma on January 9, 2024 at the official age of 27.
Gina, a registered Thoroughbred, was born March 16, 1997 in Cimarron, New Mexico. Her sire, Look See, was a stakes winner and a leading sire in New Mexico in 1999 and 2000. Her dam, True Brilliance, produced several stakes winners during her lengthy breeding career. Gina was sold to a sporthorse breeder in Oklahoma as a 2 year old, where she was added to the Main Mare Book of ISR/Oldenburg NA and produced two premium Oldenburg fillies. She also produced an Appendix Quarter Horse colt.
When Gina’s breeding career came to a close, she was sold to a hunter/jumper trainer in Tulsa, Okla. She spent the next few years competing in both the hunters and the jumpers and moved to other Tulsa-based barns several times as she was sold to various professionals. Eventually, she was purchased for a junior rider, who competed with Gina until she started college. Gina was then donated to a therapeutic riding center as a potential vaulting horse.
I met Gina in 2011 when I was hired as the equine manager of the therapeutic riding center to which she had been donated. My first task at that center was to prep Gina for sale, as her size and temperament made her unsuitable as a therapy horse. I liked Gina immediately: she was well-built, well-mannered, and had the most beautiful, floaty gaits I’d ever ridden. When she was put up for sale at a public sealed-bid auction, I submitted a bid and anxiously waited to find out if I had won her. I did, and so began our long and happy partnership.
Originally, I purchased Gina with the idea of eventing her. She was good at dressage and seemed unfazed by the terrain and obstacles on the center’s outdoor sensory trail. When I moved her away from the center to a farm with jumps, I quickly discovered Gina did not enjoy show jumping. She frequently stopped or ducked out when asked to jump anything in an arena. However, she enthusiastically approached and jumped cross-country jumps. For several years, we competed at dressage shows or combined tests consisting of dressage and cross-country. Gina also did a stint as a dressage lesson horse at my neighbor’s barn, where she was somewhat unpopular due to her brisk pace and bouncy trot.
After taking Gina to several hunter paces, I joined Harvard Fox Hounds in 2015 and began foxhunting. Gina found her true calling in the hunt field. She was tireless, sure-footed, and brave. She jumped any obstacle, slid down any steep hill, climbed every narrow and winding trail, crossed deep and swift-running creeks, tolerated horses jostling and bumping her, listened for the hounds, and galloped across every kind of terrain with a sure and even stride. In the off-season, Gina and I logged many hours on the trails in northeastern Oklahoma. In 2017, I bred Gina. In 2018, she foaled a little chestnut colt, Marrakesh. Unfortunately, he and Gina were hospitalized for most of his short life and he was euthanized as a result of a joint infection when he was only a month old. Gina recovered quickly, and we were back in the hunt field that fall.
Gina was semi-retired by 2020, when my work and school schedule made it difficult to keep her fit enough to hunt. She remained healthy and generally fit until late 2023, when she was diagnosed with EPM.
While Gina was never an affectionate or particularly personable horse, she was polite and hardworking. She was impeccably behaved for the vet and farrier, never put a foot wrong under saddle (show jumping excepted), and could generally be relied upon to conduct herself with dignity and grace.
When I think of Gina, I think of many adventures we went on, of course – the time we finished the hunter pace in just over an hour when the optimum time was about two hours; the time we got lost riding at Heyburn Lake and spent an extra two hours riding back to the trailer on the road; the time an official at a schooling show tried to disqualify us for going too fast because we cantered the entire Starter level cross country course; the time she got loose at my wedding and evaded capture for something like an hour. But mostly, I think of the little things that made Gina, Gina: her awful whinny that sounded like she’d smoked a pack of cigarettes every day of her life; how she could never roll over and always had to roll on one side, get up, then roll on the other side; how she stood at the very furthest edge of the paddock when she heard me hooking up the horse trailer; how the little asymmetries in her gait made every blanket she wore crooked except for an ancient Weatherbeeta I’d spent more money repairing over the years than it was worth; how she hated being closed in a stall while she ate.
I miss Gina. She’s buried in the paddock next to her friend Candy. It’s both sad and comforting to know my longtime companion is under that mound of earth. Sad, because Gina’s no longer here to stare at me suspiciously as I walk toward to barn or pin her ears at the geldings while she waits for dinner. But a little comforting, too – I know I gave her the best life I could, right up until the very last second. She didn’t meet her end in a terrible place, alone and anxious and in pain. She’s right here, where she was laid to rest with the same dignity and grace she had in life.