Even in the unflattering photographs of auction horses at the Camelot Feedlot in NJ, the gleam of his dappled, healthy coat, and his fitness of form were apparent.
Jackson stood out in a crowd.
“He looked like a show horse,” says Sonia Stratemann. “He was sitting up in that auction” to potential meat buyers “all dappled up, with a pulled mane, looking amazing, like a classic Thoroughbred.”
She went to bed that night, last October, and couldn’t sleep. She tossed and turned, wondering what the horse’s fate would be. Would a new owner snap him up or would he wind up purchased by the pound, and headed off to slaughter?
But even through the next morning his fate still hung, so Stratemann decided that her crowded Thoroughbred and Greyhound adoption facility in Florida could make room for one more.
“I waited until the last minute to buy him because I kept hoping somebody else would take him,” she says. “I’d never looked at a horse from Camelot, but I saw his picture on Facebook, and there was just something about him; he was gorgeous. Really, really beautiful.”
New Jersey was a long way away from her Loxahatchee, Fla. facility, and shipping a horse that distance would be expensive. But she had to do it; she paid the auction house, she paid the shipper and two days later, the mysterious black beauty referred to only as “Jackson” in his paperwork, arrived.
It was a beautiful day. He was docile as he submitted to a thorough soaping up and hosing down, and after that was led into the cool of a stall with fresh shavings. For three weeks, he was kept on stall rest and enjoyed minimal turnout, quarantined from the rest of her herd until it was clear that he carried no communicable illness.
And this is the way that Jackson joined Stratemann’s family— with little fuss.
Soon enough, she decided to ride the stunning black bay who stood a solid 16.2 hands.
“When I went to get on him, I was pretty scared. Everyone warned me that he was probably at Camelot for a reason, that he was probably there because he was a dangerous horse,” Stratemann says. “But he was fine. Initially we walked and trotted, and I waited a week before I started cantering him.”
With the sure hands and seat of a woman’s whose entire family is steeped in the horse world (both her husband and father are polo players) Stratemann guided the horse around her fenceless five-acre field, not knowing her time with her new horse would be cut short.
A friend of her father’s arrived one day, noticed the black bay, and asked, “Who’s the Warmblood?”
Recalling that day, Ingrid Taskin says she was quickly corrected. “Sonia told me, ‘No. No. He’s a Thoroughbred.’ He was lean, mean and all muscle.”
“I wasn’t looking for a horse, but I had a friend who was. So I dragged my friend over to see him. I remember saying, ‘You just have to see this horse. He’s just beautiful.’ ”
Invited to hop aboard and give him a try, Taskin was soon enjoying Jackson’s very smooth trot and canter.
After her ride, Taskin turned to Stratemann and quipped, “You have too many horses already.” At which point, the two agreed that Jackson would go with Taskin.In his new home, Taskin began to uncover some keys to Jackson’s personality. Although he was easy under saddle for those first few rides, it became apparent that the horse was frightened of everyday things, like barking dogs.
“Above all else, I wanted to teach him to relax,” says Taskin. “I wanted to show him that he doesn’t need to be afraid.”
To de-sensitize him to irritants, she has worked extensively with him in the round pen, achieving “join up” and has also exposed him to spooky objects, like tarps and flags.
She takes him for long walks on the lead line through pastures and indulges him in long grooming sessions.
With summer ending, and cooler weather setting in, Jackson seems ready to begin training as a pleasure horse. Taskin will ride him in earnest this autumn, introducing him to the joys of ambling rides in the countryside.
While his Camelot hip number was peeled away months ago from his dappled coat, it is only now that his true demeanor is being revealed.
He’s a solid citizen now. A true success.