When her athletic, young son slipped suddenly from her life, Janet King felt as if the air went rushing from her.
“The wind went out of my sails,” she says.
Her 22-year-old son Devin Kravitz had been such a constant in her life. Brimming with hope about his future as a police officer, he was eagerly preparing to join the police academy in his hometown of Charlton, Mass.
And like his equestrian mother, he lived for sports as well. He played soccer and football as a youth and was a passionate dirt bike racer.
But it is the hours he spent helping his mother with her horseback riding business that are some of King’s fondest memories; the ones that inspired her to return to horses after walking away from her equestrian business after his death from cardiac arrest due to Myocarditis of a viral organ, on Oct. 25, 2006.
At the barn where she taught lessons, he was her right hand. If a horse needed tacking up, he did it. If she needed a pair of “eyes on the ground” while she rode a frisky horse, he obliged.
Unable to face the barn without her son, King gave it all up after his death. “I just completely walked away,” she says. She sold all but two horses, and gave up teaching and judging horse shows.
Race name: Wills Warrior
Sire: Wills Way
Dam: First Glance
Foal date: 2006And then last year, she started to wonder what her son would think if he knew she’d given up on her passion.
“I realized Devin would want me to continue to ride, and to get back into it,” she says. “He wasn’t able to fulfill his dreams, and would have been disappointed if I didn’t fulfill mine.”
With this in mind, King began monitoring the CANTER New England listings of sale horses to the point where, as she jokes, “It got pretty addicting.” Page after page, she’d flip through, looking for the perfect one; one that would match her dream to find a conformational hunter who wasn’t just correct, but was also beautiful.
And then last September, she went to Suffolk Downs with a friend and found her dreamboat.
Wills Warrior seemed like a baby, all gangly and playful. The four-year-old chestnut was not just correct, he was flashy.
“When they pulled him out of his stall and jogged him up and down, my jaw dropped,” she says. “I said, ‘OK. Good. Put him away.’ ”
Since her beautiful boy has come home with her, he has delighted her at every turn. Whether she’s training him in the fundamentals of dressage, or watching him clown around in a field, Wills Warrior has helped King find and feel the joy she once had lost.
She rides her horse three times a week and he has rewarded her by learning to accept her aids as he learns the foundations he will need to be a hunter. “He has never bolted or shied,” she says. “He’s very playful, but in a good way, and he just loves to be loved.”
King’s big plan is to start showing him next year. And as she works toward that goal, she feels comforted in the notion that her son would be thrilled to see her go for it.
“When my son died, it took the life right out of me,” she says. “Getting this horse was like my heart calling me back to my life. With horses.”
*Many racehorses will be available for sale at the Sixth Annual Suffolk Showcase Oct. 23.