Riding away from cancer on her T-bred

Anna and  her other OTTB, My Guy

Anna and her other OTTB, My Guy

Riding all day through the Kenyan wilderness, passing zebras and gazelles in her quest to keep on moving, the 70-year-old Texan, and recovering cancer patient, wasn’t trying to be a hero about her health. But she wasn’t about to take her 50-50 prognosis lying down either.

Anna Beeson considers herself to be lucky.

“I’m a member of a Stage 4 cancer survival group, and when I read their emails and they write about all their worries,” Beeson says. “I think they should all get out of the house and go do what they love. Everybody in life ought to have a passion, and horses are mine.”

Since that first Shetland pony ride she took as a kid, Beeson’s love of horses has remained central in her life.  And now, with health concerns looming and the need to stay positive, her passion and determination have joined forces to keep her in the saddle, in every sense of the word.

For Beeson, it has always been, and still is, the iconic American racehorse, possessed of indomitable spirit and the “look of eagles,” that makes her heart beat just a bit faster and lifts her spirit.

“I’ve always loved the tenderness, responsiveness and inquisitiveness of the Thoroughbred,” she says. “Their beauty of motion, fluidity and eagerness, never ceases to thrill me.”

T For Daddy Dee
New name: My Guy
Sire: Cesar T.
Dam: Cherie Note
Foal date: May 16, 1993
Sire: Limehouse
Dam: Deputy Commander
Foal date: April 6, 2010
An avid horseman, Beeson enjoyed retraining off-track Thoroughbreds in the mid 90s, carving out a sideline that helped support her own riding, and the care for her beloved OTTB T For Daddy Dee, whom she calls My Guy.

So dedicated was she to her horse habit, that in March 2011, after testing positive for cancer, her
first thought was, “Damn! There goes the show season!”

“After I had a lumpectomy and was put on a series of infusion chemotherapy drugs, I was so happy that the only side effects were hair loss and a slight metallic taste in my mouth, because I told my doctors that I wasn’t going to do anything that would keep me off a horse,” Beeson says.

After six months of treatment, and just beginning a new round of oral chemotherapy she decided to keep her promise to a friend, and embarked upon a horseback riding tour of Kenya.

“At the point that I planned the trip, I was in remission, but two weeks before the trip, during a regularly scheduled CT scan, it showed the tumors were growing in my liver again,” she says. “The oncologist tried to talk me into skipping the trip, but since I felt perfectly fine, she put me on the oral chemo and wished me luck.”

Anna, while taking oral chemotherapy, rides through Kenya

Anna, while taking oral chemotherapy, rides through Kenya

Explaining that though she will never be considered clear of cancer, (she is in remission) she must get on with life. And at the top of her bucket list, after her Kenyan adventure, was a hunt for a new, gentle-riding off-track Thoroughbred.

“At this point in my life, I didn’t want to take a chance on getting dumped from a hot horse,” she says. “I was looking for an older horse, around 8-years-old, and one who was quiet.

“I found one, but he didn’t pass the vet. Then I found a rescue horse, and he didn’t pass either. Then I found Effour.”

An unraced gelding named after the EF 4 tornados that ripped through Oklahoma, Effour was stabled at Donna Keen’s well-respected facility, Remember Me Rescue, happily minding his own business, when Beeson arrived one day, as though on a mission. After persistently calling and emailing to get an appointment, she made her entrance in a hail of dust, as she sped up the driveway in her truck.

In no time, after meeting and riding Effour, she knew that this was indeed, the horse.

“He’s amazing. Nothing bothers him. The second time I rode him, another horse was tearing around the other side of the fence, and although he raised his head to look, he didn’t react to the commotion,” she says. “He has Mr. Prospector in his lineage, and he was known to be a calm horse.”

Beeson and Effour enjoy a little jaunt

Beeson and Effour enjoy a little jaunt

The 16.2-hand liver chestnut was considered quite ugly by yearling standards, but with his great bone structure, fantastic movement, and unflappable personality, he’s absolutely perfect for Beeson.

As unflappable as his new horse mom, Effour refused to be ruffled during an experimental exercise with a Jolly Ball. Her previous horse had been terrified of the toy, but Effour didn’t even give it a glance.

When Beeson kicked it toward him, nothing happened.

She kicked it harder, bumped his nose— which was busy sniffing out lush grass— and still, nothing.

Finally, in total disbelief that she couldn’t get a rise out of him, Beeson tossed the ball up into the air, and watched it land with a smack on his butt.

He didn’t even swish his tail.

He just carried on with his munching, ignoring the annoying object being directed his way.

That’s when she knew she’d met her match as well as a kindred spirit in the form of a 1,200-pound racing machine.

“When I was looking for Effour, I only would look at Thoroughbreds,” she says. “People tried to get me interested in Warmbloods or Quarter Horses, but I felt a Thoroughbred always gave 100 percent.”

And maybe they gave her a little bit of courage too.

“In a way, I feel horses partly helped me go into remission, along with diet changes,” Beeson says.

Anna receiving the USEA Ironmaster Award for her bravery. Photo courtesy Anna

Anna receiving the USEA Ironmaster Award for her bravery. Photo courtesy Anna

“Horses kept me from feeling depressed, and they gave me a reason to get up each morning.

“All of the cancer literature tells us to stay calm and not get anxious or depressed: the horses do that for me.”

20 responses to “Riding away from cancer on her T-bred”

  1. Nancy E

    I’m so sorry about My Guy! He really lived life to the fullest with all the riding and competitions he did with you. Take care.

  2. Anna Beeson

    Two things to add to the story:
    My Guy, my beloved partner for the last 15 years was kicked in the shoulder in turn-out and ended up with a broken humerus and had to be euthanized last week. I am devastated.

    Effour is there for me and the more I am around him, the more characteristics I see in common with My Guy even though he is only 3. He got his name from being the only survivor of 5 yearlings in the 2010 EF-4 tornado in Chickasha, OK.

    Thanks to everyone for their comments. It is great having so many friends.

  3. Kristi Boyd

    Today the strongest woman I know lost her wonderful My Guy to an injury. Her friends are so thankful that she found Effour just in time to help ease the transition to a new partner.

  4. Roz Mays Davis

    Anna you are such an inspiration. So glad you shared this story. Amazing

  5. Radie

    Anna, you are such an inspiration! Thanks for sharing your testimony. Keep smiling my friend.

  6. Bradley Schneider

    My wife and I had the distinct pleasure of being with Anna for that ride in Kenya. As the hosts we did not know that her cancer had returned until we met in Kenya. Anna was an inspiration to watch. Despite her condition she took on a challenging ride. Her good spirt and a constant smile was always there. We had a fabulous time and I am very happy to know that she continues to ride telling her cancer, “not yet.” Way to go Anna.

  7. Dennis Michael Antolik

    I have had the privilege of serving Anna and her wonderful horses since 2008 and during that time i have been so impressed with her passion of horses and her love shared with Richard, the quiet Groom. She is always expecting excellence from herself, horses and anyone helping. Anna is a true great example of love and passion that we should all try to emulate!

  8. Connie

    Another late night and inspiration to sleep on. From birth I have had the need for a horse in my life, at 9 that dream was short lived by a bay yearling quarter horse( named him Joker) he became my very best friend. After his demise at 4, I didn’t think I could endure a heartbreak like that again, so I rode others horses or filled in at the barn, until age 46 when my 4 year old OTTB found me. I needed a rebirth, understanding and a way back to health both mental and physical and JUST NAME ME ( Joker ) found me. His last race was in April 2004 and a gorgeous 16’2 sleek, bay TB picked me from the crowd and apprehensively on my part, an unexpected blessing. He was not the calm, treasure that Anna had found, but lessons gathered from our first 6 months together has spawned the treasures God has given thru my love for this magnificent creature I trust him with my life, I felt his nurturing and the only explanation I can give for the healing experienced with our walk with our equine friends, is they are Gods messengers,here to help, heal and console, and allow our paths to be endured. Cheers Anna for sharing your story…it is heartfelt and deeply understood. Wishing you many years of riding bliss.

  9. Kristi Puls

    What an inspiration! I have had the pleasure of knowing Anna and she was an inspiration to me long before any of this cancer stuff. I also had the pleasure of seeing her do some very intimidating cross country jumps back in the day with My Guy – what a special horse he is! I’m so excited for her that she found Effour. Happy Trails to Come Anna!

  10. KK

    Awesome Story!! I pray God’s peace and strength surround her!! What is it about our 4 legged friends!? Such consolation they can bring!!

  11. Hollie

    I have had the pleasure of meeting Anna, and she is indeed a phenomenal lady!

  12. Rosa Reyes

    Susan thank you for sharing Anna’s inspirational story.

    Anna is a brave and wonderful lady. She is also a patient mentor, loving daughter, mother, wife, friend, grandmother, and an inspiration to all of us. She faces her cancer with courage and inner strength and respect. She has made changes in her life, but without compromising her life passion for horses. I love seeing you smile as you ride…keep riding Anna.

  13. Gypsie Peterson

    I loved reading your remarkable story, I lost my husband at the age of 22 from Ewing sarcoma,bone cancer.. I think you are an amazing inspiration to young and the elderly for your guts and determination and yes I believe when you ride, horses give you something,an almost euphoric feeling.. Of being totally alive…I can’t wait to get back in the saddle again..thank you for sharing your story.

  14. cynthia

    What a special lady who inspires! Thanks to her and Effour for the great life lesson.

  15. syb miller

    wow, moved to tears by anna — my decision to finally follow a dream and find a thoroughbred was likewise an act of faith — that i would be healthy and live longer than he will (he was only 3, so that will be a long time!) instead of giving up just because the cloud of cancer had entered my life. it was an act of faith and the best decision i’ve ever made as i found a partner to teach me things i never knew i needed to know. thank you for this story, sue, and thanks kim for your story, too. one thing none of us can do is quit, not with an OTTB in our lives!

  16. Martha Foster

    Another beautiful story! Hope and love are powerful healers! Horses are often a fleshly vessel of those wonderful qualities. May Anna continue to thrive for many years of happy riding!

  17. Nancy Wallace

    Thank you for sharing. I am 62 and know I would feel better if I got a horse. Am diabetic and need to get up and move. Owned a horse until age 18 and have not been on one since. But have made it a point to be around some whenever possible, either following the budweiser team, going to horse shows or the track. I lost my daughter 6 yrs ago. I need a therapy horse. Also looking forward to teaching my grand daughters to ride. This is the year I buy a horse. This is just the confidence builder I needed to follow through with a lifetime dream. Thank you for Supplying the inspiration to follow through.

  18. Kim Alexander

    Thank you, Susan, for this story. I am moved to no words. As a Sister in the ranks of ‘Survivors’ whose prognosis was disturbingly grim, I, too, am convinced that it has been horses in my life that get the credit for my long term survival. One of which is an OTTB who needed me as much as I needed him. There are too many people in the world with cancer who just want to lie down or ‘healthy’ people who expect me to and it just doesn’t work that way. Now is the time to live life to the very very fullest. Anna has my deepest respect as well as heartfelt empathy for another Sister.
    Somebody made a bracelet that I wear that simply says: “Ride like there’s no tomorrow.” Pretty much says it all.
    Saddle up, Anna.

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