As the CEO of a leading engineering firm, David Osage is highly skilled at navigating tight spots.
But none so tricky as the one faced by the 60-year-old while negotiating a turn on his flame-haired Thoroughbred, Natasha.
As the novice student was trotting 10-meter circles while posting without stirrups, he started to slide out of the saddle, in the direction of dirt.
And Natasha, a rescue horse who was nobody’s idea of a lesson horse for a beginner, and who had her own emotional baggage since her rescue the year before, had two choices: spook and buck, or calmly slow down so Osage could regain his balance.
Her decision amazed both Osage and the woman responsible for her rescue.
“He was halfway off the horse at one point, and I expected her to shoot forward and then start bucking,” Lewis says, noting that the sweet mare had recently overcome a tendency to buck a little.
Nick name: Natasha
Sire: Line in the Sand
Dam: Golden Inez
Foal date: March 28, 2003But to her amazement, and Osage’s as well, the horse took care of her rider.
“Natasha knew I was not doing well, and she slowed down to a walk to let me recover—it was amazing,” Osage says. “We then walked for a while and completed the 10 meter circles without incident; I feel very comfortable with this horse, and I really trust her.”
How an accomplished businessman came to be riding a Thoroughbred ex-racehorse after having no previous experience with horses of any kind is a funny story, he says.
A few years ago, after discussing a television special on horses and rescues, which he and a colleague happened to see, Osage says he got the idea to adopt a horse. Osage and his wife Claudia were both animal lovers, and have cats. But until he did a Google search for horse rescues, landed upon Lewis’ website, and got in touch, he knew nothing about horses.
After introducing himself and learning about her nonprofit, which specializes in taking in horses that would otherwise die without intervention, he helped sponsor her charity for a year.
And then one day, Osage dropped in for a visit. And after that, it was Katie bar the door.
“He started coming in every week, cleaning the stalls, grooming the horses, he did everything,” she says. “And when Natasha arrived, he felt a special pull toward her.”
Natasha (JC: Palermo Princess), lacking in fresh water and generally in dire straits, was pulled by Lewis, straight from a field full of weeds after her friend Mary Johnson, a Thoroughbred advocate, contacted her and asked her to help.
“She was a skinny mess when we got her. She wasn’t emaciated, but she was very lethargic and ribby,” Lewis says. “We loaded her on the van and took her home and after about a week, Dave came to me and said, ‘I love this horse.’ ”
When he asked if he could adopt her and learn to ride, she tried to put him off. But Osage persisted, hired former Thistledown pony girl Hannah D’Agostino, and eventually won his chance to start riding the Thoroughbred.
Despite Lewis’ hesitation about putting a first-time rider together with one of her rescued mares, she was completely won over to the idea after seeing them together.
“They have such a great relationship,” she says. “The horse is literally training Dave! If he does anything wrong, she lets him know by swishing her tail, and he corrects it—he’s very perceptive—and so when he gets out of balance, she tells him, and he corrects it.”
Over the months, solo trail rides as well as a small schooling show, have become part of their repertoire.
And the slower pace at the barn, and the connection to Natasha and the land, has provided Osage with a way to unwind and recharge.
“One time he had to go on a business trip to Paris, and he kept sending emails asking how the horses were doing,” Lewis recalls. “Can you imagine you’re in Paris, and you just want to know how the horses are?”
She adds, “These OTTBs have touched Dave’s life so much.”
Osage is happy to tell anyone how much he loves Natasha, who he officially adopted.
“They’re all amazing though,” he says. “I’ve learned so much by being with them; some of them like to be worked, some of them are angry, but if you give them attention, they eventually come around … and when I arrive at the barn, I’ve got 12 heads looking over their stalls at me … so it’s interesting that a simple phone call two years ago during Christmas vacation started a whole new life for me that I love!”