Melissa Rudershausen’s hand shot up through the stale, fetid air, as the smell of frightened livestock hit her like a blast of bad wind.
Tearing up from the stench that clung to her clothes, the smart, young rider raised her hand at the New Holland Auction last Thanksgiving, and with the small gesture offered a moment of mercy to a Thoroughbred who would be saved that day from the possibility of slaughter that awaited the hogs, goats, and other livestock.
Just $25 bought the depressed-looking Thoroughbred stallion, whose price had dropped like the Stock Market on a bad day.
“I don’t remember my hand going in the air,” she says. “But, nobody wanted this horse. Stallions are hard to sell because it costs so much to geld them, and his price kept dropping and dropping until the auctioneer finally said, “Somebody take him for $25.”
For Rudershausen, an equestrian and professional Thoroughbred trainer well used to the conditions, the pressures, the sense of urgency at New Holland, her impulsiveness surprised her.
Ordinarily the proprietor of Double Rock Thoroughbred Rescue of Ocala, Fla., an impressive A Circuit rider with a knack for turning the most woebegone kill-pen horse into a handsome show horse, is methodical in her approach.
Sire: Carson City
Foal date: Feb. 20, 2003“I normally have a plan. I’ll go first and look over the horse; I’ll run my hands down his legs to see if he is clean-legged, and I’ll check his feet. I like to know what I’m getting. But this time, my hand went up in the air, and I owned a strange horse.”
She never had a chance to do much more than glance at Tomtomjim when she spotted him in the sales arena, so clearly a Thoroughbred that his look and attitude “just screamed Thoroughbred.”
As his price plummeted, she acted on impulse. On heart.
“It was like my hand went up in the air, and my mind engaged after it,” she says. “And suddenly I owned a horse I knew nothing about. I was a little nervous. Afterwards, I went over to see what I had bought, and he was a complete sweetheart.”
So kind, in fact, that without hesitation, she was able to fearlessly toss a western saddle on his back, mount up, and ride that skinny, good-natured stallion around the New Holland property!
His placid demeanor held, even after he was fattened up on good grain and hay.
Initially, Rudershausen planned to train him herself, but when her alma mater Delaware Valley College contacted her in search of a project horse for its senior-level horse-trainer program, Tomtomjim went off to college for four months.
“They called to ask if I had any horses, and I said that I had a great horse, and he was stabled two miles up the road from them,” Rudershausen says.
In the program, he developed a well-muscled topline, and learned some basics, so that when he returned to her in May, he was looking more like a happy show pony than the dejected stallion she met in Thanksgiving.
After entering him in a local unrated show, she soon discovered he could not only win ribbons, but he could handle himself in the loud, hustle bustle of a bigger atmosphere.
And his good fortune continued after Rudershausen posted pictures of her handsome New Holland graduate on her Facebook page. Immediately he caught the eye of a woman who hadn’t ridden in 20 years, but saw in Tomtomjim a horse she could love.
“She was so excited to come meet him that she drove four-and-a-half hours to visit him,” she says. And soon after, the woman agreed to purchase the quiet gentleman and offer him an easy life, taking trail rides and teaching a re-rider to regain her confidence in the saddle.
“For a $25 horse,” Rudershausen says, “he turned out to be worth way more than I expected.”
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