Following the rumored existence of the proverbial “good horse” like a trail of breadcrumbs, Gayle and Bill Pruitt arrived at the stable door of ragtag racehorse Texas Honor.
Looking not too well after a hard-knocking season, Texas, who reportedly spent time before and after races standing in ice, was nursing an abscessed hoof.
“He looked pathetic,” Pruitt says. “But I thought he was the most beautiful horse I’d ever seen.”
So on a November day 18 years ago, a couple of city folk who had eagerly abandoned urban life to put down roots on a patch of country outside Fort Worth, took a flier with the docile 8-year-old bay.
“I had no background with horses before that,” Pruitt says. “I was 38 and I had always wanted a horse, and my husband, who had them as a kid, wanted one too. We were total novices.”
With no fence around their paddocks, and no horse trailer for transport, they relied upon the kindness of strangers to safely ferry their new gelding to a temporary stall at a race-training facility near Trinity Meadows Race Track.
And after he safely arrived, they put their complete trust in an animal they knew nothing about.
Sire: Double Line
Dam: Date with Honor
Foal date: Feb. 23, 1988“I used to take him out to the training track and ride him around, and people told me I was supposed to ride in the opposite direction that horses race in” to discourage the ex-racehorse from bolting, she says. “But I didn’t. I rode him all around the track, and he was so smooth that all I had to do was smooch to get him to go from a trot to a slow lope, and when I asked him to slow down, he slowed down.”
On the training track, horsemen regaled Pruitt with stories about her gelding. “He was like a celebrity at that barn. They all remembered him from the track, standing in ice buckets before and after every race.”
And on trail rides near the Pruitt’s new property, Texas attracted admirers a-plenty who marveled at his quiet, obliging demeanor.
“One day this horse went flying by us on the trail, and his rider was screaming. I overheard someone saying, ‘I told her not to ride that stupid Thoroughbred.’ So there I was riding Tex, a Thoroughbred, and I had to speak up,” she says, noting that there were some surprised glances of admiration coming Tex’s way after that. “I told them I was riding a Thoroughbred who used to be a racehorse, and they couldn’t believe it!”
In the 18 years since Pruitt and Texas came together, her scrapbook of happy memories has grown to overflowing.
On her gelding’s 25th birthday last Feb. 23, the racehorse’s original owners and family drove nearly six hours to help celebrate the milestone. They brought Tex’s baby pictures, and spent hours feeding him carrots and rhapsodizing about what a good horse he had been.
After racing seven years, and getting knocked around some—as a 2-year-old Texas sustained and overcame a slab fracture in his knee— the scruffy racehorse was always game for a race, always trying hard, his old owner told Pruitt.
And since coming off the track, he has transferred his eagerness to please onto Pruitt.
“For a first horse, and one so trustworthy, he spoiled me. I never worried about him doing anything crazy, Pruitt says. “He truly is the smartest horse I’ve ever been around.”