A pretty white snowball of a horse drifted from home to home until he landed softly in the hands of a 13-year-old boy.
Scattering Breezes had been in some fine hands along the way, but when young Austin Skeens hopped on his back and trotted him two years ago, then cantered near the fence line of the gelding’s Salem, Va., paddock, the perfect fit of horse and young man was evident. And strangers though they were, the connection was instant, they got along famously.
“We went to see him right before Labor Day, and he was such a mellow horse that when I asked my son if he felt comfortable cantering him, he said sure, and cantered him up and down,” Heather Skeens says. After the ride, Austin rode in a four-wheeler with his mother back to the barn, the horse walking beside them.
Race name: Scattering Breezes
Sire: Concordes Tune
Dam: Buck N Cavalry
Foal date: March 8, 1999They took the 15-year-old gelding home, gave him iodine baths to clear up some rain rot, fattened him up on some good feed, and took him to his first hunter show. Even plumper on high-octane food, the gelding they nicknamed Joey was a perfect gentleman.
“We took him to this show the weekend after we purchased him. It was really blustery that day, and he didn’t look at anything, or spook,” she says. “He showed in a hunter hack class and he was great. He looked at a few jumps, but I was amazed he was so good on such a windy day.”
Joey won the family over pretty quickly with his gentle ways, and by the end of the 30-day tryout, Skeens purchased him for her son.
“Joey’s so kind to Austin. My son can enjoy him like a kid can. He takes him out to the woods and gallops him and I don’t worry,” she says.
Skeens did have a momentary pause however, when she happened upon an older article in Off Track Thoroughbreds, in which his owner at the time described her early difficulties with Joey.
Alisa Gusterer, one of Joey’s previous owners, had corrected issues of mounting block spooking and bucking, by introducing natural horsemanship techniques. But after a fluke accident in July 2013, her mother encouraged her to sell the horse and buckle down on her college studies.
She sold Joey to very some experienced riders who used him for a trail horse for beginners, Gusterer says.
To look at Joey and his new owner today, those trials and early difficulties appear far in his past.
“He’s an unusual horse,” Skeens says. “I was shocked when I read the article, because the horse he is today is so different. He’s so gentle with him. I looked out at them the other day, and Austin was turned around backwards on him, and just lying on him.”
Future plans are to compete him this weekend at the Penmeryl Horse Trials in Greenville, Va., and to let the road carry them where it may. — Originally published on Nov. 7, 2014.