After riding Indy today, I told my fiancé that she reminds me of her sire, Winnetou, a little more everyday. This is bittersweet for me because Winnetou recently passed away. I was going to breed one of our mares to him this spring, but had decided to wait until next year. Fortunately, I ended up with Indy and his grandson, Windtalker.
When I had first moved back to Boise, I kept talking to people who had horses by Winnetou. I hadn't heard of him, so I looked him up online. He was this gorgeous black and flashy horse with a ton of presence.
Flash forward a couple of years. I was riding Winn (Windtalker) for Cathy, who owned him at that time. She called me up and said that Winnetou's original owner had reacquired him and would sell him if it was to a good home.
Cathy flew me up to northern Idaho to try him. Winnetou was just as pretty in person with a very kind look about him. He was also very much a gentleman.
While riding him that first time, I kept thinking that this was my type of horse. His work ethic and desire to please were what stood out most. There was nothing lazy or evasive about him. If I made a mistake, he was very forgiving. To top it off, he had a very good foundation. The owner had said that he was close to showing third level before she sold him the first time and he felt like it. He needed to regain some strength, but the training was there.
Cathy bought Winnetou and brought him to Boise. He always tried to do what I asked. I felt very comfortable on him and he taught me something every time I was on his back. He gave me more confidence in my abilities as a rider.
I took him to a clinic and the clinician said that I could start out showing him second level the upcoming show season. She also said we should be able to handle third level fairly soon without too much trouble. This was very exciting for me because, though I had ridden some school masters and upper level horses, I had never had the opportunity to actually show above first level. I left the clinic excited and even more thankful to have the chance to ride this wonderful horse.
We continued to work towards the show season. Winnetou was doing great and then gradually something started to go wrong. He just wasn't quite right. Things that had previously been easy for him were becoming difficult. He wasn't really off, but wasn't moving as well as he was capable of. Cathy and I decided he needed to get checked out.
I went with them to the vet. When I saw the x-rays, my heart sank before the vet could even say anything. I knew if I could see what was wrong that easily, it wasn't good. The vet confirmed what I was thinking; Winnetou's riding career was over.
It killed me to know he had been training through the pain. He should have been REALLY off, but wasn't. Something was there, but he barely showed it. He never got mad or quit trying. I think that he may have been the toughest horse I have ever seen. He had so much heart!
Cathy made the decision to sell Winnetou to a friend strictly as a breeding stallion. He spent the rest of his life at a good home and had several more foals. My heart goes out to his current owner.
I hadn't seen Winnetou in years, but will always be grateful for the opportunity to ride him and for the things he taught me. I will always strive for my horses to be as happy, honest, and kind as he was.