Chance was middle aged when he came into our lives, given to my oldest granddaughter, Heather Carrie Thomas, by her great aunt for Christmas in 2000 when young Heather was 9 years old. His registered name was Omega Chance and he was a 17-year-old chestnut Arabian gelding with a white blaze and white stockings. Even though he was well into his teens, he was still in his prime; he looked and acted like a much younger horse. He had the wisdom and manners of age, however, and was the perfect horse for a young girl.
Heather remembers that Christmas vividly. “My little brother Nick and I both had huge boxes under the tree. Nick opened his first, and his gift was an English saddle. When I opened mine, it was a series of smaller and smaller boxes. I was disappointed because Nick had gotten a saddle, and my present kept getting smaller and smaller. Finally, I got down to the last layer: just an envelope—which contained Chance’s registration papers. That was a big surprise! I had thought it was just a big joke, and then when I opened the envelope I realized I had a horse!”
|Chance was a Christmas gift.|
|Carolyn riding Chance on the range|
Heather had started 4-H the previous summer with Jon Boy, the retired horse that her great grandfather rode on endurance rides, but she decided to use Chance as her 4-H project the second year.
|Heather and Chance at their first 4-H horse show|
|Heather and Chance at the Hairy Horse Show|
“We took first place in many 4-H horse show events and qualified to show in the State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho.
|State Fair 2001 - Trail Class|
|2003 State Fair|
|2005 State Fair ribbons|
“Chance was really good at being shown at halter. He would go through the routine perfectly, and stand just right, but he hated it! We always joked that he got the blue ribbons only because when the judge came around to inspect him he would intimidate the judge into giving us first place. He was so crabby, yet he would do everything right,” says Heather.
“The last year that we were in 4-H, Nick showed him at halter. Chance was used to how I worked him, but Nick was more laid back. Nick was distracted and looking up in the stands, not paying attention—and Chance actually picked up his foot and struck at him, just to wake him up. It was like he was saying, ‘Hey you! You’re not doing your job!’”
|Nick showing Chance at halter|
|Chance and Heather in the trail classes|
Heather also used him in Ranch Roping class. “I never was very good at roping,” says Heather, “but we tried it anyway. He hated when I’d accidentally get the rope under his tail. If I did, I had a hard time getting it back. Roping is judged on how many heads and how many heels you can catch in a certain length of time, and I’d lose a lot of time trying to get the rope out from under his tail. He’d steal my rope and hold it there!” she says.
|Heather and Chance competing in the Working Ranch roping|
|Working Ranch Class|
“This same quality applied out in the real world because on the range I could handle the cattle very well all by myself with Chance.” He could quietly go through a herd of cows to sort something out and never disturb the herd.
Heather Smith Thomas raises horses and cattle on her family ranch in Salmon, Idaho. She writes for numerous horse magazines and is the author of several books on horses and cattle farming, including Storey’s Guide to Raising Horses, Storey's Guide to Training Horses, Stable Smarts, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Your Calf, Getting Started with Beef and Dairy Cattle, Storey's Guide to Raising Beef Cattle, Essential Guide to Calving, and The Cattle Health Handbook. She blogs at heathersmiththomas.blogspot.com.