Friday, October 17, 2008

Life After Tommy

Hello everyone and thanks for inviting me into your group. Though it feels like I've been a journalist since Gutenburg invented the press, I'm new to blogging. So I'll start with an introduction.
My name is Jody Jaffe and I am the author of "Horse of a Different Killer," "Chestnut Mare, Beware," and "In Colt Blood." The three mysteries star Nattie Gold, a sharp-tongued, red-headed fashion writer and her chestnut mare, Brenda Starr.
My kids, Ben and Sam Shepard, call my writing "faction," since most of it's true. Nattie is me, except she hates chocolate and is a far better rider. That's one of the great perks of writing fiction -- you're only limited by your imagination. If I want to ride as well as Margie Goldstein Engle, so be it.
They say "write what you know" and I did. I set my books in the newspaper and hunter show worlds. I was a feature writer for the Charlotte (NC) Observer from 1979 to 1990. During that time, I showed my horse, Brenda Starr (barn name, Tommy) mostly in the adult amateur hunter division. Tommy -- named after her father, the great TB hunter sire Sir Thomson -- was a once-in-a-lifetime horse. I could afford her on a reporter's salary because she supposedly reared over with a previous rider, but she was never anything but perfect for me. She carted me over the jumps even when I wasn't so sure I wanted to jump.
Which brings me to the subject of my first blog: Life after Tommy. She died about 12 years ago, after giving birth to her son, Royal-T, AKA Roy. This little guy slept in my arms the first and second nights of his life, until I could find a nurse mare for him. As a result, he thinks I'm his mom.
It was heartbreaking to lose Tommy; we'd been a team for more than 10 years. So my father -- those who've read my books, know he was "new age" before the term was coined -- paid for a telephone consult with a horse psychic. She told me Tommy was greeted on the other side by a small man named John who'd been a jockey. That got my attention because I'd named Roy in honor of a good friend's husband who'd died earlier that week. His name middle name had been Royal, and yes, he'd been a jockey.
I asked the psychic if Tommy was angry that I'd had her bred, fully expecting happy psychic talk to assuage my guilt. Something along the lines of, "Oh no, she's happy she could leave you with a new, wonderful horse to be your next companion." Wrong.
"She says it wasn't the best idea," the psychic said.
Turns out she was right. Roy has suffered from an alphabet of issues, starting with OCD and continuing on with EPM. He started limping at 18 months from an OCD lesion in his shoulder. I took him to Barbaro's surgeon, Dean Richardson (this was years before Barbaro died), who wasn't optimistic. But that doctor is a magician and he made Roy ride-able.
Though Tommy apparently hadn't been keen on providing me her offspring, I was giddy in my appreciation and love for this boy. He was a dream ride in every way, and far fancier a horse than I could have afforded. Not only does he look just like his mother, but he's got her forgiving and giving nature. Plus, he's a great mover. Tommy could win over fences, but under saddle? All the other horses in the class would have had to be lame for her to get a ribbon.
Then Roy started stumbling and forgetting how to pick up his right lead. It was EPM. Medications fixed him for a while. But flash forward five years to the second time in a week he fell nose first into the dirt with me astride. This was getting dangerous. I took him to Virginia Tech for yet another neuro exam. "Disaster," was the word the vets used and cautioned me to even be careful how I lead him, fearing that he might fall on me. X-rays revealed a narrowing in the neck vertebrae.
So now Roy is fat, still beautiful and retired. He lives on my farm in Lexington, Va., enjoying a commanding view of the Blue Ridge mountains and all the grass he can eat.
I think about Tommy often and over the years have been plugging in "Sir Thomson" on the sire search looking for a filly -- to no avail. Early last spring, I got serious about buying a new horse. Sir Thomson died in 1993, so it was unlikely I'd find any of his offspring. Plus, I wanted to go the warmblood route this time.
I've been riding TBs my whole riding life, and while Tommy was kick-quiet, she wasn't the norm -- at least not given my experiences with TBs. I wasn't ruling out TBs as much as I was focusing on warmbloods. I'm in my 50s and I'm getting too old to hit the ground.
The problem was my wish list and budget didn't coincide. Shallow as it might seem, I'd like to win -- or pin -- in a hack one time before I die. Priced one of those daisy cutters lately? Here's the kind of ad I found on on BigEq:
"Would make an excellent junior or A/O hunter. .... Reasonably priced at 150K."
Reasonable to whom, Donald Trump?
I spent six months surfing the internet, making calls and driving all over Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland looking for my next mare. I say mare, because even after my breeding disasters (yes, there are more), I still want to breed. Crazy, I know, but spend a few minutes with a new-born foal and tell me you're not hooked on those little quivering velvet noses and love-me eyes.
Did I find her? Next blog: What horse shopping and internet dating have in common and why I'm even more thankful that I'm crazy in love with my husband (and new horse). .

Happy trails,


Laura Crum said...

Jody, I hope you found just the right horse. The story of Tommy and her foal is just too sad. I have a horse who got EPM, and though he is a stable pasture pet today, it was heartbreaking to lose the use of him at 9 yrs old, just when he was really in his prime. So I can empathise with your story. I look forward to hearing about your new horse.

Jami Davenport said...

Jody, Welcome. I'm glad to see you found your way here. I didn't have a spare second at work today to post your message and just got home, so I'm glad you got it worked out. We're glad to have you join us.

Anonymous said...

Welcome, Jody. I'd loved your books, and will be looking forward to reading your blog posts.

jodyjaffe said...

so glad to be here. thanks for inviting me. it was time to enter this century. next stop, a web site!

i did find the right horse and i can't wait to write about her.

Mrs. Mom said...

Hi Jody!

Lexington VA- what a lovely place. I lived not too far from there for a while, and always enjoyed visits into Lexington itself.

Looking forward to more posts from you!

Kit Ehrman said...

Hi Jody, and welcome to EI! I enjoyed your Nattie Gold series very much.