I was for fortunate enough to have Sarah share her beautiful eloquently written story of Tiger. She also allowed me to honor Tiger by making a sun catcher with his special memories in mind, with her hair lovingly fused inside. One of the memories she wanted to empahsize was the color of Tiger's harness in the blaze on his head alittle larger. Thank you Sarah for sharing your story and trusting me to honor Tiger's life with love. Below is his story.
will ever hope to know. As we grow, this unique connection changes based on our experiences
and will either flourish or falter. I always embraced my connection, (arachnids and most insects
excluded) with a sense of tranquility and wonder. Horses, with their ultimate grace and
dominating power, quickly became my favorite of creatures. Once I started riding, I immediately
felt a sense of deep trust and attachment.
As I continued to evolve my fascination, the unique personality of each equine began to teach
me new things. It was apparent that my personality mirrored certain horses more than others.
So, when I started helping rehabilitate and retrain off-track Thoroughbreds (OTTB), I knew I
would fall in love with some and eagerly rehome the rest. In the two years I’ve been part of the
program, I’ve had two horses with which I really connected.
The first was three year old filly. She was a champion on trails, going over any hurdle I pointed
her towards. Her sweet personality drew me in and for a full summer, she was my special bond.
When she was adopted to a loving family with a young girl to love her unconditionally, I wasn’t
certain I’d find another horse that stole my heart like she had.
Months passed as fall turned to winter and winter to early spring. New horses were coming into
the program and life started sprouting at the farm. One horse, an eleven year old, bay, war horse
with a beautiful star sparked my interest. Call Tiger had a gentle eye and a regal presence about
him that commanded admiration. As a descendent of Secretariat and Storm Cat, he started 114
races, earning over $267,000 and retired without injury.
As we began to evaluate his future career, he proved to be as amicable under saddle as he was
standing in a field. I rode him lazily around the ring for his first time off the track and I was
hooked. Never once did he test the limits of his rider or attempt to pull a dirty stunt. I’d had a
recent fall and my confidence was shaken, but with Tiger, I wasn’t afraid. Immediately, I felt him
wholeheartedly trust me and I reciprocated the feeling.
Still unsettled from losing the three year old filly, I was hesitant to allow another horse so deeply
into my heart. Others at the farm joked that Tiger was my replacement. Clearly, they saw
something spark between the two of us that I tried to deny. I didn’t want to get hurt again. After
all, our goal is to adopt out these wonderful companions, not hoard them to ourselves. I held
strong to my perceived guard, unconsciously unaware that I’d already lost the battle.
As the weather grew nicer, I started taking Tiger on any adventure I could find. His first trail
ride was on the farm with a group of six riders. His only hesitation, was briefly at the edge of the
stream where the muddy footing was deep and unsettling. With a little encouragement from a
more seasoned horse, he walked right into the stream, and even pawed playfully at the water!
While my heart jumped at his vivacious antics, more pieces of my wall floated away with the
trickling hum of the water.
With his impressive disposition, we opted to take Tiger on a paper chase on April 2. He tolerated
being moderately dressed to support Light It Up Blue for Autism Awareness. He loaded the
trailer with bored interest and didn’t flinch at the saddle bags I introduced to him. Having
rained earlier in the morning, the woods were sloppy and I was unsure how he would handle the
less-than-desirable footing. After briefly trying to walk along the edge of the pathway, he finally
resigned to easily move through the mud. Pride rose through me as this stoic war horse trudged
over rocks, through three rivers, and jumped any obstacle facing us. We encouraged each other
as our confidence combined into one force of trust and respect. By the end of the seven mile
trek, I was hopelessly in love. One of my favorite moments during the chase was when the owner
of the farm looked at us and said, “We aren’t going to rehome this horse, are we?”
A second paper chase a few weeks later only increased my infatuation for my regal gelding. He
once again faced multiple terrains and obstructions with grace, power, and elegance. The steep
hillsides, larger downed trees, and rocky paths were no challenge. Since the horses handled the
chase with such valor, we decided to let them gallop the home stretch. Competing for first, Tiger
flew up the hill with ease. I tentatively allowed him to set his own pace, unsure if the racehorse
would be released. As the top of the hill rounded into view, I swept away my hesitation and gave
him full permission to race the wind. Tears crept down my cheeks as the wind whipped past us
and I felt the sensation of flying. There are few moments in life when time seems to stop and you
are truly living in that moment; this was one of them. My insecurities faded as ecstasy took hold,
and my connection with Tiger was solidified.
On April 21, Tiger came in from the field scrapped and not himself; presenting strange signs of
colic. I felt a tinge of panic, knowing my sweet war horse was injured. The farm owner reassured
me that he would be taken care of, but something nagged at me when I hung up the phone. I
wanted to be by his side. Although I hadn’t officially adopted him, he was my horse and he
needed me. Before I could even think of telling my boss I was leaving work early, one phone call
shattered my world. Through breathless sobs, I understood only three words: Tiger was gone.
Only an hour and a half after finding him that morning, he collapsed in his stall.
I hadn’t realized how much I truly loved Tiger until I felt my heart shatter. Silent sobs thrust
their way through my body. Denial flooded my mind as I recalled everything I'd done the day
prior. Surely there was a mistake; he was happily grazing when I’d left. But alas, even as I drove
to the farm to say my final goodbye, the truth remained as such - my sweet, majestic steed was
Call Tiger left an impression with everyone he met. His unexpected death rippled through the
racing community as the devastation hit his previous owners and trainers. Social media flooded
us with condolences and words of intended healing. He had a nobility to his presence and such a
kind eye. He was respectful and honest in everything he did. He truly loved trotting through
woods, galloping across green fields, and playing in cool streams. He mirrored me in so many
ways, and the only time he hesitated doing anything was when I was unsure. Tiger trusted
unconditionally and in return, earned the respect of all. He never once acted unruly. He was a
gentleman. I loved every moment I spent with him, and although I only knew him a short while,
the devastation and ache I feel for him is hollowing. He was full of love and life and there will
never be another like him.
Dearest Tiger, I know you are galloping in greener pastures and though I hurt deeply that you
are no longer here, I know we will meet again. You gave me so much and I just pray that you
know how loved you were by all of us. You will never be forgotten, my magnificent man.
Thank you for everything. I love you, now and always.