Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Howard County Chopper

So considering that the whole point of this blog is to tell you all about how I've been able to ride on the cheap in college, I figured it was high time to tell you the story of a 14hh Haflinger named Howard County Chopper. Affectionately known as Chopper, Chops, or the Chopster, she is my favorite pony of all time, and a rescue project horse that I trained for a winter.

She earned her name on Dec 28, 2010, when I attended my first auction ever at New Holland. From what I had heard, it was one of the worst kill auctions on the East Coast, although it had cleaned up its act in recent years. We Gentle Giants volunteers were on the lookout for drafts at risk of the meat man. It wasn't as dismal as I thought it would be--the horses were tied up in two rows facing the walls where they had water and hay available, but it was definitely not a happy environment.  Some of the horses were in bad shape, especially hard keepers like the OTTBs, who were underweight and nervous with all the commotion and unfamiliar horses. I knew this was the last stop before Mexico or Canada for the horses who were not lucky enough to be purchased by private owners or rescues, and it broke my heart that we couldn't help them all.

Chopper caught the Gentle Giants riding instructor's eye when another person at the auction tried to pet her. The appeal was undeniable--she was a ball of winter pony fluff, except for her ears which someone had shaved bald to show that she clipped (not exactly humane in freezing weather...). Chopper lashed out at her would-be admirer, practically taking a chunk out of her arm.

When the instructor went up to check her out, Chops was all lovey dovey. She knew a good home when she saw it. I promised Christine, the owner of Gentle Giants, that I would put some miles on her over my winter break from school. She was ours for $350.
 "My" first pony! photo via GG/Wayback Machine
She was once used to pull firewood, but someone must have hopped on her a couple times, since she knew the cues for forward and whoa. Her steering was seeeerrriously rusty though.  Here's a video of her second ride. She looks so strung out and small. I remember she would just rocket around at a supertrot until you "ran out of quarters."

I worked with her all that winter, and she soon settled into life at the rescue. When Spring Break rolled around, she had transformed into the Barbie pony I spent my childhood dreaming of.
Even I, as a HJ girl, was not going to pull that gorgeous blonde mane so I braided her up most days.
 I knew that I was too tall and that I looked rather silly on her. But I adored her. She had a wonderful temperament, loved attention, and was very willing but also smart enough to make you work for it. Though she improved tremendously with steering, sometimes those issues mysteriously resurfaced when she decided to be done for the day...

Right now Chops is either in a foster home or back at Gentle Giants (can't remember)--she was adopted out on trial, but developed lameness issues during the trial period so it was a no go. I hope she does find a little girl to love her, to kiss her sweet little nose, and to get her prettied up for occasional leadline classes. She is such a special horse, and so easy to love. Even if she isn't as sound as she once was, I think she proves that rescued horses have just as much to give as others.

And funnily enough, she hasn't bitten anyone since the day we rescued her.

Go Chops Go!

EDIT 6/7/2012: Chops is at Gentle Giants with persistent although leadline classes are probably not in her future, she does have an early retirement and a safe home, which is just as good.

All photos from previous versions of the GG website on the Wayback Machine.


  1. She's beautiful! I really loved this post Carla. It's touching and uplifting.

  2. I can't believe that is you! That is so cool!

  3. Take that, writing workshops! Sometimes sentimentality works!