Hawk recently stepped up to the plate. Having proving consistent in his work and training, he deserved a really fun afternoon with his buddies—also ex-racehorses—to explore the beautiful countryside around Unionville, Pennsylvania, on a paper-chase. For those of you not familiar with a paper-chase, it’s an event designed to raise monies for a local cause. Participants enjoy a marked trail ride while going for either a "best" time or fastest time, and jumping fences without getting lost along the way.
The Covert Farm gang was out for a fun day. We were not concerned with times or jumping everything out there. Hawk was able to lead the way and feel very proud of himself, but I also asked him to go in the middle and in the back for training purposes, neither of which he minded. He has reached the point in his life where being first isn’t winning anymore; being happy is. To have a connection with a horse that finally recognizes that the stress, the demand and the adrenaline of racing are over, and to feel him take those deep breaths and "get it"— it’s a bit indescribable, and to be a part of that makes you feel really good.
After our paper-chase that day there was a calm in Hawk's eyes, and I think Hawk's racing trainer Jim Toner saw it, too. Jim and his daughter Catherine, along with Hawk's owners Justin Nicholson and Kathryn Sharp, were out that day and watched as we galloped up a big hill, casually returning at the end of our ride "on the buckle" and without a care in the world. I asked Jim when we were about to untack the horses and put them back on the trailers whether he wanted to get on Hawk. I was serious but I also said it with a chuckle.
Then Jim, at 70-plus years young, got up in the back of the truck and climbed aboard Hawk for the first time in Hawk's life. It was also the first time Jim had been on a horse in MANY years. Hawk knew who he was taking for a walk and he knew he was special. It wasn’t because he ran his heart out and won a race but because he was loved. Although Jim didn’t ride Hawk for very long—most of the time was spent with his daughter taking pictures—everyone around the trailers felt the joy from the ride that afternoon. Through this experience I was able to see the possibility of a new bright future for Hawk: a future where he could help others, be ridden by others, share his love and be loved by many.