No Fences—Every Horse and Every Horseman has a Story
A Journey of Healing
This Gun’s The Won’s splashy personality has led one family on a journey filled with slides, spins and chrome.
By Alannah Castro
Horse lovers know the feeling—that indescribable pull that draws you to these four-footed dreammakers without knowing why; something deep in your soul tells you these majestic, graceful creatures will love and support you no matter what. A love of horses has gotten many families through the ups and downs of life. For Ginger Dwyer and her family, their love of horses provided balm for their souls in their darkest days and led them on a journey they had never imagined.
Growing up, Ginger always had an innate love of horses—what teenage girl doesn’t—but she was never able to indulge that passion. Later, life got in the way of her equestrian dreams, but hoofbeats continued to dance across her heart and through the back of her mind.
“Dad and my mom were divorced, and I lived with my mom and stepdad. It wasn’t in the cards for me to have a horse growing up. By the time I was an adult and had a family, I decided it was a dream I had that didn’t come to fruition and I moved on,” Ginger said. “When we were reflecting after my grandpa passed away over things we really wanted in life, that was a little seed that had always been there, but I thought it wouldn’t happen. While we were talking, I said, ‘before I die, I want to own a horse.’ ”
Lifelong reining enthusiasts themselves, Ginger’s father Tom and stepmother Sherry Sumpter’s interest was piqued by Ginger’s under-the-radar bucket list item. Tom, a past president of the National Reining Horse Association, was an avid reiner until he became wheelchair-bound following a riding accident in 2000. Sherry grew up showing reiners with NRHA Hall of Famer Bill Horn and noted non-pro coach Sam Smith.
As Tom and Sherry made their way back to Florida, their minds swirled with ideas about how to turn Ginger’s pipedream into reality.
We purchased Whispers Elderberry (QH) for Ginger to learn on, Sherry says, and we invited Ginger down to Florida for Thanksgiving to surprise her with him.
Once face-to-face with her future mount, Ginger immediately began to fall head over heels for the venerable veteran. When her parents announced he belonged to her, Ginger couldn’t believe her hidden desire was now a reality.
“It was a lifetime dream,” Ginger said. “It was amazing, and that’s what started everything.”
Only the Beginning
An eager student, Ginger absorbed everything about horses like a thirsty sponge, learning how to put on a halter to how to clean hooves, all in one cherished weekend trip each month from her home in Indiana to her barnyard respite in Florida.
“Learning about horses brought me and my parents so much closer together because we had a common interest that we could work together on,” Ginger said.
Yearning for those special weekend trips and time spent soaking up sunshine and knowledge with her horse, Ginger decided to back up her bags permanently and move to Florida. With newfound accessibility, Ginger’s riding flourished and she moved into the realm of horse showing. But knowing her aged partner could only take her so far, Ginger and her father started talking about longer-term plans: raising a homegrown reining prospect of their own.
Tom made plans to breed his Quarter Horse mare to the flashy splash white Gunners Indian, dreams of a palomino overo colt dancing through their heads.
“Every day I’d go out to that mare and I’d rub her belly and I’d say, ‘This is going to be a palomino Paint stud,’ ” Ginger said.
In the middle of a balmy February Florida night, the foal they had been so excitedly waiting for finally arrived. Even though it was 4 a.m., Sherry immediately rushed over. Sure enough, there was a palomino overo colt, his bald face gleaming with wet where his dam had licked him clean, his tiny white ears swiveling as he took in the new sights and sounds of his world.
Frolicking in the Florida sunshine, “Apache” grew into a personality as brazen as his flashy coat. Always a social butterfly, he earned the laughter and love of his family with quirky antics and his sweet nature.
“He doesn’t have a care in the world,” Sherry said. “He is just so huggable and adorable; there’s not a mean bone in his body.”
Ginger and Apache bonded through daily attention, and the gelding blossomed into a talented reining prospect. But as Ginger sent the 2-year-old to train with Mike McEntire, the normally joyous time was overshadowed by a cloud of sorrow: Tom was severely ill and was steadily getting worse. Ever the horseman, dreams of seeing the family’s homebred reiner hit the showpen proved to be the best medicine for the ailing Tom.
“Tommy got to see him show for the first time at the McGee Farms Futurity,” Sherry said. “It was special because Tommy was really sick during that time, and that horse did a lot for all of us. He gave us some hope and something to look forward to.”
A few weeks later, Tom’s illness got the better of him, and he died on September 1. But even in their darkest hours, Apache continued to give Sherry and Ginger a glimmer of hope.
“This little horse really kept us moving forward,” Sherry said.
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Winter 2016 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.