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In the Middle Are the Horsemen by Tik Maynard

An excerpt from "In the Middle Are the Horsemen", the memoir by Tik Maynard.

“I will never forget seeing this gelding walk out of the stall for the first time. He was huge. Legs that went on forever.” Reed, known to folks at Turf Paradise Race Course in Phoenix, Arizona, as Dr. Zimmer, was a vet. He felt the legs of hundreds of horses each month. He watched thousands of horses jog up for him every year.

“But this one was special.”

It was during lunch, January 12, 2015, six months before I bought Mr. Pleasantree, when Reed heard that he might be for sale. He had been watching him for a while. He didn’t rush over, but he also did not leave it until the next day. And as the horse came out of his stall, a smile spread across his face.

“I’ll take him.”

“You want to see him move?” the trainer asked.


“You don’t even know how much I’m asking.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’ll take him.”

The trainer shook his head. “Well then, I guess you will.”

Reed called his girlfriend, Kara, as he led the horse away, through the track stables.

“You have never seen a Thoroughbred like this.”

Kara, of course, took that with a grain of salt. She knew Reed was a cowboy. From Texas. His first true love was Quarter Horses, then racehorses. She wasn’t so sure he knew what made a good jumping horse. So she kept asking him questions.

Exasperated, he finally said: “Just come and see him.”

In the Middle Are the Horsemen

It was Kara’s first experience having a vet jog a horse for her, instead of the other way around. As Reed and Mr. Pleasantree stopped, the horse looked off into the distance. His eyes were bright and bold. Kara took the lead rope right out of Reed’s hands.

“I love him.”

The gelding fell in line politely next to her as she headed straight for her father’s barn at the track. Her parents were both racehorse trainers. People stopped and stared at the pair. The horse was tall and bright as the evening sun. In a zoo full of zebras, he would have been a red giraffe.

Mr. Pleasantree ran twenty races and won four. His sire certainly ran his share of races: Pleasantly Perfect was an American racing legend. Born in 1998, he won the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2003, and the world’s richest horse race, the Dubai World Cup, in 2004. In 2005 he retired as the fourth richest American horse in career earnings.

Pleasantly Perfect was born in Kentucky, raced many times in Kentucky, and then stood at stud in Kentucky until eventually he was sold to Turkish interests. As of 2015, he was standing at the Turkish National Stud.

Mr. Pleasantree’s mother? Spare That Tree.

I never found out much about her, but at least I could tell people where his name came from. Spare That Tree’s father was Woodman, an American bred horse that was famous for siring many winners. And I can only assume her name came from that famous poem-turned-song penned by American George Pope Morris:

Woodman, spare that tree!
Touch not a single bough!
In youth it sheltered me,
And I’ll protect it now.
T’was my forefather’s hand
That placed it near his cot;
There, woodman, let it stand
Thy axe shall harm it not.

Although the tree is spared, the relationship between the boy and a tree reminds me of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. In that tale the tree gave herself to the boy, piece by piece, until finally she was cut down. But even as a stump, good only for sitting on, she remained forgiving...and happy.

Horses, too, are more forgiving than we deserve.

In the Middle Are the Horsemen, the memoir by Tik Maynard.

Kara was the one who started transitioning the big chestnut from his racing life. He was her only project at the time and she kept him close; he became more than a project, he became a friend. She would ride him around the backside after training hours. The two of them would sneak out to school in an adjoining round pen and arena that were once home to the Phoenix mounted police. They also hauled out for lessons, ponied a three-year-old filly around, and trail rode in the desert. He would bathe and clip and stand tied to the trailer.

“He never faltered once,” claimed Kara, “except when it came to cows...”

In the end she and her family were devastated to have to sell him because he was such a lovable horse.

“He’s never met a stranger,” Reed said when I spoke to him.

I like horses like that, I thought.

Reed also told me: “I am so proud of what he has become. It is cool to see how many lives he has touched in less than a year. Thoroughbreds are very versatile animals as we all know, but most are judged by their performance on the track. It’s my opinion that he was a jumper from birth; he just needed someone to realize it. After getting his chance to do what he was truly born to do, he has become royalty in his own right.”

“So you don’t think he was meant to be a racehorse?” I asked.

He chuckled. “He would rather eat the turf than run on it.”

I could picture the other horses galloping, dirt flying, and Mr. Pleasantree standing there, wondering what all the fuss was about as he lowered his head and took a bite.

This excerpt from In the Middle Are the Horsemen is reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books ( Find out more about the publisher and buy this book online in our section on Books, right here on EIE.

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