Decks Ambition Gave Life and Hope Back to Many During His Life
By Gabrielle Sasse, information provided by Jenny Rosetti
Horse people are always worried about having a safe, warm barn for their horses. But how many horses win a barn for their owners? Jenny Rosetti of North Pole, Alaska (yes, North Pole) knows how that feels! One of Judy Pryor’s legendary Deck Of Stars babies, Decks Ambition, has changed the lives of not one but two families. We reached out to Jenny, who was happy to share her story with us:
“In 1995, Mike and I traveled to the Quarter Horse Congress aboard our motor home. I had never been to any big show like this before. I was overwhelmed! We stayed on the grounds and used the same showers as the show people. So of course running into Lynn Palm and others was incredible. I was up and out the door early and not back in until the show closed down for the evening. I never did see everything.”
Jenny loved horses for the better part of her life before she met Mike, but being a single parent for a while had kept her away from owning them. “When he pointed out to me that I could not afford to do horses, I exclaimed ‘How would you like it if someone told you that you could never hunt again, and you could only watch from the outside!?’ I cried, and he thought about what I had said. To make a long story shorter, I came home with a new truck and we left our motor home and new Featherlite two-horse trailer in New York at his brother’s place.”
“It was a bit like putting the cart before the horse, but over the winter, I studied the Quarter Horse Journal and studied up on bloodlines. Traveling all over the U.S. to look at horses was not an option, so I needed to look at videos. Some people wouldn’t send them saying they never sold a horse off a video. Good thing for Judy Pryor!”
Judy sent Jenny a video of babies she had, with a few others tossed in. “The babies were great, because they all wanted to be in her face making it a little hard to shoot the video. Her son was there helping, but she still had a tough time. She would rattle off sire and dam names, and what they had done show records. She is like a walking encyclopedia! There was one long, tall colt that you couldn’t help but see because he came bucking across the screen like ‘Look at me, look at me!’ However, Judy never addressed him on her video, because he wasn’t really owned by her.” He was soon to become Jenny’s “white-socked wonder horse.”
“I figured he would make a great Hunter Under Saddle horse, maybe a Hunter/Jumper. I also chose a pretty little Impressive bred mare, Deck’s Stardust, for my western pleasure/trail, which is another long story. I actually just sent her down with Judy’s best mare, Esprit, to be bred to Blazing Hot! The mare is a half sister to the colt that we now call ‘Stilts.’ Decks Ambition was the long legged, white-socked show-off that I had seen in the video and loved.”
The video convinced Jenny to travel to Judy’s ranch in Nebraska. “It was so much fun getting to meet Judy and all of her horses. They were all so people oriented! I had never seen such friendly horses, both young and old. When I first met Stilts, I saw he had many major scars. I asked Judy what had happened to him, and she said that before he came to her, he had gotten caught in some barbed wire as a baby. It didn’t change my mind about him though. He was lucky to have survived it! Very lucky!” exclaimed Jenny.
“During this visit, and other subsequent visits to Judy’s, I always got to meet other people’s ‘Deck’ horses. They are ALL people horses! I did not meet one with a bad attitude toward humans. I could walk among all of her ‘friends’ and feel at ease. I can’t always say that for other horses.”
“I learned I had an eye for the ‘GOOD’ ones during those subsequent visits too! I was very fond of a fellow named Dot Com, and for a colt that became These Irons Are Hot. When Judy asked me which ones I would pick to take home if she gave me one, I would answer and she would always reply, ‘Oh no, you can’t have that one.’ Darn it all! I would have cleaned up royally in Alaska, but we didn’t have that kind of money. I can’t believe how many horses she has now!”
Stilts was just a two year old when Jenny and Mike got him home, and they wanted to give him time to grow. “I told my daughter we wouldn’t ride him until he was three. Although she was disappointed, she delved into training him for Showmanship. She didn’t do badly either for working with a two year old! She showed at local shows, and we were rookies at the Quarter Horse Shows in 1996. The two ‘new kids on the block’ burst onto the show scene and did quite well in both open and AQHA shows.”
Stilts’ temperament was quite good, although Jenny’s daughter experienced his stubborn streak from time to time, especially in her dealings with getting him to go through water. He earned the nickname “Butthead.”
“A year or so later, a friend of mine let us know that Stilts’ full brother was at Judy’s and wasn’t looking too good,” Jenny explained. “We happened to be making a trip down to Schroeder Ranch to drop off our yearling stallion by Blazing Hot for training, and we stopped by Judy’s. My daughter led out this scrawny, sickly looking yearling and I took one look and said ‘BEAVIS.’ I had never watched that show (Beavis and Butthead), but he sure looked like what I thought a Beavis would look like. Judy gave us a deal, because we figured he’d be lucky to make it alive to Alaska. We got him medicine and papers and home he came with us. His name came later -Deckn The Night Away, but “Beavis” really stuck. Everyone soon knew him and Stilts as ‘Beavis and Butthead’ among my daughter’s friends.”
The two grew and ended up looking like twins, “except Beavis was built like a Warmblood and Stilts more like a Thoroughbred. Two white socked wonder horses!” Jenny laughed.
“Stilts was easy for me to train, but he did have a stubborn streak. We just had to reach common ground and make things seem like they were his idea in the first place.”
“As a four years old, I put my seven year old neighbor on him for lessons. She showed in both English walk trot and walk trot trail. This was a hyperactive child and gave her parents quite the time, but she behaved perfectly on her ‘friend Stilty,’ as did he!”
Jenny’s husband also often showed Stilts in Amateur Halter at the Quarter Horse Shows. “True to his great personality, in one class as a judge was looking Stilts over, Stilts decided to do his ‘Let me stick my tongue out at you’ pose. The judge had to do a double take, and asked Mike if he trained him to do that. Of course the answer was no, but he did pick some unique times to do it.”
“Stilts was also an escape artist!” Jenny shared. “Not one that would open gates or run through fences, he more thinks of things as games. He waits for doors or gates that someone opens. If he sees a possible way to escape, he will bolt out and as he goes, he always lets out a squeal of joy. That must be a ‘nanny-nanny got you again’ sort of squeal…”
“Our farm grew to include breeding, training and sales.” Jenny explained. “Someone inquired at the local feed store about horses for sale, and my name was given out. The horse seeker was Aleatha Martin. She told me about her adopted daughter Arielle, who was born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).” Arielle was exposed to alcohol before birth, resulting in disabling brain damage. Although she had above average intelligence, her brain could not consistently organize her thoughts or retain information. Her nervous system was also affected, causing tremors and weakness in her arms and back. She was sunken into depression, focused on her inadequacies and faults.
“The two came out to see what horses I had available, and at the time, it was Stilts and Beavis. I tried leaning them toward Beavis because he was more laid back, but Arielle liked Stilts. Since it was winter, I thought it best we haul him up to my friend’s barn. She had a heated indoor riding facility and also was home to a therapeutic riding program.”
“When we got there, I put him in cross ties in the aisle way and left him with Arielle for a few moments. When I returned, I just knew that they were meant to be together. I started to cry. She rode in the therapeutic program, and Stilts fit in like he had been doing it forever. Go figure, ‘Mr. Dressage,’ ‘Mr. always-ready-to-go-go-go.’ ”
Jenny reminisced of the first times with the pair. “Arielle would repeat quotes that famous people had said about horses while she rode in some private lessons with me. She was quick to learn, and was soon going over little jumps, which her mom did not necessarily approve of. Stilts took such great care of Arielle, and I told her mom that the pair could go a long way. We presented Stilts, all wrapped in ribbons and bows to Arielle on her 13th birthday.”
“Stilts took great care of Arielle. The pair rode in a clinic at a farm he had never been to which had metal guard railing along the arena that would pop and ping every time a rock would hit it. Stilts never missed a beat and neither did his best friend Arielle. I was in awe, as was everyone else there including the clinician.”
Stilts brought the life back to Arielle, and she became a strong, glowing young girl who loved to write stories. Her grades in school improved dramatically, she began to get strength back in her arms and she was making friends at school and in 4H! In 2003, Arielle became the first disabled rider to compete at a Quarter Horse Show in Alaska. He carried Aleatha’s five and six year old children in leadline classes, and Aleatha herself in Rookie classes and trail rides. Even “Dad” gave in and learned how to ride! He wouldn’t ride any horse but Stilts..
“That summer, Arielle had to move to Anchorage. They stayed in touch, but it was not the same. About a year later, Aleatha told me about an essay she wrote about Stilts and Arielle. This essay was for the MD Barns Silver Spur Award- an award put on by the AQHA that honors Quarter Horses who have made an impact in the lives of others or who have been put into the spotlight, and giving the quarter horse a good public perception. I went to the AQHA site and voted like all the other members did. I was surprised when I found out he was in the top finalists, and more so when I found out I was going to the World Show because he was in the Top Three!” MD Barn decided to give all three finalists a barn that year, so Stilts won himself a brand new barn. The barn was erected in Anchorage, where Stilts was living with Arielle. Until then, he had been boarded at a local stable.
“Stilts returned to us in 2005, but he wasn’t done helping riders,” Jenny shared. “He went on to help my friend Marguarite who has MS, and my step grandson Michael who was diagnosed ADHD with some other underlying problems. Michael showed him in the 4-H program and did very well. Stilts was a rock while Michael bounced and pulled on him. It didn’t seem to phase him, he just did his job. Stilts definitely knew who was special, and who wasn’t!”
“In August of this year, I had to make the hard decision to put him down.” Jenny explained. “Crippling arthritis from the wounds he had suffered as a baby and a bone chip in his knee weren’t comfortable for him anymore. I hated to be the bearer of such bad news about our decision to put him down. Arielle, his angel, came to see him the day that we had to put him down, and he was so proud and happy to be with his little girl again. She was there for him as he had always been there for her! It broke my heart for her at the loss of him. I had been so blessed! So, so blessed, as I believe all of us were whose lives he touched.”
“I hope through all of our words, and pictures that you will see him as we did. He left us way too soon, but I know God has His reasons. He will keep his nephew Hotroddin On Ice or ‘Rodney,’ company until we see them again. “
Thank you Jenny and Judy for sharing this great story with us! It truly is amazing how some horses can touch the lives of so many, and sometimes even save a few.