Growing up in Colorado I always dreamed of someday owning one of my Uncle Ted’s Morgan horses. Ted Willrich, my dad’s brother, owned a ranch called Lone Pine Farm near Elizabeth, Colorado, where he raised Saddlebreds and then Morgans. I remember them as beautiful and high-spirited horses that excelled in the show ring.
However, my horse dream did not come true as a child. My family situation just didn’t allow for the luxury of horse ownership. So I grew up, got married, raised a family, and got to see the world thanks to Uncle Sam, …. but I always held onto my dream.
My husband, Lee, had been stationed in Omaha, Nebraska, as his final assignment with the US Air Force, and after he retired from the military we decided to stay there awhile. By then the kids were grown with children of their own and I had met a friend, Sheila, who also had the horse dream, so eventually we talked our husbands into getting on board with adding horses to our lives. They had no idea what we were getting them into, I am afraid!
The first thing I did when I got the green light to get a horse, back in 2001, was to contact Uncle Ted, who was getting up there in age by then, to see if he might have a Morgan that would be suitable for my first horse (in my 40’s). He said he only had broodmares, no riding horses, but he would maybe see about getting one of them broke to ride. While I waited to hear back from him both my friend and I started looking at horses for ourselves. It didn’t take long to find quarter horses we fell in love with, so I let Uncle Ted know he was off the hook. No Morgan from Uncle Ted.
Fast forward about 16 years. My husband and I had by now built our dream home near Colorado Springs, and I still had my beloved quarter horse, Jim, “By Jiminy Jack”, but he was getting up there in age, 21 by now, and he was slowing down. I wasn’t ready to be done riding trails, so the thought was in the back of my mind that I should be looking at adding another horse, but the idea of starting over with a young one did not appeal to me. When I moved back to Colorado I had tried searching the web for horses with the Lone Pine name but hadn’t had much luck; it seemed like finding a Lone Pine Morgan just wasn’t in the cards for me, and I wasn’t interested in just ‘any’ horse. So my horse search was put on the back burner for another time in the future.
In August of this year a group of my Nebraska horsey friends came out to Colorado to have a dude ranch adventure. My friend, Sheila, was among them, and she decided to stay a couple extra days. We had heard from the wranglers at the dude ranch that Buck Brannamen was holding a clinic nearby, so we decided to go audit.
At the event I just happened to strike up a conversation with another horse woman and the subject turned to Morgans. The gal, Denise, was saying how she had a Morgan and I told her that my friend also had a Morgan, and my uncle used to raise Morgans in the area. Denise asked me who my uncle was and I answered, “Ted Willrich”. Oh my! You would have thought I’d said, “King George the Second” or something! She was so emotional, she said Ted had been such a good friend of hers, and she missed him so much, and ….. “Can I give you a hug?” (Uh, sure, … why not,… lol). She also mentioned that her friend, Teri, coincidentally, had just taken in one of Ted’s horses to her horse rescue two days prior and she was going to be looking for a home for him. He was a 16-year-old gelding by the name of Lone Pine Panache.
I’m afraid Buck’s presentation was lost on us right about then, as the next thing we knew we were all sharing pictures on our smart phones and talking about our horses and she pulled up Panache’s registration papers and a recent picture, and it was love at first sight! He was a big beautiful black boy with the typey Morgan look! Denise said she thought Panache was probably Ted’s last foal, as he had stopped breeding shortly after Panache was foaled, in 2001, —- the same year I had gotten my very first horse, Jim. Panache had lived with Ted for the first two years of his life, then was bought and trained by Teri, who then sold to her friend, Jackie, when he was five. He had been a pleasure and trail horse, not in the show ring, and was everybody’s favorite. Circumstances were now forcing Jackie to rehome him, so she relinquished him back to her friend Teri’s rescue, knowing she would make sure he found a good home.
And now. Finally. Now I had a chance to have one of Ted’s Morgans. And what a Morgan he was!
When Sheila and I went to see him a day or two later (we were laughing about how amazing it was that I would happen to be horse shopping once again the days she happened to be visiting!) I wasn’t sure what to expect. I remembered Ted’s show horses and how high spirited and flashy they were, in my memory. I wondered if Panache would be the temperament I was looking for to continue on my mountain trail ride adventures when by now I was in my 60’s and not looking for a big challenge.
What I found was a sweet-natured, big doll of a horse, so friendly and calm, I was overcome with the excitement to think that maybe, just maybe, this could be ‘the one’, the horse of his that Ted would have wanted me to have. I was allowed to mess around with him and ride him, under the watchful eye of Teri, who also happened to be his original trainer, as I got acquainted a little bit.
I noticed that his halter was exactly the same halter I had on Jim, my horse at home. Coincidence? Or just another affirmation that this is the horse I needed to take home?
When riding was done and I’d had a chance to bathe him and pick out his feet Teri suggested that I take him to the arena and let him roll. But when I removed his lead rope, instead of rolling he chose to stay with me and follow me all over the place, as if to say, “Hey, lady, I like you.” I couldn’t even shoo him away! He just wanted to be with me.
Everything fell together for us. So many of us have been marveling at how this came about, all the unlikely connections that led me to Panache at just the right moment, when he was ready for a new home. But there has never been a doubt in my mind that he was meant to be MY horse!
I believe Panache is a blessing from God. There have been so many signs and such perfect timing, –what others may attribute to coincidence,– telling me that this was meant to happen. At last I have one of Ted’s own horses,– not only the same lineage, but actually one he himself laid hands on and brought into the world, the very same year I was looking for my first horse. I’m so happy that at that time I got my QH, Jim, he was exactly the right horse for me at that time in my life, and he has taught me so much.
And now I am ready for Panache! And he is ready to come home, back to the Willrich family, full circle. Welcome home, Panache!