Fern, Woody, and Zotti

Horse Tales — Fern, Woody, and Zotti

by Barb Lehmann

Barb and Fern

The story of Fern, my beautiful and precious friend and teacher.

She was an expensive horse, once cosseted and fussed over. She won prizes and appeared in magazines. She had custom made tack and had only the best of the best.

Until a mistake was made. She was put away, while still hot, and she foundered: her feet were ruined and painful. All her value was lost. She became an expensive burden, no good for riding, useless for showing, she was delegated to a field in a boarding facility. In constant pain, she couldn't hold her own against the other horses when the hay was put out, so she became thinner and thinner. Her hoofs, once so carefully groomed, rotted away to almost nothing. And her beautiful gentle eyes became dull.

That is how two old friend of hers, found her. they moved heaven and earth to make things right for her, and brought her back from the brink. They wanted her to find a home where she would be adored, and where she would be in constant contact with people that she loved and trusted.

That is how she came to me. A first-time horse owner, Fern forgave me all my mistakes and amateur efforts. She woke me up every morning with her loud whinny, she rewarded me for grooming her by grooming me with her soft nose. And she let me stand with my arms around her neck, breathing in that wonderful horse aroma.

She nuzzled my children, and let chickens sit on her back. And never once, despite all her pain, was she ever impatient with any of us.

Knowing her was one of the great experiences of my life. She taught me things about horses....wonderful things...things that you can learn without riding them. In her memory, to the best of my abilities, I'll always have room for old, unwanted, "used up" horses. Just for the sheer pleasure of loving them.


The story of Woody, a working horse who will never again have to earn his keep.

My little girl Dodi, tells me that horses are the best to tell your secrets to because their mouths are always full of grass, and they can't tell.

Her pony's name is Woody. By the vet's best guess he's well into his 20's, if not older.

Woody was a pony-ride pony. He was at a farm in Mission the first time I saw him in 1999. He was getting too old to give rides so his owners put an add in the paper advertising a "bomb proof pony". We wanted a companion for Fern so we went to see him, and I loved him on sight.

We knew we would take him before we even got close enough to touch. He is not beautiful by any human measure of horse beauty, and his owner began to apologize for him almost immediately. He has a sagging back, huge ears, and needs his food mashed to a pulp because most of his teeth are gone.

Woody won't go anywhere fast. Dodi sits on his back sometimes while he is eating or lies beside him in the sunshine. She doesn't want to ride him, she feels somehow it would be an indignity to inflict on him. She just wants to be with him. She will stand beside him, her arm about his neck, and gaze solemnly into the distance. A miracle for a little girl who seldom stands still.

She thinks Woody is beautiful. No, he didn't teach her to ride, but he taught her other important lessons. Respect for all life. About an animal's right to grow old and be treated with kindness after a life of serving. That beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And that a friend is a friend, regardless of what they do for you. We cherish every day that we can share with him.


I love this big , clumsy clown of a Zotti.

There was a horse in the field across the street. He had no shelter but a broken down feeding trough, and his hoofs were HUGE, and cracking up the front. He stood for years at the fence in the mud and rain and sleet and snow, just staring . People would drive by and throw beer bottles at him from their cars, and he wouldn't allow me to touch him over the fence. I tried desperately not to get involved because...well because I simply had no more room, no more money, and no more sympathy from my husband.

I couldn't (and still can't) figure out who he belonged to. There were renters in the house, but he didn't belong to them. I reported him, along with a lot of other people, to the SPCA, but nothing changed.

I started bringing him bits of hay, and a bucket of apple and carrot chunks. Then he started waiting for me, and I knew I was lost. I would stand with my umbrella in the pouring rain talking to him, and making promises that I didn't know how I would be able to keep.

Soon he would whinny and run to the fence as soon as he heard my gate open. On winter nights I would hear him whinnying. I would look through my bedroom window and see him at his fence, always with his eyes glued to our gate. New renters moved in. My constant nagging — telling them he needed to see a farrier, he needed a fly mask, he should see a vet, he needed to be dewormed, could I bring him some hay?, had they called the farrier yet?, did they buy a fly mask yet? — eventually got on their nerves I think, and one day they asked if I wanted to have the horse.

YOU BETCHA! So over he came one sunny afternoon (soon after we had lost Fern) I was shaking in my wellingtons. He was BIG. He was not OLD. I wasn't even sure he was TAME...Luckily he fell deeply in love with Woody, my other old gelding. If a horse's eyes can light up, his lit up when he saw Woody. He would walk in endless circles around and around him, staring lovingly at his behind.


We had some outright power struggles — with me ending face first in the mud. But it has worked out, and I love this big , clumsy clown of a horse. I named him Zotti, meaning raggedy in German because that's how he looked when I first saw him — his mane knotted and dirty, his winter coat hanging off him in great hanks, and his gigantic, uncared for hoofs. Wherever his owners are....I thank them.


On October 21st, Zotti died peacefully, apples in his mouth. His cancer was getting too strong for him and Barb let him go with dignity.

In memory of my Zotti, who could take my breath away when he ran, and made me work hard for his loyalty and respect.

May he have found greener fields than mine, full of apple trees whose branches hang down full and low. In a place where he will never be alone, and where there are no fences.

Thank you Zotti. I love you.

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