The Story of Jake by Amy Von Scholz
Updated: May 10, 2019
There once was a forgotten horse named Barnaby. My sister Lisa thought he was a boarder a the stable where she was working on Long Island. It wasn't long before she discovered he was a dangerous lesson horse destined for the slaughter truck.
At the same time, Lisa needed more lesson horses so she decided to free him from his dark sunken basement stall to really evaluate him. Barnaby was led to the paddock where he ripped the lead rope from Lisa's hand and galloped off. After being locked in a stall for months, he ran and ran until his chest was heaving.
Next, it was time to ride him. Lisa mounted and put her leg on. Barnaby didn’t go. She put her spurs in his sides and he ran backwards. It had been reported that he bucked badly and tended to run people into walls. Somehow, Lisa and Barnaby cut a deal and he began to move. Over the next couple of weeks, he relearned some basics. He had no canter at all. His little feet just didn’t know what to do.
Lisa enlisted my help with his training although I really didn’t want to ride Barnaby. I thought he was ugly and mean. His chest hung in slack down toward his knees. His neck was upside down and fall of under neck muscles from lifting his head to see shreds of daylight out of the bars of his stall. Plus, I was in love with Trek, a big beautiful warmblood owned by my sister.
But, I begrudgingly started to ride Barnaby. He was hard but his trot was very smooth. We started to teach him dressage to help him balance and get supple and obedient. I spent my entire summer riding Barnaby. We taught him to jump, which in a round about way taught him how to canter. And, he started getting good and gaining the right muscles.
One late summer day, I was relaxing in the sun with a wet Barnaby grazing at the end of my lead rope, tired from a good schooling session. I saw a man coming down the hill with a saddle. Oh no! He was coming to ride Barnaby the lesson horse. I cried and ran to my sister. We had to put a stop to this so this abused young horse wouldn’t be ruined again!
The solution - we would buy him! My parents wouldn’t let me have a horse, so we had to do it secretly. He was $900 and I had birthday money from my sweet sixteen party. Lisa’s plan was to pretend it was her horse so we could get her employee discount at the barn. This would be a big secret! Amazingly, we did it and saved Barnaby from his terrible fate. The folks a the barn called him Barnaby-Jake and we got a stall plate for him with my sister’s name. The illusion was complete. I worked for my sister at the barn mucking stalls and caring for her 3 horses. She continued my riding education as I laundered my riding lesson money to cover his bills.
A horse with a new life would need a new name. So Lisa came up with Unspoken Passion which was a line from the Billy Joel song, ‘Just the Way You are’. We settled on Jake as a barn name. It suited him because if he were a person, he’d be a cool guy - driving a Harley and drinking beer.
We started to compete. At our first dressage show, he ran sideways out of the ring because an umbrella by the judge frightened him. He went outside of the parameters for the show jumping phase and we were eliminated. I hadn't mastered control of his outside shoulder yet. And the years went on. We moved to a different barn on Long Island and I was allowed to say he was mine (but not to my dad who would’ve had a fit!)
I took Jake to college and in our travels together we were at 27 barns. After becoming a champion in dressage, jumpers and eventing, he was my best lesson horse. When he was 30 years old, Jake gave a lesson to an elderly lady the day before she died. Jake's last barn was his own. It was our barn - Blue Ribbon Farm & Academy where Jake was a mascot who roamed free on the grounds eating grass and greeting visitors.
Jake was cremated and I spread his ashes all over the many barns we had been to together as best friends.