Farewell to a Hero: ThorBy Paula Parisi April 1, 2011
The War Horse & Militaria Heritage Foundation has lost one of its beloved members. Thor, an elegant Arabian, passed away from an embolism earlier this year. He was a memorable character and will be much missed.
Thor died as any horse would wish—peacefully, inside his stall, with his stable mates looking on. He was the youngest member of the herd, and his death came as a shock. Because Thor came from a rescue, his exact age wasn’t known, but he was believed to be about 16.
Rosanne Nimes, who at one point ran a small-scale Arabian Rescue out of Sunland, found the gray gelding at a feedlot in Chino eight years ago. “He was sculpted like a horse from antiquity; a striking, high-spirited creature that could ride on clouds,” said War Horse & Militaria Foundation leader Fritz Bronner. Nimes had hoped to make him her trail horse, but he proved a bit too high-spirited for the task. Several trainers were bounced to the dust before Nimes sent him on to military school at the War Horse Foundation, which eventually purchased him for $1.
“He was never going to be one of those horses that just strolled along the trail without a care in the world, owner Margie Beeson said. “He had several issues, one of which was to bolt when frightened, but we ground-worked him for three to four months and then started to ride him.”
To say Thor was an easy horse to ride would have been misleading, added Beeson, who said that a special bitting system went a long way toward increasing rider communication and tractability. “Plus, he started to trust us.” Drilling him in an arena, with his stable mates, proved to be the perfect job for Thor, and with proper bitting and a suitably alert rider, he was able to participate with the War Horse unit in the 2005 and 2006 Rose Parades.
“We believe the work that we do with the War Horse & Militaria Heritage Foundation benefited Thor the most for his ability to cope in stressful situations,” Beeson said. The group practices every weekend, and the horses all work in close quarters, trusting one another as a group.” Thor’s confidence grew as he worked with his performance herd. With his head down and ears forward he would nicker happily at a job he seemed to love, and for which his flashy movements were well-suited. Thor’s trot was “the most amazing, floaty ride,” said Beeson. “Everyone admired his leg movement and head carriage.” Added Bronner: “He looked like the
classical Greek statue and the knight on a chessboard, so powerful and clean.”
Before the start of every War Horse performance, Thor could be seen prancing around, but as soon as the music started, he was all business, executing his moves with precision and professionalism. As time went by and he became familiar with what was expected of him, he was even ridden in sidesaddle exhibitions, performing for a crowd of thousands at the Scottish Festival.
Thor was able to accomplish endurance, trail, jumping and tent pegging, and he participated in dozens of other parades and performance activities for the War Horse Foundation. All who knew Thor were moved by his grace. The morning following his death, each member of his herd silently rubbed and pressed against Thor’s nose and flicked his ears, saying a final farewell to their great friend and comrade.
“I have no doubt that wherever he his, Thor is still doing that floaty and flashy trot, holding up his beautiful, classical head, his spirit free in the clouds,” said Bronner. “Ride on, Thor! Make those clouds thunder!”
The War Horse Foundation is looking for new riders and horses to participate in their activities. For information, visit www.warhorsefoundation.com.
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