A $500 One-Eyed Horse and Determined Owner Earn Way Into the Ribbons at Congress
The story of Kate Fitzpatrick Heisner and her eight-year-old gelding, Good And Pleasurable reads like a fiction novel with enough twists and turns to keep you hanging on until the end. However, their real-life story is the perfect example of how taking a chance, sacrifice and determination can pay off.
Kate and “Owen” recently returned home from the Congress where they placed fourth out of 64 entries in the Novice Amateur Equitation and eleventh out of 52 in the Amateur Equitation. There are many special things about this team. Let’s start with the fact that Kate has done all of Owen’s training herself.
“Kate is a very hard worker, and very compassionate,” says her mother, Kathy Fitzpatrick, a horse trainer and owner of KKT Performance Horses in Peotone, Illinois. “Her job requires her to work holidays and most weekends, and she saved her paid time off days to be able to attend and show at Congress. She is at the barn every morning at 6 am to practice. She thrives on challenges. Set the bar and she sails over it. She adores this horse and wanted him to show the world what a handicapped horse could be capable of achieving.”
Handicapped horse? Yes, you see, another interesting aspect to this story is that Owen is blind in one eye. In fact, he is completely missing his left eye (pictured right). “When he was three years old, he developed a fungus from a scratch in his left eye. After two months of procedures and medications, the veterinarians at Purdue University Veterinary Hospital concluded that the fungus was threatening not only his eye but his overall health,” Kate told us. “Our options were to remove his eye or euthanize him. The vets cautioned us that he may have trouble adjusting to the loss of his eye, but he never did.”
How Kate came to own Owen is an even a better story. In the fall of 2009, while looking out at a herd of yearlings at Cliff and Mary Chris Hartman’s in Northview, Missouri, Kate’s eye was drawn to the bay with no white. “He was shaggy and not very pretty headed and he reminded me of a buffalo calf. However, his legs made up for his appearance. He loped effortlessly behind the herd and floated across the ground in a slow legged trot. I remember them asking me, ‘You want that one?’ So for five hundred dollars we bought him.”
You read that correctly. Five hundred dollars.
Heisner, who is a microbiology technician at a food safety laboratory, usually works odd hours, Tuesdays through Saturdays. “I have only been to five AQHA shows including Congress this year. Before this year, I had not been to an AQHA show since 2012. I also sustained a knee injury in January. I was not sure I would be able to take the hours of riding needed to prepare for a big and competitive show like Congress. Thanks to my orthopedic doctor and physical therapists, I was able to put in the hours of riding and compete.”
Kate and Owen were certainly impressive at the Congress. We asked her what her expectations were going into both of her equitation classes. “I honestly expected to do well in both events, but I was apprehensive on whether or not his appearance would affect the judging. In the past couple months, we have prepared well,” Kate proudly states. “My prelim patterns in both classes were great. He and I were focused. I was very satisfied with the final patterns in both events as well. Our transitions in all of the patterns were crisp and on point. Our flying lead changes were flawless. The rail work was really good too. He is one of the easiest horses to show on the rail. He’s consistent and never changes. I was elated on how well I did in both events.”
Kate told us that she just started practicing hunt seat equitation in April and Owen has only had a flying lead change for two months. Kate says that she is appreciative of her mother’s “tough love” and the support of her husband, Mark, who is a grain farmer.
“My mother helped me put the finishes touches on Owen’s lead change,” Kate told us. “She has been very supportive of me wanting to train Owen on my own so it could be my own personal victory. She takes pride and satisfaction in that fact.”
Kate adds, “Owen is a great minded, easy going, smart, gentle, and a sweet horse. He is such a cool horse, always composed and gives one hundred percent. He has a heart of gold. He is the best horse I have had the privilege to own.”
We congratulate Kate and Owen on their amazing accomplishments.