A Decade of Dreams – Tatum Richey Honors Ode To Zippo, Announces Retirement
From 2019 AQHYA World Champion Tatum Richey
My father, protector, confidant, a best friend, George Richey, died from tragic lung disease. Before he left this world, he promised me his first order of business, when he got to Heaven, was to ask God to look after me and somehow be still involved in my life, until I could make it on my own. He always thought out of the box; he was a true visionary. I didn’t know what he meant at the time, but I trusted his word. I am not sure he knew what all he was orchestrating either; he just knew he didn’t want to leave me, and this was his attempt to stay as close to me as possible, forever!
At the time of his passing, I was an awkward eight-year-old girl who only knew I loved horses, but I had no real knowledge or connections in the equestrian World or any idea how to be apart of it. All I knew was I wanted it more than life itself. I just had it in my heart, is the best way I can explain it. It’s the place I felt safe, and it brought me happiness, like being with him did.
All that kept me going was my desire to be apart of the horse life. Whatever that meant! Weeks before he died, he asked Nancy Cahill to find me a black horse. My dad was bigger than life. He was charismatic and had immense swag – he was a musical genius. He went to her to describe his vision of what he thought the perfect black horse would be. It was a scene straight out of the movies. He got a good scolding from her, advising him to stick to his music, and she’d take care of the horse.
Fast forward a few days, Miss Nancy finds me an older sorrel gelding named, Flash (my dad was not happy) but he was pleased I at least had my foot in the door. A few weeks later, my dad died. That was tough! And two weeks after that, Flash died. It was a nightmare! Shortly after that, we heard about a horse that Garry McAllister had for sale. We flew out to the show he was at to take a look and in walks the gorgeous black horse anyone had ever seen. He was stunning and was wearing a white heart on his forehead. My mother almost fainted! He was practically precisely the horse my dad had described to Miss Nancy. We all stood in shock! No doubt, my dad’s talk with God had gone very well.
I jumped on Ode To Zippo, aka Ode (Odie) that day, and for the next decade, he and I went on a legendary journey that has been nothing short of a book of miracles. He took a broken-hearted, lost girl, and turned her into a real champion of life. The gifts he has afforded me are far too many to write about today. The members of our community know Ode was no angel, which I am grateful. He made me earn every inch of my success. He taught me to ride. He taught a million life lessons. He raised me just like my father had only dreamed he could have. He carried this fatherless child through it all. He taught me to have a victor mentality, not a victim.
Last year, after Ode put his heart entirely out on the trail at Youth World, I promised him that day he’d never have to go out there for me again. Little did I know, no one knew it, only God and Ode knew, his body and his age were catching up to him. He was determined to give all he was born for to me that day. He had a record-breaking world ride at Youth World. It will be one I will never forget or stop being grateful for. If I had known then that was going to be our last AQHA ride, I don’t think I could have managed it. That ride changed my life!
The veterinarians at Texas A&M University say that Ode is a walking miracle, they’ve never seen a horse like him. I happily remind them that he’s not just a horse, he’s a gift from Heaven above. He is the answered prayer of my father, my mother’s guard for me, and he’s been my guide and one true friend. He taught me that I could do anything I set my mind to. Never give up; never stop believing in your dreams! That all will be ok if I can stay steady, focused, and that anything is possible with hard work, and I can walk into any life circumstance, knowing I am enough on my own.
Today, I let my most treasured relationship – my entire childhood, runoff into the luxury of green pastures – kicking, dancing, and being full of life, happy as can be, and still as beautiful as ever. This is not a goodbye; it is a welcome to the retired life, Ode To Zippo. No one deserves it more than you. Thank you for all the lessons, love, encouragement—the highs and lows. I know you were sent here on assignment from the Good Lord above, and I will never stop being eternally grateful for you being my childhood Angel!
A Special Thank you to Nancy Cahill, Michelle Tidwell, for the six years we spent together. Thank you to Bruce Vickery for being the one to see and nurture the unique gifts Ode had in trail. To Anthony Montes, who put in all the endless hours with Ode and me, we would have never won the World without you. And thank you for loving Ode almost as much as I do. I know he’s your one in a million too.
To my late Grandma Rita and Grandpa Billy, both my biggest fans. To Dale Parker for giving Ode 2 Zippo life. To Garry and Tammy McAllister for selling Ode to me. To the Texas Quarter Horse Association, which gave me so many fantastic opportunities to grow and share my passion. To the American Quarter Horse Association, it’s my highest honor having Ode being in your record books. To Baylor University for offering the chance of a lifetime to ride for you in 2021.
To all the friends I’ve made along the way, you all are my family. I’ll be here for you always! To everyone and anyone who has assisted with us over the past decade. The list is endless, but I appreciate and recognize you all. It took a village. Mostly, to my mom, without you none of this would have ever happened, you’re the unsung angel on the trail. I love you.
To all the girls and boys dreaming of “Getting That Globe,” someday, please know to never give up on your dream. Stay the course. It took me a decade. The great thing about this horse life is that even if you don’t get it as a youth, you have a lifetime challenging yourself to go for it. That’s the beauty of our sport; it’s doesn’t have an expiration date – this dream is a lifestyle, live yours full out. To Ode Two Zippo, I dedicate my last Youth World to you; I am going to give it all I have with everything you taught me!
Lastly, to God, thank you for listening to my father’s plea. I appreciate you allowing him to still be here with me in this unique way! Give him a big hug from me, tell him we made it!