She remembers her surprise at such a wonderful gift, but recalls other details in the time that followed more vividly. “There were a number of accidents with him,” she said. “He was a naughty little pony.”
Doesn’t anyone who loved horses as a youngster have a Shetland story of their own.
Yet, Lyon has fond memories of childhood riding as well. “Back then we rode bareback with nothing but a bridle,” she recalled. “But first you had to (go into the pasture and) catch the horse.”
Jeanette eventually outgrew the childhood gift and moved on to better-behaved mounts. She competed in 4H competitions and barrel racing in high school rodeo. In 1991, she moved into dressage.
Her formative years included plenty of activity with breeds other than Shetlands. Her parents raised Arabians, so that became a horse of choice for many years. She had an Arab named Tas she raised from a baby. He was 17 when she lost him last January.
As it turned out, Jeanette is not much different from her father. She, too, began bringing horses home a few years ago, courtesy of Dr. Dick Bowman, who conducts a small round-up on the Canterbury Park backside at the conclusion of each summer meet and hauls any number of horses just retired from racing to his ranch near Bowman, N.D.
Jeanette’s mother and Doc Bowman were in the same high school graduation class in Rhame, N.D., not far from Bowman, so there is a long-time connection. “He’s known me since I was a baby,” Lyon said.
Bowman would stop by Lyon’s place in Felton, Mn., (about 20 miles northeast of Moorhead) in more recent years to do some dental work on Tas. On one of those occasions, the two of them began joking about getting a horse for her husband. That conversation took place around 2004.
A year later, Lyon got the first thoroughbred she has owned from Bowman, a horse named Red Seacliff. Originally, the horse was for her husband, Matt, who is basically a trail rider. Red, as he’s known more casually, wound up placing third in the all-breed open division at training level in the 2007 competition sponsored by the North American Thoroughbred Assn.
Red has been limited to trails recently because of Jeanette’s work obligations, but he has demonstrated repeatedly that he’s more than simply a racehorse. “He’s a big (16.1 hands) chestnut gelding. Nothing bothers him,” Lyon said. “Dogs, guinea hens, crop spraying. Nothing.”
Red is now 13 and Lyon still uses him for dressage, although she isn’t showing him.
The second horse arrived in 2006. He is Awesome Alarm, now 11 and known simply as Al, a 16-1 bay Jeanette got sight unseen. She picked him up from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation where Bowman had sent him for stall rest after a suspensory injury the summer before.
He has turned into what she describes as “just a hoot. He didn’t know how to be a horse and simply goof around,” she explained. “He’s like a big dog.”
Matt was hand grazing him on one occasion and let the lead rope go, for just a moment. “Al went on a nature run for maybe 45 minutes and we finally caught up with him in the bean field. To this day, he looks for any opportunity to get out of the gate and run.”
Sounds simply like a racehorse doing his thing, break from the gate, run…
Lyon showed Matt briefly but he’s still bothered by the suspensory on occasion and is now used solely on the trails. “He’ll still go on his nature runs if you leave the gate open, though,” Jeanette said.
Lyon acquired a third horse through Bowman in 2009, again sight unseen. Going to The Max is a nine-year-old, 16-3 chestnut gelding, her current dressage horse. This guy is a vegan with a taste for anything considered healthy.
He raided the garden recently for a breakfast of strawberries.
“All three of these guys love raspberries, peas, beans, corn. I whistle and they come running like dogs. Strawberries seem to be their favorite,” Lyon added.
Lyon’s voice catches slightly when she mentions Tas, her beloved Arab, but her words flow smoothly and effortlessly when she talks about the three thoroughbreds now in her life, all of them former racehorses from Canterbury Park. “I feel so fortunate to have them,” she said. “I am so thankful to Dick for giving these horses to me, for giving them a second chance.”
This blog was written by Canterbury Staff Writer Jim Wells. Wells was a longtime sportswriter at the Pioneer Press and is a member of the Canterbury Park Hall of Fame.