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Tiny… the Big Horse

She wasn’t quite sure what kind of horse he was the first time he walked past the barn, and there are times yet today, 12 years later, when she must wonder, too.

This much seems clear: The horse doesn’t know when to quit working, and he chows down as if he hasn’t had another meal in a month. Sounds like a Class A personality, and that sometimes concerns his primary rider, Kari Hardy, who runs the local barn at Canterbury Park for her husband, Ed Ross Hardy.

“I tell my mother that he might go into cardiac arrest sometime while we’re feeding him,” Kari said.

The animal in question here is a 19-year-old quarter horse called Tiny, who is anything but. That’s not his given name, of course, but imagine referring to him by his registered name – Hezamypress. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it. But neither did “Midget,” the nickname Art Wilmes, Kari’s father, suggested for the horse after they purchased him outright at Manor Downs.

So what this horse is, in fact, is a retired racehorse who’s never left the race track. The Hardys ran him three times after buying him and he’s basically served as the barn’s pony horse since. Hezamypress is by The Sporting Press from Sheza My Choice. He was 3-0-4 from 24 career starts with earnings of $9,646.

Tiny is not that tall, maybe 15.3 hands, but he sort of resembles an equine version of a squat heavyweight wrestler. He has a massive chest on him. He’s big boned and goes about 1,300 pounds.

People have wondered if maybe there’s some draft horse in him he’s so massive.

Kari was befuddled the first time she saw the horse. The Hardys’ barn at Manor Downs was right by the gate so they got plenty of traffic near that spot. The first time Kari saw him prance past she thought maybe the horse was an Appaloosa. “He was higher than a kite. His tail was up over his back,” she recalled.

“I asked my dad, ‘what the heck is that thing,’ because they did run Appaloosas at Manor Downs.”

“He was just so big and powerful. He was impressive looking.”

Art Wilmes spotted the horse at the races a couple of days later. He told Kari that the horse had finished fourth, but ran a 95 speed index and might make a good barrel horse.

Kari competed in barrel racing while growing up in Le Sueur, and the idea of having a horse who might fit that discipline appealed to her. A couple of days later, her father bought the horse for $2,500, The Hardys raced him three times and Tiny got a first, a third and a fourth. That concluded his racing career, and when the Hardys came to Canterbury later that year Tiny was with them.

Tiny has been in the barn at Canterbury every meet the past 12 years but one, and Kari is on him every morning when he leaves the barn, prancing the entire distance to the track.

“He was a racehorse and then a pony horse,” Kari added. “He’s never left the racetrack and always thinks he’s supposed to work.”

Try taking him on a trail or a pleasure ride and Tiny acts as if he needs Prozac. “He gets very nervous when you try to ride him just for pleasure,” Kari added. “He just doesn’t understand.”

What Tiny does understand is the difference between an adult rider and a youngster. “He’s a pretty lively horse,” Kari added, “but when our kids, Jordan, 6, and Austin, 3, get on him, he turns really quiet.”

Not bad for a horse that spends most of the day on the muscle because he regards himself as simply a work horse, a workaholic if you like.

“He’s always on the muscle,” Kari said. “And if you want to go faster, he’ll go faster. He always wants to work.”

The Hardys at one time used Tiny as a work partner for green two-year-olds, although it’s been maybe three years since he’s filled that role.”

Although people sometimes wonder if Tiny has some draft horse in him, they seldom think he’s 17 years old. “He has a little sway in his back but it’s always been that way,” Kari explained. ”He’s rock solid with really good muscle tone.”

Tiny generally behaves himself and has taken to the Hardy children, but at feeding time he raises quite the fuss. “You can hear him a mile away,” she said. “And boy can he eat.”

Tiny, the erstwhile racehorse and now pony horse, is really the Hardy horse. “He is the family horse,” Kari added. “We (Kari and Ed Ross) both rode him a lot but now the kids are riding him, too.”

Occasionally, they’ll get on Tiny in the barn when the chores are done. Jordan rides him without assistance in the ring at home. Her little brother needs an adult hand on the reins when he’s in the saddle, but that could change in the next year or so.

During his racing days, Tiny won races at 330 yards, 550 and 870. “We ran him at 440 and 550,” Kari said. “He was pretty versatile.”

Still is, for that matter. Doesn’t seem to matter who’s in the saddle, Tiny knows how to respond.

“He knows what he’s supposed to do,” Kari said. “He’s a real professional.”

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.