Once he was a champion, soaring over jumps.
But an injury brought Volare low and almost cost the giant Dutch Warmblood his life.
A bit of luck or fate or both brought the four-legged Florida athlete to Jenny Lancaster, a horsetrainer on Ranchitos Road in Taos who has helped horses and their riders for more than two dozen years.
Now Volare is injury-free and healthy, no longer in Florida’s hunter and jumper competitions, but instead ambling along trails in Northern New Mexico.
“They almost put this horse down and he’s only 11,” said Lancaster, who owns Diamond Horseshoe Ranch. “And he’s magnificent.”
Lancaster grew up riding tough horses. “I always got chosen to ride difficult horses because I was brave and good at working with them,” she said. “I decided that’s what I wanted to do, help difficult horses work with people.”
She spent years in the hunter and jumper show circuit of France before trying out Western-style riding in Taos.
Volare also spent a few years in the elegant, but arduous world of hunters and jumpers. His genetics, honed over 400 years, made him an athlete. His training and abilities took him to the top tier of the sport.
But he began stumbling, a dangerous quality for horse and rider. Lancaster believes his condition was misdiagnosed. But the result was a trainer telling the horse’s owner he should euthanize the horse rather than deal with the expense of a year or more recovery. Putting him down would allow the owner to collect insurance money and cut his losses.
“The guy was horrified,” Lancaster said. “He didn’t want to put the horse down.”
A veterinarian urged him to wait, try a different farrier, give the horse a chance. “But is costs a fortune to treat a horse and care for him like he needed over six months,” she said.
It turned out Lancaster and Volare’s owner knew people in common. Lancaster’s reputation for helping difficult horses came up and before long Volare was on his way to Taos.
“I thought, what am I going to do with a 17-hand Warmblood jumping horse up here in the mountains of Taos?” Lancaster said. “He arrives. He has a metabolic disease that means he can’t sweat anymore from living in Florida.”
Three months later, she said, “he’s sweating, his tail is waving. He has recovered 99 percent. I can ride him on the trail and he’s fine.”
“Now everyone at the barn loves him. He’s really, really happy here,” she said.
Lancaster hopes one day someone in need of a gentle giant will adopt him and give him a forever home. “He’s like a St. Bernard of horses,” she said. “He follows you around.”
Lancaster said she rescues five to 10 horses a year. “We put them back together and find homes for them,” she said. “Just my little thing, something I do to give back to the horses who have given so much to me.”