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Team #693 Kathleen Dunstan and Up In Smoke

Team #693: Kathleen Dunstan and Up In Smoke
From: North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Ages: 76 & 29
Combined Age: 105
Test: Introductory Level Test C
Date: September 4, 2023

I do not remember a time when I didn't love horses. I can remember “cantering” everywhere I went and waiting in vain for Santa to bring that pony. There was a riding stable in a nearby state park, and my dad would occasionally take me there to ride, but it was nothing formal.  In my late 20s, I managed to take a few lessons, but work, family, and life got in the way.

In my early 30s, I saw a newspaper ad for a 10-lesson riding package offered by Johnson & Wales University to promote their equestrian program.  This was the beginning of my real life with horses.  The instructor for the program was Holly Whitney and 40-plus years later, she is still my instructor and dear friend.

After the program ended, I decided it was time to acquire my first horse.  It was a classic case of green horse and green rider.  Moonraker was a five-year-old 15-hand Quarter Horse who wouldn't load and had a nasty tendency to buck, especially if it was windy.  He instilled fear in me that I am still fighting today.

Somehow, Holly found someone willing to trade their 12-year-old Thoroughbred for Moonraker.  Normandy, “The Norm,” my heart horse, came into my life.  He had crashed and burned as a hunter Maclay prospect, and for the rest of his life, he would shake at the sight of a jump.  For the next 20 years, he would be my best friend and loving companion.  Unfortunately, he did not have the movement for dressage.  I ended up making another bad purchase, a talented, but dangerous gelding.

Holly and I started the search once again.  After months of trying, with no luck, I suggested we visit a dealer where we could see several horses at one time.  What we found on that February day in 2002 was a very pretty 15.2-hand gray and white registered Paint that had just turned eight the week before.  He came from out west and had been trained as a carriage and parade horse. His registered name is "Beaver's A Boo," and I changed it to "Up In Smoke." but to the world he is "BOO." He is a grandson of the Paint Hall of Fame and Foundation stallion, Hank A Chief.  Boo has proved to have enough intelligence, lust for life, and heart for 10 horses.  These attributes have gotten us both through some tough times.

Though he had the looks and the talent to please any judge, he didn't love the work, although he competed successfully at First Level.  At 20, he sustained a major injury, and I was told he would be a “lawn ornament.” Thankfully no one told Boo. It took a year, but he brought himself back. Over the last 10 years, we have both had injuries, and the wear and tear that comes from age, and our riding was reduced. As our combined ages reached the magic number of 100, Holly started to encourage me to do a Century Club ride.  Then COVID struck. and Boo had another, what looked like a career-ending injury.  It looked like our dream wouldn't happen.  Late this spring, Holly said to me that Boo certainly looked sound thundering around the property and that maybe we should make one last run at completing the ride.  With her support, we started working again to reach our goal.  Finally, on September 4, we did it.  After almost 22 years, we are still partners.