Have you ever met an animal that looks unique yet beautiful in the most amazing way? I think all horses are beautiful. But I will agree that there are some horses out there that really catch our eye and take our breath away. For an Appaloosa horse appropriately named Tattoo, he's proof of just how amazing some horses can look. Tattoo is a leopard Appaloosa, and his dazzling and unique coat is surely a sight to be seen.
How did Tattoo come into your life? I was a sophomore in college, and my riding trainers (John and Debbie Letham at Letham Stables) let me intern at their breeder barn for my equestrian riding team and equine classes major requirements. I could watch over the mares that were about to give birth that spring. I was able to bond with each of the five mares, check their behaviors and watch for signs of labor. Tattoo came into this world on May 18th, and his mama gave birth to him early in the morning. I met baby Tattoo when he was only one hour old, soaking wet and learning to stand.
When he was standing and nursing, it was then my job to go into the stall and get used to people! My parents came to the barn to the see baby Tattoo later that day, and they still say to this day that when they entered the barn I was in the stall, holding Tattoo in my lap, crying my eyes out. I was madly in love at first sight. They both said "oh, no…" We all knew that raising and training my own horse was my dream, but this foal was not mine, but deep in my heart I knew that I wanted him to be.
My internship was a dream, and not much later in the week the other mares all gave birth to healthy babies. I worked with each one but Tattoo was always the first one I would play with every minute I could be at the barn. He would let me cuddle him while he napped and he even let me halter him at three weeks old. His mother trusted me so much and so did baby Tattoo. When he was only six months old, I was told by my trainers that Tattoo had been sold, and I should prepare myself and him to say good-bye. That was the hardest two months of my life because not only was I in love with the babies, but Tattoo had become a favorite. I had told myself that he was not mine, even from the beginning. So, I vowed to end my internship, it had gone on for longer than it should anyway, and I said good-bye to the almost yearlings.
Only 3 months later, Christmas morning, I sat with my family around the tree, and the last box was given to me. It was from "all of them" and when I opened it up it was a picture of Tattoo, a tiny model horse with spots. I cried so hard, knowing that I had said goodbye and that I would remember him. Then my parents urged me to look under the paper at the bottom, and there was the words "Transfer Ownership" in bold letters. Then, the Appaloosa Horse Club words glittered at me with Tattoo's show name written in black (Shining Royse). My parents had bought Tattoo over six months before! I had no idea. Owning a young horse was terrifying, because I felt I wasn't good enough as a trainer since I had never done it, and I was in college! But, my parents and my sister believed in me, and to say we all cried is in understatement. I cried for weeks! Even when I went to the barn as his owner that Christmas Day, I cried and hugged him so many times! I admit I still do to this day. He is my dream come true and I have experienced many "firsts" with him at big shows I never dreamed of competing at with my own trained horse.
How did Tattoo get his name? His name "Tattoo" means "a rhythmic tapping or drumming" and we named him that because the sight of him literally throws my heart into drumming, ever since I met him. My mother is actually the one who named him that. What are Tattoo's favorite hobbies? Getting into things! He is the noisiest horse I have ever met. If he can touch it with his nose, then he is going to get into it. His other favorite things are running the fence with his pasture neighbors, and he loves to play chase with me. It's like a cat-and-mouse game we play where I run and hide behind the hay bales. He comes running over where I jumped out and scare him. Then we circle the hay chasing each other in turns. It's surprising that he keeps coming to investigate my hiding spot, snorting, when he knows I am going to jump out. It's all safe fun.
What is his personality like? Completely chill, goofy and mischievous. I was taught growing up that young horses are very spontaneous and can be dangerous, but Tattoo is one of the coolest horses I have ever ridden and been around. Ever since he was a baby learning to halter, he has been insanely curious so even now when we are riding or leading, he wants to investigate everything he can. His eyes will be wide, his body relaxed and his ears perked at whatever has caught his attention. Its surprising to say that he is not spooky, just really curious and he wants to touch things with his nose and sniff it! It surprises many people to see how goofy, antsy and awkward he is when I am on the ground next to him, but the minute I sit into the saddle, he is a completely different horse. His mellow, curious side comes out and he is ready to work, but is calm, collected, and concentrated. His mind is going so fast, that there is no "rests", he wants to keep working and trying new things under saddle. His favorite riding class is trail, he loves to smell and touch every obstacle and watch where his feet are going, even though we would get penalties for touching obstacles!
Does Tattoo share the spotlight with any other horses? Yes, although Tattoo is the most "popular" in our barn on the internet, I have 2 other horses. I have a 28 year old Tennessee Walking horse named Sunny Boy, who was my first horse when I was 7. Skip Dancin' Tango is 26 and was my first "real" show horse. Tango taught me to ride competitively at 15. The two seniors horses taught me so much, but Tattoo is my first "home raised". These horses have all taught me in so many different ways and each have taken me further than I ever dreamed. Without them, I would not be the person I am.
What's something special you'd like people to know about Tattoo? Hmm… he is obsessed with miniature horses and donkeys! Many horses are terrified, but not Tattoo. At shows, his eyes go wide, his nose flares and he almost drags me to the mini so he can try to become friends. He is oddly obsessed! His neighbor at home is a mini donkey we call "Peter".
He also has had a girlfriend horse! Usually, at shows, he is calm and curious, not really interested in other horses unless they get too close, but at a particular show, a roan quarter horse mare caught his attention. She was only 4, still learning about being under saddle and her first show, but he was completely infatuated with her. I am not sure if it was her age, or what, but he wanted to stand by her, touch her with his nose and follow her. It was so strange, but the owner was very amused and let them stand together when we were waiting for classes. He calmed her down, and he didn't pay attention to any other horse but her. He was very much in love with her!