Of all the championship horses competing at next week's National Horse Show, only one-a beautiful 7-year-old bay gelding called The Angel-has the dubious distinction of having once been consigned to the abbattoir as meat for minks. Named Conformation Hunter of the Year in 1953, The Angel will be the horse to beat in its class at this year's show. Today, standing a muscular 16.3 hands, his coat gleaming like polished mahogany, his classic head proudly erect, The Angel looks every inch a champion.
EIGHT MONTHS' INCARCERATION
Yet unbelievable as it may seem, this horse was not so long ago led blind and crippled, a mere skeleton frame of a beast, from a dark, nailed-up stall where it had been incarcerated for eight months. Foaled in the spring of 1947 by Which Mate out of the half-bred mare Angelica, on a farm in the Genesee Valley, N.Y., the colt was boarded out with a nearby dairy farmer as soon as it was weaned, with the understanding that the owner would look after it. About eight months later, Bob Greer, of Genesee, N.Y., visited the barn while picking up milk and was almost overpowered by a penetrating odor of ammonia and rotting manure. Investigating, he saw a horse sticking its nose over the high boards of a small, cramped, lightless box stall in a corner. A closer look showed it was a small bay yearling, its matted coat stretched tight over a bony skeleton.
Inquiring about the animal, Greer was horrified to learn that it was brought there as a weanling and hadn't been out of the stall since. The farmer "had no use for it," the owner had never come for it, and as the months passed and the manure rose in the stall, boards were nailed over the door to keep the animal in.
The farmer told Greer he was about to send the colt to a local mink farm for meat because he thought it was blind. Greer told Dr. Joe O'Dea, a local veterinarian, about the colt's pitiable condition. On his next trip to the farm he bought the colt for $10 for Dr. O'Dea. Helped by friends, he got the horse out after knocking down a side of the stall. It was in terrible condition, hardly able to walk and seemingly blind. "Its hooves were each 13 inches long and resembled short skis," said Dr. O'Dea. "It was stall blind, but the eyes were otherwise sound. Its coat was matted and urine-burned. But the bones were not impaired."
Under the care of Dr. O'Dea and the Kelley Stables the colt responded. Its eyesight returned to normal and with proper feed and exercise it was in good enough shape five months later to be sold to Mrs. Reginald B. Taylor, of Williamsville, N.Y.
"I was shown this colt while looking for hunter prospects," says Mrs. Taylor, "and although he was only a yearling he was already impressive. There was the look of eagles about him—an air of alertness—and I couldn't get him out of my mind. So I finally bought him."
Mrs. Taylor named him The Angel, and her horseman, Patrick Lowther, broke and schooled him. He soon showed he had a tremendous jump by hurling himself over the paddock fence every time they put him in it. Horsemen shook their heads and said he was "too leggy," "couldn't jump" and "a maniac." But Mrs. Taylor liked him and later gave him to Bob Dygert, a trainer, to get him started hunting.
Mrs. Taylor kept The Angel for three years until he became too big and strong for her to handle in the hunting field. In May 1952, Dave Kelley, trainer and manager of Mr. Leon Haymond's Wee-3 Stables bought him for his boss. Since then The Angel has racked up a tremendous show-ring record and his value is set at over $10,000.