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[RC] Sham, the wonder pony (long) - Lari Shea

(written for Trailblazer Magazine in 1985)

Shamrock's Flame is a 15-year-old Arabian/Welsh-cross gelding who weighs in at 625 pounds and stands 12.2 hands tall. But you better not let him hear you call him a pony. Sham drives that point home by terrorizing any unsuspecting Shetland within hoof or teeth distance.

Born on a Welsh breeding farm in Eureka, California, Sham sold for a pretty penny the first time around and charmed everyone with his quick intelligence and bright disposition. Sham showed his athletic ability early on, winning many blues in gymkhana, western performance and jumping classes. However, various families' teenagers thought they had outgrown the diminutive warrior, and he passed from hand to hand.

Along the way, Sham decided he'd been hit one time too many to make a faster barrel run, and his willing attitude began to sour. Matter of fact, he taught himself to be just as proficient at bucking, kicking, striking and biting as he had been at key-hole and pole pending. He was on his way to "tour the world in a can of Alpo" when I received a phone call from one of his first owners after dark one night, beseeching me to save the life of a truly unique athlete. I pulled up in my "green machine" at 11 p.m., ascertained that Sham had four legs and the appropriate appendage at each end, talked his owner out of sending him to the canner the next day and hauled out within the quarter hour, $150 worth of horse flesh richer.

Sham seemed less than appreciative of being saved from a nasty fate and darn near dumped me the first few times I rode him. Listen, it's harder to stay on a bucking pon..whoops, I mean, little horse, than on a big horse.

As the years passed, however, Sham more than earned his keep at Ricochet Ridge Ranch packing trail riders and teaching riding students all he knew in the arena. In 1981, Amy Perkins, then 12, captured second place on the Masonite 25 miler on Sham's first distance ride. In October of that year, my son, Rafferty, then 7, flew down the trail on Sham to complete the Cow Mountain 25. Cries of "Wait for Mommy!" could be heard for miles.

The next May, when my Arabian went lame days before the Cuneo Creek 50, Sham was recruited. People thought I was kidding when I led Sham up to the pre-ride vet check, thinking one of my kids would hop on at the last minute. But low and behold, we won the race, 31 minutes ahead of the second-place horse.

Some thought Sham's win was just a fluke, but when I brought him back in 1983, I'd been conditioning him to prove it was no accident. That year Sham crossed the finish line 37 minutes before Fred Emigh's fantastic stallion, Mon Surbo, proving he could win against the toughest competition. He also took best condition.

That fall, Summer O'Redwoods, age 11, delighted in riding her first 50 miler on the sure-footed little steed.

In 1984, possibly none except Sham and I thought we could win the Cuneo Creek Endurance Ride for the third time. That year, the grueling course through magnificent virgin redwoods had been altered, putting the most difficult 18-mile loop first instead of last. This made the trail faster and easier to ride. I knew that Sham had won in the past because that little tiger personifies the cliche "when the going gets tough, the tough get going." The question in my mind was whether Sham would be able to win on this easier course against horses who would always be faster than him with their vastly longer legs. The question was answered when Sham galloped across the finish line nearly an hour and a half before the second-place horse. We finished in five and a half hours, cutting an hour's riding time from the previous two year's harder course. Sham was literally dragging me at the end of his lead rope when shown for best condition, which he won hands down.

My daughter, Kyala, at age 6, took over Sham's reins in the summer of '84, sailing through the Broines and Mendocino 25's, with Rafferty and Summer on new mounts. The pair also won at hunter hack and assorted tamer events. They'll be beginning their endurance partnership at this spring's Steam Donkey 50. But I hope she doesn't mind if mommy steals him back for another go at Cuneo Creek every now and then.

(Sham topped tenned four other 50's, is still alive at age 35, and is as ornery as ever!)

Lari