Senior Horse Essay/Photo Contest Winners

From the NW Horse Source Editor

The December Senior Horse issue of the Northwest Horse Source is my favorite one of the year. It’s also one of the hardest for me. I have a real soft spot for old horses, so I love reading all the essays that come in for our senior horse essay contest. But choosing a winner? Uff da! It’s a hard decision. I don’t want to choose just one. The essays and photos express a lot of appreciation and love for these special horses.

This year’s theme, What the Pandemic has Meant for Me and My Horse, brought poignant essays from all over the country. We had a large number of both senior and youth-written essays. There has been a lot of struggle and a lot of sadness, but horses continue to make a big difference in the lives of their owners. That was reflected in all the essays.

In the end, I chose the winners based on writing quality, photo quality, and those who most closely followed the submission guidelines. I want to thank everyone for your submissions. You and your horses are all winners!

Adult Category Winner


by Julia Bozzo NWTRC Founder and Director

Photo by NWTRC

Kleng is my coworker, my family member, and my friend. Throughout his 25 years of service with hundreds of riders, Kleng has always been game for the unpredictable and always reliable. In these unsure times, Kleng has again proven himself a prince among horses.

During this pandemic the Northwest Therapeutic Riding Center (NWTRC) adapted our program for maximum safety. This means a stringent acceptance policy of participants and volunteers. Kleng has allowed access to riding and horsemanship to riders who may otherwise have little or no recreation during the pandemic. He can be trusted to safely carry and respond to the most vulnerable rider with minimal assistance.

Kleng is a 13.3 hand Norwegian Fjord gelding who was foaled in 1991 on Vancouver Island, BC. He started working as a therapeutic horse for NWTRC when he was just four years old. He has instilled confidence, courage, horsemanship skills, physical benefits, and delight to hundreds of people.

Trained to work in equine-assisted activities, Kleng performs in many disciplines, in many environments, and for many ability levels. He thrives on lots of riding and handling and always seems to look forward to “what’s next”—especially at the end of the lesson when he gets a treat.

Photo by NWTRC

Kleng’s personality, his versatility, his delightful attitude, and the number of riders he has carried on his back over the years earned him the Region 9 Horse of the Year award. That was quickly followed by his winning of the 2009 National Therapeutic Horse of the Year award from the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (now known as PATH International).

After more than a decade of riding and the presentation of two awards, it appeared that Kleng had it all. But in 2010, he coliced severely, and was quickly rushed to Pilchuck Veterinary Hospital. Two surgeries and $16,000 later, Kleng began the long road to recovery. Having beaten colic and already won more awards than most horses see in a lifetime, Kleng’s recognition streak continued in February 2013 when he was inducted into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame as a Humanitarian Equine.

While so many are feeling lonely and isolated, Kleng has been a friend to all. Just about to turn 29, Kleng is NWTRC’s go-to lesson horse for people of all abilities. Kleng happily gives a leg up to NWTRC participants, helping people feel joyful, included, and hopeful despite the uncertain times.

My horses, dogs, chickens and cat have provided me, my family, and the NWTRC community with companionship and a sense of normalcy during these challenging times. Kleng especially.

I have been graced with Kleng for longer than any other horse I have ever had. He is my treasured coworker and friend.

Youth Category Winner


By Delaney Carroll – 10 years old.

Blackjack and Delaney. Photo by D. Carroll

If I could choose one senior horse to write about, I would choose Blackjack. He is 23 years old. I met Blackjack in March 2018 on my birthday. I had saved up my birthday and Christmas money so I could take lessons. I didn’t know that Blackjack would bring me this far in horseback riding.

Blackjack is stubborn, but I love him just the same. He always finds a way to get me to go the way that he wants, and not the way he’s supposed to go. Also, whenever he walks from the barn to the arena, he always tries to get a nibble of grass.

Another characteristic I have noticed about Blackjack is that he’s super patient. He is patient when I try to get tack on him. Whether it is the bridle or the saddle, he just stands there, almost sleepily waiting. That is one thing not every horse does.

Another good characteristic that I have seen in Blackjack is that he is caring. The first time that I saw his caring come out was when I was having trouble getting the halter on him. He put his head straight through the nose hole, and I figured out how to fit the halter on a horse!

Funny is the next word I would use to describe BJ. When my brother and I were just outside his stall, all of a sudden, he started nickering. At first, I got sort of scared, but then we figured out that he was trying to communicate. My brother was standing right next to the hay, and that was what he wanted. That is why I think “funny” is a good word to describe BJ’s personality. Also, because he is a pony, he ends up with all the pink polka dot rain sheets and saddle pads.

Blackjack and his best friend, Possum. Photo by D. Carroll

Blackjack has taught me so many things while I have been riding, but I think the most important thing that he has taught me is friendship. Just last week, after the Oregon Fires, he lost his best friend Possum. Blackjack and Possum had spent the last 10 years teaching lessons together, peeking around their stall walls, and chasing in the pasture. Blackjack taught me not to take friendship for granted in the people or animals I love. To me, that is one amazing senior horse.

How have I and my senior horse grown closer together? I feel like my senior horse Blackjack and I have grown closer during the COVID-19 pandemic because I have been able to spend more time at the barn. I love how whenever I come walking up to the shed stalls, he always has his head sticking out of his stall door. He knows me and greets me in his own funny way. I feel another way that I have grown closer to Blackjack is when my brother is riding, I sometimes get to be alone with him at the barn. I love grooming him because he is so patient, still, soft, and calm.

A special thanks to LMF Feeds for supplying the prizes for this contest.










See this article in the 2020 December online edition:

December 2020


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