No. Jeff was not going back to Minnesota with Noah in his trailer. At least not this time. He had proved to me that he would be the right owner, but neither he nor Noah were ready for each other yet. Nevertheless Jeff, Nick, and Lauren had not come to the MMSC in vain.

Shortly after Jeff’s first visit in July, when I sent him back to Minnesota with the conditions that he had to fulfill before he would be eligible to adopt Noah, I received a text from him.

“My brother Nick wants to know if he does all the things that you’ve asked me to do if he can adopt a horse, too,” Jeff wrote.

“Sure,” I responded, “but only if he takes up belly dancing, like you said you would!” 

After I had seen Jeff ride the day I met him, I told him that he would have to work on suppling his back.

“You can’t just bend over at the hips as you do when you are facing a defensive line on a football field. You have to bend from the waist and fluidly glide with your hips like a serpent doing a figure eight. All the while you need to keep your upper body still. See, belly dancer-like…”

I demonstrated for him.“Now, you do it!”

To everyone’s surprise and amusement, Jeff gave it a try. Belly dancing is not one of the athletic endeavors at which Jeff excels.

Nick tried it too. Just for fun. He was inherently more supple than Jeff, I noticed. So, when Jeff asked me this question, I thought, why not let Nick have a try too?

Jeff texted me right back.

“He says he will do everything! Belly dancing too!!!”

“Excellent! Tell he will get extra points for dancing in costume!”

It didn’t surprise me that the Tow-Arnett brothers wanted to learn to ride together. There are three boys in the family. Nate, the oldest, is an iconoclast, but Nick, the middle child, and Jeffy, the youngest, have always been joined at the hip.

“So you are learning to ride because your younger brother is doing it?” I asked Nick as one point.

As a boy, Nick was very serious about being
a cowboy or an indian. And he treasured his
Breyer collection!
“Well yes! But well… NO! I have always loved horses. When I was little I regularly dressed as a cowboy or an Indian. At one of my birthdays, my parents staged a “pony party” with a live horse. I had a Breyer horse collection that I played with all the time. But I was interested in sports, too, and as I grew older, I got really involved with school athletics. But now Jeffy’s girlfriend, Lauren, has gotten Jeffy into horses, and that has sparked my early interest in and love for them.”

It made sense. Another sport, like all the others in the past, that the brothers could do together. Except now there was Lauren too. And Nick’s fiancée, Jessy, the lanky professional volleyball player.

“After our trip to the MMSC the first time, Jessy could not stop talking the whole way back to Minnesota about her “horse twin,” You Jest,” Nick told me.

You Jest was a 16.3hh, six-year-old gray mare that had come to the MMSC on June 25.
A granddaughter of the talented sire Distorted Humor, she was nick named “Joker” by her former owners. She started twice as a three-year-old, and although she had a lofty canter, it wasn’t speedy or ground covering enough to be a successful racehorse. Steady and kind, she was given to the North American Racing Academy, which was started and run by Hall of Fame jockey, Chris McCarron. At the school, Joker’s life was a lot like the one she had known on the racetrack: Jogs, gallops, breezes. Coming out of the starting gate. Long hours in a stall. But it was lower key as well. She did have some turn out in small paddocks. She was ridden out on the greens. And she never raced. It’s similar to training with the National Guard but never going to battle.

As it turns out, Chris had come to a point in his life when he wanted to step aside from the day to day demands of the racing school. He needed to scale back on the number of horses he had. I had a prospective adopter who was keen for two things. 1. A MARE. 2. A GRAY. Taking Joker on seemed to be good for both Chris and me. Yet there was a problem that gave me pause. Joker had cataracts in each eye and was suffering from an active case of uveitis. The cataracts I could live with. They were small, and indeed, if they ever worsened could be surgically removed. The uveitis, however, was trickier. Uveitis is the inflammation of the uveal tract in the eye. It can be caused by trauma, parasites, or be viral or bacterial in nature. It is also suspected to be caused be an auto-immune disorder. Colloquially, it is called “moon blindness.” It’s painful, intermittant, and there is a 50/50 chance that a horse will go blind in time.  

That’s not an enticing diagnosis for any prospective adopter. I knew that. But Joker had kindness and intelligence in her face and was a LOVELY mover. I  knew the opthamologist who was treating her, and discussed the prognosis for Joker. With the continuing medication and vigilance, the mare could be fine forever. So I decided to take a chance on her.

The first thing I did when Joker came to the MMSC was to take a poll amongst the interns as to whether we should change her name. The opinion was unanimous. She deserved a new name because she was feminine and graceful.  She wasn’t the trickster type either.

As I like for all nicknames to be reminiscent of the registered names, the name “Jess” was selected by the MMSC team.  And Jess she became. But she did not become the horse of the prospective adopter who was seeking a gray mare. That adopter felt that Jess’s canter was “too big with too much suspension,” to be a fun trail riding horse, so she passed.

Lauren, Jeffy’s girlfriend, had noticed Jess online however, and was keen to see her when they first came to the MMSC. Maybe Jess would be a good mount for Jeffy?  She was big, quiet, and kind. But Jeffy only had eyes for Noah.

Jessy, Nick’s fiancée, was another story. She couldnt take her eyes off Jess. She asked me a lot of questions about her. She was keen to hear about the uveitis. She lingered by Jess’s stall. I asked Jessy if she had any experience with horses. She didn’t. But “Miss Jess,” as she dubbed her, was “so sweet, so beautiful.” At the time, I didn’t think much of it. After all, I had just met Jessy, and I didn’t know anything about her passionate side.

Nick had met Jessy seven years prior. She was on the same volleyball team as the girlfriend of one his buddies. He told me that from the onset one of the things that he loved about Jessy was that she was passionate about everything that she did. “You can see that watching her play volleyball!” he said. “She is such an amazing person who is driven to help others. She makes me laugh every day. We have fun together doing nothing. I love how she loves people the first time she meets them, but most of all I love that she loves God more than me.

When Jessy and Nick met, it was instant chemistry.
 They dated for seven years before marrying this past August.

Finally after years of Nick’s playing for the Sea Hawks and the Dallas Cowboys, and Jessy’s multiple forays in other countries as a professional volleyball player, they were ready to get married and start a life together. The wedding date was set for the last weekend in August.

Seeing Jessy’s interest in You Jest, Nick, Jeffy, and Lauren concocted a plan: “What better wedding gift than ‘Miss Jess?” Nick explained. With Jeff and Nick both learning to ride and wanting to get horses of their own, with Lauren’s knowledge of and passion for riding, Jessy needed to be part of that team effort and that group excitement, Nick reasoned. “Also," he told me, “I just LOVE surprising Jessy, and what better wedding surprise could I give her than her first horse!”

It was four days before Nick and Jessy’s wedding. Jessy was totally focused on effecting the last minute details of the event. Nick used that as an excuse to “stay out of the way.” “I’ll go with Jeffy and Lauren to the MMSC to see how the Noah project is coming,” he had told her. He had already cleared his plan with me. Lauren would come down and try Jess. If she liked her, Jess would go back to Minnesota and live in the same barn as Lauren’s horse, the barn where Noah, and, in time, whatever horse that Nick adopted would stay. Lauren was to oversee Jess’s training in the coming months. Jessy was to take lessons as the brothers were. They were to keep in touch with me about the uveitis. Nick was going to keep everything thing a secret until their wedding day when he would present Jess to his bride right before they stepped in the church together.

“Call me when you get back to Minnesota to let me know that all is well,” I told the boys.  “And send me pictures of Jessy’s face when she sees her present!"

“Oh, we will!” said Nick. “And we will be back for Sips ’N Saddles, cause remember, I'm going to need an MMSC horse too!”

Cheery bye,

“Jessy almost ‘passed!!!’" Nick told me when he presented 
her with You Jest, who was also wearing a veil, 
in honor of their wedding day,