Thursday, July 25, 2013

JMF Anna Beam Gone to Glory!

JMF Anna Beam with Tom Simmons at Gilroy CDE

  Last week, one of my favorite mares crossed into glory aided by her lifetime owner and trainer Tom Simmons.  She was a rare and unique mare that gave me one of my most thrilling moments in driving horses in sport. 

  It was at the last Myopia Combined Driving Event in 2000; and as far as I know, it was the last 5 phase CDE ever done in America.  After a run of 25 years, Myopia Driving Event, held at Groton House Farm, Hamilton, MA. was host to the AHSA (now USEF) National Pony Championships.  My Morgan horse, Lance was entered but had cut his fetlock two weeks before the event and could not compete.  My trainer suggested I use his Morgan mare Anna Beam who was no stranger to Combined Driving under Tom's direction.  At the time, Anna had been retired and became one of Tom's best broodmares.  She may have been a broodmare but she kept condition by putting on what we called "The Anna Show".  Tom would open the farm gates regularly just to have her trot by us at full speed for her joy of life and our thrill to watch it.  

  Once a Morgan horse has been conditioned over the years, it does not take long to bring them back into peak performance mode, and she was no exception.   She always had that special something that Morgan mares have that make them so desirable for sport.  Anna had willingness and ambition enough to rise above and beyond what was asked of her.  One has to be careful in the initial training of ambitious mares so as not to wake up the "sleeping genie" of speed performance, or it will be a lifelong trial to try and put the genie back in the bottle.  It is always need to make it a habit! 

   What had attracted Tom about her as a baby was her special quality of being able to trot like the Currier and Ives images of trotting horses.  The artists depicted what they saw with no exaggeration and it was real enough in Miss Anna Beam.  Tom couldn't resist allowing this mare to express her full brilliance and beauty of motion.  Her trot was so true that it had a special sound that still resonates in my head as I think of that day in the Fast Trot C Section of that event in 2000.  

Anna Beam being driven by Tom Simmons with daughter Renee Simmons navigating at Yellowframe Farm CDE in Southern Pines, North Carolina

  The total length of the marathon was just over 17 kilometers and the fast trot C section was 4.2 kilometers at 16KPH.  It felt exhilarating even as I was holding her back a bit until my husband/navigator told me we had met the minimum time allowed.  I let her go over that last stretch before the finish line and here came that memorable moment forever etched in my mind.  The sound she made with her hooves hitting the ground was unlike anything I have ever heard before.  It sounded like perfectly timed footfalls that struck the ground with a "phump" sound.  The crowds lining the course all stopped to watch this trotting machine fly by with their jaws dropped open.  I could barely see the finish through my watering eyes from the speed.  Tom has always said Anna is a Standardbred trapped in a Morgan body.  Tom never thought Anna was a great beauty but here he was wrong.  She had the great beauty of being a noble creature who was allowed to be who she was, and show what was in her to give.  At Myopia, more than one person came up to me to tell me she was the most beautiful horse they had seen.  Beauty is as beauty does!    

A year or so ago, I was talking with Jodi Cutler who was one of the judges.  She does not remember my dressage, done at a road trot, where I circled the arena prior to entering and almost took out the judges stand.  I remember seeing Jodi and Sydney Smith of Great Britain, standing up and stepping back as I flew by.  A seven minute test done in half the time.  Not very admirable in dressage, but awesome in marathon and cones.  Anna drove in those phases like a cat and snaked her way through the seven hazards at my mental direction.  She was thrilling to say the least.

We finished the event successfully even though we were just out of the ribbons.  The vets found her in good condition. I really want to thank Tom Simmons for giving me the opportunity to experience Anna in Combined Driving and in my life with horses.  

Me driving Anna Beam at Southern Pines

Anna Beam has gone back to where ever she came from; but her memory, along with her sons and daughters still grace this earth.  

I salute you Anna ... you will live forever in my mind and heart.  A grand old mare!

an additional note:
Looking at her pedigree, I see that back in 1918 there WAS a Standardbred, Pluto Watts, in Anna's lineage. He was a decendant of Hambletonian who was a decendant of the Thoroughbred, Messenger. So you see...speed was in her blood. What a mare!

Anna's son LH Harlan County 5 yr. old gelding