Heart & Soul Story- Driving Missy

My sister's favorite photograph of her beloved mare Missy

On July 25th 1989 my sister purchased her second horse - a black mare who was supposed to be a Missouri Fox Trotter, but she wasn’t registered so it wasn’t certain. The gentleman she bought the mare from had bought her at an auction and they had told him that was the mare’s breed, but he didn’t know for sure. They had also told him she was broke to drive and he couldn’t say that for certain either. My sister didn’t care she knew that was the horse for her and if the mare was broke to drive that was just a bonus.

It turned out Missy was broke to drive, in fact that was probably the only thing she was trained to do at the time. It also turned out she wasn’t a Missouri Fox Trotter, but a Standardbred Pacer who was most likely off the track. Oh, by the way, when my sister bought the mare she didn’t have a name - she was just referred to as “the black mare,” so my sister picked out the name Missy and from then on she was Missy.

After purhasing a harness (as the years passed several more harnesses) and a small cart for Missy, Cathy ventured into driving. The first time she hitched Missy up it took awhile, because she was referring to a Doris Ganton book on training the driving horse to figure out how to do it. She felt I should drive Missy first since I had more horse experience, sure why not. I have no idea what happened, but when I pulled back on the reins the cart hit Missy in the rear. Fortunately Missy was a gentle soul and she didn’t freak out. However, I was glad Cathy and our Dad were there in the arena that day. Cathy managed to solve the problem and the next test drive was fine. I was more than happy to hand the driving reins over to my sister - driving just wasn’t my thing.

Even after we broke Missy to ride she actually preferred be driven and any time someone wanted to drive she was ready. She and Cathy spent many happy hours tooling around the area with their little cart. Missy really enjoyed it when our two brothers would drive her. They would always let here go full out in her pacing gait the way she did, I imagined, when she raced. Truthfully she perferred guys over woman in general. I think us girls were just too, well, affectionate for her taste. Missy always looked at you like “Puleeze - go be affectionate with the Arabs, not me”.

I tried to enjoy driving Missy, but we never clicked. When I would climb into the cart and take up the reins Missy would turn her head slightly in the shafts, with her blinders on, and actually look at me. I swear I could hear her say “Oh please not her,”. Missy wasn’t rude about it, just more like passive aggressive. You know ignoring my cue to walk off etc. Funny thing was when I rode her, especially with a Dressage saddle, she and I both enjoyed it.

Cathy and Missy would always have a Christmas drive, weather permitting, and it became somewhat of a tradition. Some years the whole family would participate. Every year Cathy would plan how she was going to decorate the cart and, yes, Missy. First it was just sleigh bells then it became more elaborate. Missy took it in stride - the garland, the silk Poinsettas, the bows and ribbons and even the battery operated lights on the harness. Missy was a trooper. Didn’t matter if it was 50 degress or 25 degrees on Christmas Day - Missy went along with it.

One Christmas, because it was so cold, the only people crazy enough to go out for the drive was Cathy, our niece Michelle and me. Missy seemed to love pulling that cart in the few inchs of snow, in the cold, decorated up like Christmas tree. It wasn’t exactly a “ one horse open sleigh”, but Missy made it feel like that.

We still miss her!