Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Jose Dante - Tom Sites

I walked into this tack shop out of the blue. I lived in the city and just found it interesting to visit and look and smell the leather. The clerk asked me if i was buying or selling...i was just looking i said. After looking arround i was ready to leave and this clerk said.."i have a friend who is trying to sell a horse". I took the name and # and went back to my city haunts in Arlington, Va and had this dream of a dancing horse. I called the # and went to look at Dante. She told me the story of Joe a horse she outbid the meat man on at 175$.
She wanted to sell him for $250. "Can i ride him" i asked. Sure, she said. I rode my first horse in 20 years or so and he was a whirlwind. I said. "Sure" but i have to find a place to keep him. Finding a field board place off Route 7 outside a metropolis called Washington DC i took my new horse who i thought was more than a Joe...so i called him Jose Dante. He was a handful and i had to get a trainer to help me with him. She worked for the CIA and did training on the side. She sold me a weather beaten English Saddle for 15$ that i cleaned and oiled to go along w/ the Western Saddle i purchased when i bought Jose. I'll never forget when she hit me with her crop when i didn't do as she thought i should do. Those lessons were over. Jose and i were on our own w/ 2 saddles.
This was the fall of 1973 in the city with my horse. I was a single young man and brought this friend Lisa to ride and see my new horse. I got on and asked Lisa to come on. Jose bucks us both off and when i went to get him he chased us both over the fence. Jose only did what he wanted to do. When he ran me down from a dead walk and ran out into the traffic on Route 7 i knew my time in the city was spent.
We moved to Luray, Virginia in the fall of 1974 not really knowing what i was going to do but i was on a quest with this dancing horse. Out in the country Jose felt free. We rode to my 8 track to Bruce Springsteens "Born to Run" and we rode and we rode. But you had to hang on cause Jose only stopped when HE wanted too. We had a few tumbles, one w/ Gandolf, the Great Dane/Labrador Retriever and all 3 of us went into this slow motion roll.
Living in the country and being free and no worries i lusted for adventure. The Great American Horse Race came along in 1976 and we went. A duffle bag of clothes, a foot locker of horse stuff, a small bag of toiletries and writing material and Jose and me and only enough money to get into the race. The entry fee was 500$ and i had 659$. There are so many to thank for getting us to the start. Lois Fortune Ireland for the money, my Mother for her support and all those that helped us along. Me and Jose had never been on a camping trip outside Luray. We had never been to a horse event. We were as green as spring grass. We knew we were in the Sport of Kings but had the audacity to not even care, cause we were on a grand adventure.
Coast to Coast in '76'. There are so many stories to tell on that adventure that that is another story. But, we finished. And being in Califorina for 2 days i was ready to come home and took the first ride that came along to Illinois. That was closer than Ca. While there Ted Allegrias' sponsor said he'd take us home if we paid the gas. Luray Bound and Home and Glad. Jose and i were mild celebrities here in Luray for a while but life and everything took me back to gardening and making a living and only riding on the weekends.
1977 came and by then i knew what Endurance was and i had to go to the Old Dominion. I had no truck or trailer in 76 and didn't have one in 77 either but we got there. We finished w/ 15 minutes to spare, the toughest ride i had ever done. 78 i took a break and came back with training and ready to tackle that OD in 79. It was a killer day the OD is known for, but we improved our time and came in at 4:30 w/ 30 minutes to spare.
Jose is dead now and i remember him so fondly. It was only much later i found his tongue had been practically cut off by a bit and thats why he was a runaway. Oh Jose Man, you were a good first horse. tom sites

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