Laurie and Sham: Sham’s Hat Fetish, Listen to the Horse


SHAM was a gentleman of a horse. Easy and playful to ride. He was very kind at the stable, and funny at times. He loved rolling in mud; rider, saddle and all. Everybody there at the barn adored him.  One groom, Gato, said a prayer in Spanish, whenever he raced.  He and I loved SHAM very much. I still do.

He liked to pull headgar off heads: hats, baseball caps.  One morning, he grabbed my helmet while I was helping Gato, his groom,  put on bandages. Frank thought that would stop him from his hat fetish, grabbing that helmet.   It didn’t. He was very attracted to headgear as long as I knew him. Around the barn, we all just got used to it, as part of the day.  He did not just rip them off, however, I mean, he chewed it for a bit.

On Derby morning, Mrs. Sommer came to the stable, went from stall to stall as she always did, visiting each inquisitive, velvety muzzle that poked out to say hello. She was wearing one of those ridiculous, flowery headpieces that the ladies wore, full of beautiful white and yellow flowers.

When she got to Sham, she gave him a kiss, wishing him luck. He reached out, simply grabbing the hat right off her head, shook it, chewed it, until it fell out of his mouth.  Some of the guys looked shocked, not wanting to react.  One asked how much it cost.  Mrs. Sommer crawled under the stall webbing, shook off the straw, and put it on her head.  It didn’t look the same.  Someone timidly asked what was she going to do if SHAM won ? She was laughing, and told us, she would proudly wear what was left of it in the Winner’s Circle.  She was a very gracious, horse-loving lady, who almost got her wish.  Turned a nervous day into a funny one.

Even though Frank allowed SHAM a lot of outdoor time, playing in the paddock, long walks around the barns, gallops, SHAM always wanted attention. A lot of horses have more character than the humans around them realize. A true horseman sees a horse developing mentally, and if given the chance, they’ll show their true personality.

That morning, SHAM taught the barn crew to how to relieve tension by laughing! As I say to this day, horses talk to us constantly.  All we have to do is listen.

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