When Vivian was horse shopping she and her husband had narrowed their choices down to two horses, Apollo and one other horse. Vivian had fallen in love with Apollo's personality, but was talked into vetting the other horse as Apollo's size and lofty gaits didn't appear to be an ideal match for an amateur returning to riding after many years. As it turned out the other horse failed the pre-purchase exam miserably. Vivian was in the hospital recovering from her first cancer surgery when her husband had to deliver the bad news that the horse didn't pass the vet. Vivian told me that she started crying in her hospital bed when she heard the news, so her husband decided to go ahead and purchase Apollo. If becoming the proud new owner of a wonderful horse like Apollo isn't enough to motivate someone to beat cancer I don't know what would be!
During her recovery Vivian's husband rode Apollo, doing flatwork and low jumps. Vivian said he would set up a chair for her next to Apollo in the cross ties and she would sit with Apollo and simply enjoy his presence. As she began to recover and gain strength she began grooming and hand grazing him, and finally was able to start riding him. Vivian had quite a challenge as she went from riding small school horses to 18+ hand Apollo. She rode at the hunter barn at first but decided she wanted to pursue dressage. She changed barns and began her relationship with Joan, who is still her dressage trainer today. Vivian credits Joan with teaching her to truly ride Apollo's big gaits and to be comfortable and confident on her huge horse.
Two pictures of Apollo with Vivian's trainer Joan aboard
Just as she and Apollo were really starting to click Vivian was diagnosed with lung cancer, and faced her second battle with cancer. She went through surgery and had the top lobe of her right lung removed. Her husband again drove her out to the barn to sit with Apollo and spend time with him while she recovered. Amazingly, Vivian was back in the saddle five weeks after surgery! Joan began showing Apollo in rated dressage shows while Vivian showed in some schooling shows. Apollo was the horse who made Vivian's riding dreams come true, and on him she rode in her first ever horse show at almost 50 years old.
Apollo has taken well to retirement
Apollo was doing solid first level work and schooling second level when he collapsed in the pasture one day. He was diagnosed with EPM. Vivian and her husband gave Apollo every chance and treated him aggressively. A few months later Apollo was cleared to go back to work and her trainer Joan began slowly conditioning him. Apollo was only a few weeks back into work when he relapsed. Apollo was treated again, but due to some complications and nerve damage from the EPM he is no longer rideable.
Apollo letting me know that the barn is boring and he is ready to go back outside anytime
I know it is a huge sacrifice for Vivian and her husband to provide Apollo with a retirement. They are fabulous people and are both compassionate animal lovers. Several people tried to talk Vivian into either giving Apollo away and hoping he wound up in a good home or giving him to a rescue. As Vivian said, Apollo is the love of her life and she knew for her own peace of mind that she could not chance him having such an unknown and risky future. So Apollo made the journey from Florida to join us in retirement. I still remember his arrival as the shipper arrived here at 3am! I spent the rest of the night in the barn with Apollo to make sure he settled in well.
Aside from his impressive presence Apollo has a wonderful personality. He is sweet and loving towards everyone, although he greatly prefers to be out in the pasture with his friends over being in the barn. When he first arrived he fell madly in love with Sparky the donkey. They were quite the mismatched pair and made for an interesting picture next to each other. Apollo was obsessed with Sparky and wanted him all to himself. He would herd him around to keep him away from the other horses. Apollo was not interested in Sparky being friends with anyone but him.
Apollo grazing nose to nose with Sparky; Apollo is 18.1 hands and sparky is a little over 14 hands
Apollo on his first day at our farm. It isn't a particularly good picture of Apollo, Jason or my Dad, but does a good job of showing how big he is.
To Sparky's relief that changed a few months later when Ivan joined us for retirement. Apollo dropped Sparky like a hot potato and Ivan became his new best friend. His loyalty to Ivan has been much more enduring than his loyalty to Sparky, as over two years later he and Ivan are still joined at the hip. They hate to be separated from each other and scream and call to each other incessantly on the rare occasion they have to spend a short while apart.
Apollo and his best friend IvanIt has been a lot of fun to have Apollo on the farm with us. He makes friends with everyone, people and horses. In fact, he has such a big social circle that he knew one of the retirees that arrived here about a year after he did. You met Stacey and Elfin in this post. As it turned out, Vivian and Stacey boarded at the same barn for awhile, and Stacey rode Apollo for Vivian several times! Stacey and Vivian had lost contact with each other as they each moved on to different barns, and neither knew that the other one had retired their horse with us. Stacey came to visit Elfin shortly after she retired him with us, and she recognized Apollo. It is really neat to realize what a small world we live in sometimes!
Sometimes Apollo makes me laugh out loud as he reminds me a bit of the elephant and the mouse. He is not always the bravest horse in the world, and will spook at things such as Cloudy appearing around the corner and surprising him. It is hard not to laugh when an 18.1 hand horse is snorting over a cat!
Apollo eyeing me suspiciously; he probably thought I was going to take him into the barn
We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting Apollo in his retirement. Vivian said that the heat and humidity of Florida was never a friend to Apollo, and she wanted him to go somewhere where he would be happy and well cared for. Of course my opinion is completely biased, but I think Apollo is both very happy and content and well cared for. We've enjoyed every minute of our time with him, and he has also been a wonderful conversation piece with visitors to the farm!