Outrider Remembers Goodwill Ambassador

Published: March 9, 2011 07:47 pm EST

For an appaloosa, he sure spent a lot of time going round and round a harness track.

The 27-year-old leopard appaloosa Clyde, who served as outrider horse for Jody Riedel for 16 years, was euthanized on March 2

at Cornell University Veterinary School after a long struggle with melanoma.

Riedel, who also trains a small stable of standardbreds, owned Clyde for 25 of his 27 years. After retirement in 2009, Clyde served as a goodwill ambassador at Goshen Historic Track in New York, standing still for hours and allowing hundreds of people to pet him and accepting treats.

“Vernon, Pompano, Syracuse Mile, Goshen Historic Track, he never missed a loose one,” said Riedel. “Clyde always made me look good. He loved his job. He’d pony the bad ones, catch the loose ones and then go to the winner’s circle and eat candy from a little kids’ hands like he was a kitten.

“Thousands, I wouldn’t even say hundreds, of kids patted Clyde. He never had a mean bone in his body. He’d eat anything. He used to have a guy come out every weekend at Pompano and bring him a beer. That was his drinking buddy. He never wore a bit, just a hackamore [nose band that gives the rider control through pressure points on the horse’s head], which made it more convenient for him to eat on the job,” Riedel laughed. “His favourite, favourite treat was jelly donuts.

“He had a lot of friends, two-legged and four-legged. In 25 years, I never yelled at that horse and there weren’t many days that I didn’t see him. Some marriages don’t last that long or are that happy. I never remember getting angry or telling him to stop doing something. Never.

“When we were here at Goshen, you have people pushing baby carriages right up behind his rear, because they don’t know any better and kids running up behind him. He never cared – he’s priceless. I had a lot of horses, but I will never have another Clyde. All my racehorses gave him seniority in the pasture. If they went out with one another, they’d pick on each other. But they go out with Clyde and all they had to do was scratch his withers [shoulders].”

Riedel said the decision to euthanize Clyde was difficult.

“It’s important to pet owners to know that our animals give us their unconditional love every day,” she said. “All we can give them in the end is a merciful death. To keep them alive for us and not for them is not the right thing to do. Clyde had some health issues, Cushings disease and he’d try to founder once in a while because of his age and being on hard tracks over the years took a toll on his joints, but we kept him on supplements.”

Three earlier surgeries kept Clyde’s cancer in check, but at the age of 27, he was not a good candidate for surgery and the decision to euthanize him was left to Riedel.

“As good as he’s been for me, I owed him that,” she said.

This story courtesy of Harness Racing Communications, a division of the U.S. Trotting Association. For more information, visit www.ustrotting.com.

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