Horses are a mirror. They reflect who we are as people. Oftentimes horses can accomplish things with people who have challenges that others can’t. Sometimes they change your whole life.
One horse will tell you a lot about the team behind the business that is Lock, Stock & Barrel in Bethany, Conn. A place where new tractors line up with spanking new mowers, blowers, chainsaws and an array of attachments and equipment. Under the same roof, aisles of feeds for animals large and small, supplements, and the go-withs for country and ranch life – boots, bits, spurs, jeans, cowboy hats, jodphurs and safety helmets, outdoor gear, knives with etched artistry on their handles – plus the experience that can help you makes educated choices.
Peter and Kathy La Tronica have four horses, two Quarter horses, a Morgan, and a Gypsy Vanner. Hobie, the Morgan, is 23. They rescued him when he was going to be put down. Keep in mind there is a positive outcome, but there also a reason the soundtrack to this horse’s life is the theme from Rocky the movie.
“Theron Simons and his wife, Mary, are partners here at the store,” recalled Peter La Tronica. “He has a construction company that uses heavy equipment including backhoes. A lot of people will contact Theron when their horse passes away and ask him for his help.”
So Simons brings in his backhoe, digs a hole – and mind you, he’d had gone out twice before to do this task – but each time Hobie would rally and the ground would be backfilled.
“Theron asked if I could come help because it takes more than one person to get this done. My wife, Kathy, and Theron and I went and we are all standing there looking at Hobie. We talked among ourselves and even with the vet, then said “this horse is just not ready to die.”
Before you see Hobie’s YouTube video, a bit of the backstory that goes with it: Hobie at the time of the video is a 20-year-old Morgan, UVM Baywatch. He had a wonderful career as a competitive driving horse and later on as a lesson horse. He has competed and won all the way up to the Grand Nationals (Grand National & World Championship Morgan Horse Show) in Oklahoma City. In the spring of 2011 while turned out with other horses, he was kicked resulting in a fracture to his left humerus. Diagnostics were difficult and the fracture was not identified. He was paired up in a stall with a pony for support and over the next six months his condition deteriorated. Over time the break formed a shortened fibrous union resulting in a left front leg that is about 4 inches shorter than his right. Given his condition and the fact that the pony ate all the food, Hobie’s suffered massive weight loss. Eventually, the decision was made to put Hobie down . . . when we saw Hobie we realized that this horse was not ready to die. After speaking with the attending vet, we made the joint decision to bring Hobie back to our farm, Fair Winds, and try to help him.
Over the next 20 months, Hobie went through numerous exams with several equine medical experts and professionals. Nothing invasive as the fracture was stable and could not be repaired. Instead, we put him on a plan of strict nutrition, proper hoof care (his right front hoof had grown over his metal shoe), and physical therapy. What you will see in this video is pretty amazing. What is more amazing is that he continues to improve every day enjoying pasture time with his barn buddies. A short video update of his progress to date is available on YouTube.
But wait, there’s another facet to this tale.
Theron and Mary own Hidden Acres in Naugatuck, Conn., a farm that has been in Theron’s family for almost 100 years. Originally a dairy farm, over time it transitioned to a horse farm and is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation therapeutic riding center.
Simple touch can work wonders. Should you have any doubt, and since a picture is worth 100 (or more) words, here is some of the horse-human magic that happens at the farm.
“Horses are not judgmental, they accept people in front of them and they don’t care if you’re rich or poor, old, young – or if you have two legs, one, or can’t move at all,” said La Tronica. “What Theron and Mary do there is powerful work. The year they started, I think they did 40 lessons. Last year there were more than 1,200.”
From the Hidden Acres site: “Mary and Theron strongly believe in the power of the human-animal bond, personally experiencing the exceptional benefits of equine partnerships. So they committed themselves to creating a place for children and adults with special needs to explore their potential and strive to meet their personal goals – all in a compassionate and supportive environment.”
Combined abilities can make lives change. By now it should be clear that a business came into being from lives lived paying attention to what really matters. Animals are an integral part of this journey; there are people who can live without four-legged beings as companions – and some who cannot.
“My wife and I moved to Woodbridge, Conn., in 2005 with the intention of getting horses back in our lives. I’ve grown up with horses and my wife had ridden when she was younger. We were looking for a piece of property that would allow us to do that which we found that in Woodbridge. The next step in that process was building a barn and we got together with a local builder who coincidentally also had horses. That gave us a lot of confidence and the construction project went along really well.”
Solutions. See, every problem has one; some have more than a few. But which is the best fit for an optimum outcome?
“One day in the late stages of the project we were sitting up in the hay loft and we were talking in general about horses and barns. We were talking about the local area and the shrinking supply of horse-friendly properties and we started talking about our location today which was the old Seymour Lumber and Supply site. At the time I mentioned to him that this would be a great place for a farm supply store. We thought a farm store would make a lot of sense because of all the horses in the area. We then went to a bank and negotiated with them and bought the property and began the renovations. It was a pretty intense project but we got it done and opened our doors in 2013.”
The LSB compound itself is kind of outside the box. More than just a feed store, more than a power equipment store, more than an apparel store, they offer a little bit of everything, even a corral on the property – something you’d probably expect to find in Wyoming more than Connecticut.
“The most important issue I want the public to know is that we are all about education, not just selling a product,” he said. “To find the best solution applies to equipment, horses, pets – across the board. Say you have a horse that’s 28 and has a full set of teeth. Maybe you’ve heard about XYZ feed and want to put him on that, but that’s designed for a horse that doesn’t have teeth. There might be a better choice. We’re here to help.”
“We offer them advice from a combined 100 years worth of experience in dealing with animals,” he said, and notes that they are equally comfortable with “both Eastern and Western medicine, looking at a holistic way to combine feed with high quality ingredients and natural ways to support animals. Keep them healthy in every way possible, as opposed to just treating them with antibiotics when they are sick.”
Note: Did we mention the collection of antique chainsaws and logging equipment? The hands-on seminars offered year-round from equine dentistry to equine massage, plus the state-of-the-art indoor classroom in a separate building. Clinics on fitting bits, centered riding. Cinches, lariats, a frozen food section, pet carriers, toys, treats, pet beds, wildlife, farm and ranch, and the dogs, goats, people – many in cowboy hats – who get together at special community events, including a birthday bash. Food trucks, a bull ride, even a visit from a Budweiser Clydesdale and the official tractor trailer?