Suzette Taylor-White said her prize-winning horse, Zippos Fancy Dancer, had a personality that too few owners understood until she found him four years ago.
"He kept getting passed between riders," she said in a telephone interview. "A lot of people just think he's crazy."
Her future husband, Paul White, had the brightly mottled bronze and white paint horse in his barn when his future wife was a novice rider five years ago. Zip was unruly with all the riders who tried to make a quiet trail horse of him, Taylor-White said.
"It's just not what the animal does," she said.
White, who was among the riders Zip injured by misbehaving, suggested that the petite, 90-pound Taylor-White would be right for the horse, even though more experienced riders had failed. She recognized that Zip wanted nothing more than to run -- all the time.
"They all kept trying to slow him down," she said. "I've learned to do what he likes."
Shortly after, the novice rider from Frederick and spectacular horse were beating the old hands at their own game: barrel racing and pole bending. She trains him only lightly between racing seasons because he naturally keeps himself well-muscled.
"He's a firecracker," she said.
Taylor-White's dedication to Zip never flinched when he suffered a massive injury a few months after she got him. Most experts recommended putting him down, she said.
A wire fence cut through one of Zip's legs, through tendons and partly through bone, she said.
"Nobody thought he'd run again," she said. "I didn't know if he would ever be able to run the barrels again, but just having him in my life was the most important thing."
Eight months later, his healing left him more calm than he had ever been, she said. Nine months after the injury, he was winning again.
Zip compensated for weakness in the injured leg, but Taylor-White did not race when he was lame, she said.
"I don't ever race him if he isn't 100 percent right," Taylor-White said.
Veterinarian Richard Card is an almost constant presence, she said, keeping Zip feeling his best. Card specializes in alternative hands-on therapies, chiropractic and acupuncture that Taylor-White sought for Zip's occasional stiffness.
"I put a lot into him to keep him comfortable," she said.
Zip responds miraculously to the massage and chiropractic adjustments, Taylor-White said. Card said she helped with Zip's therapy so naturally that he hired her to assist with his other patients.
"It's a real gift," Card said of her innate ability.
Trainers have started to send unruly horses to Taylor-White, and they perform for her, her husband said.
"All the horses nobody can ride," White said. "She's got the knack -- some people have it, and some people don't."
Her instant success with Zip annoyed some of the more experienced riders at the competitions, and they watch for White's horse trailer at events to see if Zip is on it, he said.
He was there this year, at 14 still going strong. He placed eighth in the open division at the National Barrel Horse Association World Championships, competing against hundreds of others.
This year and last, Zip won the first division's West Virginia NBHA district championship, and the speed divisions.
When he cannot run anymore, he will live his life out on the farm, White said.
"He definitely is a horse that is one of a kind," Taylor-White wrote in a short biography. "If he didn't have such a big heart and free spirit, he wouldn't be where he is today."
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