Horses are a seemingly common part of the scenery here in northern West Virginia, as it is not at all unusual to see small "herds" of them dotting fields here and there while driving along the scenic routes of the area.
On state Route 180, just about on the Tyler-Wetzel border, lives a little-known celebrity in a horse-grazed pasture.
His appearance does not deceive in that he is an older gelding in comparison to the flashier "youngsters" around him. His gait is a bit slower and his appearance is a bit duller in comparison to his comrades-all obvious signs of his older age.
Pam Nelson has worked with horses across the country. Pictured is her when she did work with a cattle drive in Fallon, Nev.
A true horse-person can perhaps sense that this is a special creature though. His eyes speak to his kindness and he carries with himself a presence of sorts that speaks of his wisdom and his experience. This is a special horse-a horse of many accomplishments-but perhaps most importantly, as his owner describes, this horse possesses "a big heart."
This horse's "certificate" lists him as having been born on March 10, 1983, in Nevada, the son of Prize Robin and Good N Rood. He's registered with the American Paint Horse Association and he's officially dubbed "Ima Good Risk", or Risk for short.
As described by his owner, Risk is in retirement now, but he should remain a local legend for several reasons, perhaps one of the biggest being that he has been so successful despite his rough, humble beginnings.
"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle". ~Winston Churchill
"The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears." ~Arabian Proverb
The horse was given to local horsewoman Pam Nelson right after he was born, his original owner thinking that he would never amount to the champion status of those in his pedigree before him because of a seemingly broken leg. Nelson took Risk under her wing and found out that, amazingly, his leg was not broken. He suffered from only a hair-line fracture.
Risk further proved himself as being a special horse. Despite being an amateur surrounded by professionals Risk impressed the judges enough that he took first place in his very first futurity, an event that judges the top horses in a specific breed. The ranking encourages breeding for outstanding offspring.
This wasn't the last time Risk overcame the odds either. Nelson recalls, still with amazement, a time when her youngest son was riding Risk in a hunter/jumper show in Hillsboro, Mo. After clipping a rail, her son fell off the horse. The duo received a standing ovation though, when, instead of charging off like any other horse might do, Risk returned to her son's side. The two went on to receive second place overall for the weekend. This is just one of many achievements. Nelson and her sons have all taken home ribbons when paired with Risk. Nelson's shelves are lined with various belt buckles, trophies, and ribbons all attributed to Risk's success, one of many being a buckle attributed to Risk's 1993 American Royal 4-H champion status. But Risk's champion status has definitely not gone to his head. He had remained such a well-mannered horse that he was ridden by both the governor and lieutenant governor of Nevada on separate occasions.
Nelson is no stranger to success either. She grew up in Wheeling, W.Va., where she took riding lessons at Oglebay. She went on to attend the College of the Sequoias in California where she received her Master's Degree in Riding. Nelson has been a high-point winner as well as an advisor for the Nevada Barrel Racing Association, she has coached her sons in various horse-shows, and she has raised several young horses from the time that they were foals until they were full grown champions. Nelson also worked, on horseback, cattle in a stock yard. In between her many horse-related jobs, she also worked as a nurse.
Nelson also coached the reserve champion East Central Missouri team in the 4-H Horse Bowl Competition. Nelson recalls practicing every Sunday for six months. The team was judged on knowledge of horse management, equine reproduction, and exhibition. Nelson states that the members had to know facts such as "every vein in the horse's body." The horse bowl team also went on to take part in the International Livestock Symposium, where the team placed second in that as well.
As for Risk, the horse is 29 now, a senior citizen of sorts when one takes into consideration that the average life-span of a horse is 25-30. Nelson gets a bit emotional when talking about the future passing of this horse, one who has been a mainstay in her life for the past few decades, through the emotional ups and downs of life, and literally, across the country with her. Despite what the future might hold and despite the many silky ribbons and glossy shiny buckles and trophies this horse has garnered, the true prize himself affirms the age-old advice that some risks are worth taking.