A joyful reunion in Hope
Hope — Jennifer Chipman has always been a horse person, for years she competed on the saddle seat A show circuit, riding her preferred Morgan horses. Now 50, Chipman has recently reunited with Sam — the horse she thought she would have "for the rest of his life," prior to selling him in 2008.
Chipman sold Sam — known as MCG Secret Agent Man in the show ring — after realizing she didn't have the time to devote to the then 10-year-old gelding.
"It wasn't fair to him," Chipman said, noting she had just moved, had a new job and a new boyfriend who is now her husband. Still, Chipman wrestled with the thought of selling Sam, an immaculately bred Morgan she purchased while living in Ohio and actively competing. One of Sam's shoes is even embedded in the custom Alternative Rock counter top at the Chipman home in Warren.
Chipman knew Sam was a talented horse and said it would be remiss not to show him, though in her heart she knew her showing days were behind her.
Sonia Theobalds of Hope said when she purchased Sam from Chipman in 2008 she had spent two years searching for a show horse for her teenage daughter Emma.
"I drove probably between 10,000 and 12,000 miles to look at horses all over New England," Theobalds said.
It turns out the perfect horse happened to be right across the street from the barn where Theobalds was boarding another horse in Warren.
After a few mutual friends encouraged Theobalds to consider Sam, she and Emma — accompanied by Emma's 4-H group — journeyed across the street to meet the playful, liver chestnut gelding.
Theobalds said she immediately thought Sam was stunning, but had hesitations about the Morgan breed. Emma — historically picky about her next mount — fell in love.
"They say you don't pick Morgans, they pick you," Theobalds said, adding Emma scheduled a test ride and afterward "it was a done deal."
Theobalds said Emma enjoyed a show career with Sam, advancing his training and even attending 23 training clinics in a single year. After graduating high school, Emma, now 19, began to pursue other interests and Theobalds — who has her own rescued horse, Presto — said she realized she couldn't let a horse with Sam's talent languish in the barn.
"I couldn't ride them both," she explained, noting she didn't want to put Sam up for sale and loves him as her own.
Chipman had never forgotten Sam, and though he was nearby, she had resisted Theobalds' invitations to ride him, worrying that it might be painful since he no longer belonged to her.
On July 1, Chipman said she had heard Theobalds was considering selling Sam — Theobalds said she put out a single "feeler" about finding a new home for Sam. That feeler — through the close-knit local horse community — extended to Chipman within hours.
"One day Jenn called and asked if I would consider selling Sam," Theobalds said. "She called at 7:30 a.m. and I think we had the deal done by 9 a.m.."
"I was in a position to do it — I was turning 50," Chipman said.
Her husband Ken, who accompanied her on the day she sold Sam in 2008, was "very supportive." She explained on the day she sold Sam — crying as she handed over the proverbial reins — Ken had reassured her by saying, " 'you never know.'"
"Sam was the epitome of what I wanted in a Morgan horse and a horse I could enjoy," Chipman said.
In a best-of-both-worlds scenario Chipman now boards Sam at Theobalds' farm in Hope. She said knowing she could keep him there — since she doesn't have the space — was "the clincher." Still, she said she initially wondered if it would be "weird" to ask if she could board Sam there.
"I hadn't even gotten the sentence out of my mouth and [Sonia] said 'yes,'" Chipman said with a laugh.
The woman have become "like sisters," trail riding together in a number of organized trail rides around the Midcoast — including a recent memorial trail ride for homicide victim Katrina Windred, enjoying the trails near Theobalds' home, and even riding in nearby Alford Lake.
"The best thing to me is I'm doing all the things with Sam now that I always wanted to do with him," Chipman said.
Courier Publications reporter Jenna Lookner can be reached at 236-8511 or by email at email@example.com.