Tawnys Dunit (Josie) 1984-2000
If you are really lucky, there will be a horse in your lifetime that is very special.
Sometimes there is a horse that is so special that it exceeds your wildest dreams. Josie (Tawnys Dunit) was such a horse.
I first saw Josie in 1989; a client, who I happened to be visiting, had just imported her. As I had ridden a little I was asked to try her out. We trailered her to nearby Gleneagles and I was put on Josie. Josie was the first trained horse I had ever sat on, and I had a wonderful time trying to work out where all the buttons were. Once we figured things out I saw why she was rated so highly and what a wonderful, solid, broke to death, honest horse she was. It was so much fun riding a horse with that degree of training and talent, I think they almost had to drag me off her!
Four years later I had a call from her owner, wanting to know if I wanted to buy her. My answer was, of course yes I want to, but finance was a major problem and I declined. Being an artist is not the most consistently secure job in the world, and in 1993, there had been a year of recession, which had also been my worst ever year to that point. Josie had spent the four years, doing very little and I dismissed the thought of owning her; consoling myself that the last time I had ridden her some two years previously she had been a shadow of her former self. However, the next day, out of the blue I got an International phone call. I was offered a contract for an American company, (timing was perfect for once!) and I immediately picked up the phone and bought her, subject to vet. After two attempts (as she was so unfit) she passed the vet and a week or so later arrived in my yard.
I started riding her, not knowing if I would ever get her into a show ring again. She had developed a few habits, mostly because of her inclination towards laziness, and she could four beat for England! I still had little experience, but she was so honest, all I really had to do was work things out little by little and she would go along with it. I gradually got the hang of her and something of the old Josie I remembered started to reappear. As we got to know one another, I discovered that she had 1 youth western riding point. I had never been able to change leads on anything previously so this was an exciting discovery. I remember taking a book down to my friend’s arena, where I trained my horses. I would read the relevant paragraph, put the book on the gate, try and get a lead change, fail, go back to the book and so on until I managed a few changes. The most we managed in a session was three, but at our first show a couple of months later, I entered western riding as a joke. When Josie saw the pattern she just took me through it, spotting each change and even threw in three extra in the final run down the middle! It was as if she just went ”Oh that’s what you want, why didn’t you say so.” Western Riding was to become one of her best classes. She went on to win two Amateur European championships and two reserve Open European Championships in Western Riding and in consecutive years.
She did a similar thing later that first year when I took her to her first European Championship in Aachen Germany. Her show record showed that she had qualified for the World in Hunter under Saddle. As it was such a big deal for me just to be there I decided to have a go at everything. I had been a very bad English rider when I gave up ten years previously and took up Western. I did not own a saddle, bridle or any clothes, but Sarah Deptford and Mary Larcom very kindly took pity and loaned me everything I needed, and Mary got up very early to plait Josie up. It was the first class of the show and I’d only borrowed the saddle that morning so my first practise was 5 minutes before the class. In the collecting ring I was trying to get used to this funny saddle and couldn’t even remember watching a class, let alone competing in one. Various friends were spaced out around the practise ring offering suggestions and assuring me that she wasn’t trotting too fast (I’d never been out of a pleasure jog before). When we went into the Amateur Hunter under Saddle class the whole thing became surreal. Still with advice and encouragement from the audience, I can remember Josie, just carrying me through. The change in tack meant a change in mode as far as she was concerned. It was no big deal; she knew what to do and I left her to it. When we lined up I was so relieved to have got through it. It was a biggish class and they started calling people from around tenth. As it got further up the line, I was thinking of leaving the arena and the next event. I thought it was a mistake when we were called out first with one judge. It started to sink in when we were also called first with the second judge! A few days later I completed my second ever Hunter under Saddle and were again placed first under the third Judge. We were then European Champions in that event! It sounds unreal but it really happened that way. That was the sort of horse she was.
As well as Amateur Hunter under Saddle she also was European Champion in Amateur Western Pleasure that year.
At that our first Championships in1993 we were Amateur all Round Champions of Europe. I had gone with absolutely no expectations and when we were called to the collecting ring at 11.30 p.m. I assumed I’d done something wrong, I never expected to win that title in a million years!
Josie also excelled in trail. She was European Open Champion, two years in a row, 94 and 95, winning very big classes (I remember winning a trail class of 49) she earned the points needed for her superior in that event.
Josie’s wins are too numerous to mention, but in 1995 I was very proud to receive a certificate from AQHA to say that she was the sixth in the senior horse all-round rankings for that year. (The same year Francesca’s brilliant horse Jack Fiddler won the Jeep). As we have so few points available to us in this country and the European Championships and may be one other were our only European shows that year, I was very proud that she achieved that.
Apart from one Belgium show in 1997, Josie retired after 1996. She proved difficult to breed but finally in1999 she produced a gorgeous filly foal. Apart from some stiffness Josie remained sound up until her foal was a few weeks old when she had a problem with a hind leg. This caused some intermittent lameness, which my vet was investigating. I don’t know whether she could have come sound again, but either way I was prepared to give her a long and happy retirement. Sadly, March 16th 2000, she suddenly collapsed and died while I was holding her, apparently from a massive heart attack. She was very well in her self up till then. She was just sixteen.
Josie was talented, good minded and beautiful in a way that people noticed her and remembered her. Judges who I have shown under, were forever seeking me out after judging was finished to ask about her, some wanting to buy her, and they still ask after her even now
I have been incredibly lucky with my horses and as Josie was ending her career Maid of Jade was just starting hers. Jade was and is an incredible horse, I bred her and she is very special. Josie was exceptional in that she was just so versatile. She would go Grand in Halter and then under saddle, was properly competitive in six different events.
In three years she won 17 European medals in Western Riding, Trail, Horsemanship, Showmanship, Western Pleasure, Hunter under Saddle, both Amateur and Open divisions. In all the time I had her she never had a trainer on her back and she took me from inexperienced novice to European Champion.
I am very proud that she is listed by AQHA as being the ‘All time UK leading point earner for horses owned in UK’.
I was very fortunate to have owned her. I don’t expect to have such a horse again.
1988 QHAA Champion Junior Performance
JQHAA All Round Youth Champion
World Buckskin Show-Youth Champion
World Buckskin Show-Open Champion; Hunter under Saddle; Trail
- European Champion- Amateur Hunter under Saddle; Amateur W. Pleasure
- European Champion- Open Trail; Amateur W Riding
- European Champion- Open Trail; Amateur W Riding
Also six reserve championships and five bronze medals.
Superior – Open Western Pleasure
Superior – Amateur Western Pleasure
Superior – Open Trail
19 Open All rounds
20 Amateur All rounds
7 Grand Champion Mare
558 AQHA points
Numerous national and international awards