Shoulda Astor Faster Story

Shoulda  Astor  Faster  ~ The Cinderella Horse

Alana Harrison Photos  

After getting pregnant with twins, not once but twice that year (1999), LS Lady Astor (AQHA) was finally in foal with a single embryo to The Miracle Chip (ApHC).  Shoulda Astor Faster was born May 22, 2000, a late baby for any discipline but because we had three other pleasure prospects born that year, we weren’t concerned with having one late baby.  These four colts were taught to lead, tie, stand for the farrier, and other necessary manners before being turned out into our 20+ acre pasture to grow and mature.

It was toward the middle of her weanling year that we noticed that Astor’s back just seemed a little lower than the other three colts but because she had been normal when born, we thought that it was just a growing phase that she was going through.  But as time went on, it became more and more apparent that Shoulda Astor Faster’s back was not going to be that of a normal horse.

By the middle of her yearling year, it was way out of line, it looked like her rump grew, then her withers, and the middle of her back just stayed the same.  By then she was at least six inches lower in her back than she should have been.  Not having ever before encountered anything like this, we weren’t exactly sure what to do with Astor, so we decided to try to sell her as a pet, a backyard horse or a babysitter for another horse.  It seemed like riding her would be totally out of the question.

I began doing a small amount of advertising in a local trader magazine.  I got a few calls, but everytime I told the callers about her sway-back they would, for the most part, just thank me and hang up the phone.  I even talked to one lady about trading her for a Yorkshire Terrier puppy.  She had horses when she was growing up and had come to a point in her life where she wanted another one.  She told me that the picutre of Astor, and then later the video I sent her, reminded her of her very first horse.  But she told me she was just afraid to take a chance, under the advice of a friend, on a sway-back horse because she just didn’t know what problems she might encounter.

In February, 2002, we had another mare we wanted to sell so we put an ad in the Appaloosa Journal, and under the mare’s ad I put a little write-up on Astor mentioning how well she was bred and telling folks that we were just looking for someone to take a chance on her!  A few calls and actually a few video tapes later, we still had no takers.

Our last attempt to find Astor a new home was to give her to a friend, it was our hope she would just have a good home, and believe it or not, he turned us down, too.  By then Bill said… “Forget it, we will just keep her in our pasture, she’s NOT for sale, she’s not going anywhere.” As it turned out, had our friend taken Astor she would have died in a poision incident because approximately 18 horses from that barn were lost from contaminated feed.

In the meantime, beginning about January, 2002 we had begun training the other three colts.  One at a time, we either sent them to a trainer or started them ourselves.  They were making nice horses, but none of them would be horses that we would keep to show.  Shoulda Astor Faster, was still in the “back forty.”

After a very successful trip to show at the Appaloosa Nationals in Oklahoma City, OK, we returned home the middle of July, 2002, and brought Astor Faster in from the pasture.  Bill saddled her and began line driving her.  After a few days he got on her and rode her around our pen and immediately called me from his cell.  He said… “Come out here, you are not going to believe this!”  What I saw when I got out there, was a great legged little mare, loping around the pen like she had been riding all of her life!!!  We were amazed!

Two weeks later, at the beginning of August, we took her to a well known trainer about five hours from us.  When we got there, Bill took Astor out of the trailer and saddled her up right away, it wasn’t until later that I realized what he was doing.  I was concerned about it being her first trailer ride, being away from home the first time, and immediately being saddled up.  What I later realized, was Bill wanted the trainer to judge her on her merit, before he prejudged her on being sway-back.  As usual Astor rode around like it was the most natural thing for her to be doing.  When we left her at the trainers, I told him if he wanted to keep her in a stall at the back of the barn, where the public could not see her, I would not be offended.  I don’t think he did, though.

With 90 days of riding, we took her to the 2002 Appaloosa World Championship Show in Ft. Worth, TX.  She was 3rd. in the ApPHA (Appaloosa Pleasure Horse Association) Ltd. Western Pleasure Class, 5th. in the Open Division and won the Mare Incentive Program.  She did all of this with a “catch rider” on her, as once again she was passed by.  The trainer chose to show another horse in his barn over Shoulda Astor Faster.  But the amazing thing was that she was catching people’s eye and we were getting so many nice compliments on her both during the classes and afterwards that I actually began leading her around without her sheets or blankets.  I have to admit that up until then, I didn’t want people to laugh at her and her very sway-back.  I was secretly sure they were thinking she was some old broodmare we had just pulled out of the pasture.

Larry Williams Photo

  Shoulda Astor Faster was a World Champion, the next year as a 3-year-old, where she won a saddle and a horse trailer, and has never looked back.  To date, Shoulda Astor Faster has 18 World, National and NSBA (National Snaffle Bit Association) titles, in Open, Non-Pro and Novice Non-Pro Western Pleasure classes.  The two wins I am most proud of, are her World Championship in Senior Western Pleasure in 2007, with Patrick Heeley and her 2009 World Championship in Masters Western Pleasure with Bill, who has been fighting a fierce battle with cancer since October, 2008.

Larry Williams Photo

People are always telling me that Shoulda Astor Faster is doing something that she shouldn’t be able to do because of her conformation.  But she does it anyway.  She has more natural talent than any horse we have ever had or known.  I tell people that she is our “Seabiscuit” or our “Cinderella Story”, but in reality, she is Shoulda Astor Faster, the bay mare with a huge heart who gives 110% every time she is ridden.

Below is an article about Shoulda Astor Faster
which appeared 
in the April, 2008 APPALOOSA JOURNAL

Below is another article about Shoulda Astor Faster
which appeared 
in the January, 2010 HORSE & RIDER


In an email dated December 29, 2009, Emily C. writes…
“Hello Ellen,
Here is a scan of the drawing of Astor.  Feel free to use it on your site, or use it in whatever way you would like!  I am 15 years old and live in Nova Scotiam Canada.  I have been drawing (especially equines!) since I was a toddler.  I actually haven’t had any professional training except required art courses such as my grade 10 Art course this term.  Most of my experience has come from studying both pictures of horses and live models, and then transferring them into a piece of art.  I have done a few pieces on private request through people I have met in the horse world, but I also give many of my sketches and paintings away as gifts or greeting cards.  I have never had any work formally published.  I hope someday to create and sell art as a hobby, but my main aspiration at this point is to study to become an equine veterinarian!  I love most animals but horses are more or less my life, and what I feel most passionate about both in art and in general.  I hope that I can transfer my interest in horses into a line of work.  I (unfortunately) do not own my own horse, although I often tempt myself by searching online sites to look at potential equine investments!  I ride both english (hunters/jumpers) and western (reining) style, and have done some showing.  I recently showed my coach’s reining mare in a western pleasure class, which was a great experience!
I hope to show more in the future.  Thank you very much, Emily”