On Saturday, June 22nd, John Perkins, of Butternut Stables in Hampton NB, died. He was my riding teacher. For many others, he was that and more. First, he was a family man and horseman. He and his wife Wendy have kids and grandkids and a stable full of Quarter Horses. They also have a large extended family. And an even bigger surrogate family of horse people.
The loss for everyone is devastating. In emotional ways and practical. So many posts on Facebook attest to that. I’ve been reading them, and crying, astounded by their eloquence and depth of feeling. A huge community of people in New Brunswick, and throughout the Maritimes, eastern USA and Florida are all feeling the same great big hole in their hearts.
John touched a lot of lives, and kept a lot of lives – human and horse – on track. He taught riding to beginners and coached experienced riders. He trained and showed horses. John was an executive member of Quarter Horse associations and a founder of the Princess Louise Park Show Centre in Sussex.
He also shod horses, doctored horses and acted as a midwife and nursemaid for new-born foals. John fixed vehicles, fences and stalls. And he drove a truck and trailer loaded with kids and horses to shows all across the eastern provinces and states.
He took horse-crazy kids (and adults) and turned them into good horsemen and -women. If all you wanted to do was ride for fun, he taught you. If you wanted to go to the next step and start showing, he was there to coach you, get you and your (or his) horse to the show ring and calm you both. When you wanted to buy or lease a horse, he made sure you got a good match.
The Butternut Barn
I met him four years ago when I wanted to resume riding lessons. Thanks to him, Wendy and everyone else both two-footed and four-footed, it was easy to start feeling like I belonged at Butternut . It is a family, a very large one. It is not uncommon to see three generations at the barn. People who brought their kids for lessons are now there with those grown-up kids and their kids.
When we started building a barn, John was our resource for where it should be, the layout and what we needed in it. It’s not finished yet, and I still have a million questions for him.
One thing I’m very happy about – I have his first show saddle. He bought it in the 1980s, he said. I liked riding in it, and I liked its history – the stories he told about it and the horses he had then.
John’s saddle to fill – I’ll never do it but I will forever treasure my time with him. Here’s my favourite horseman song, for you, my friend.