The power of sculpture is that it captures a moment of life and allows the meaning of that life to continue into the future.
The significance of this power was made clear to me when I learned that Hampton the horse passed away on May 15. His image, however, lives on through his sculpture in Memorial Park. And his owner, Leslie Campbell, has graciously written his moving story so that we can appreciate and celebrate the life it represents:
“Hampton rears playfully at the corner of the park as if he knows the passers-by will stop to admire him. He genuinely believes he deserves the attention. Strong and graceful, he is beautifully captured by the talented artist, the late William F. Reese. But few know the full story of Hampton, and how he and I came to be partners and friends for more than 20 years. How in many ways, we saved each other.
“Born in Kentucky to be a racehorse, Hampton still carries the telltale tattoo of a thoroughbred destined for the track. As a grandson of Bold Ruler, and a great-grandson of Man o’ War, he had the bloodlines of a champion. Registered at his 1980 birth under the name of Bold Scooter, he never started a race. Instead he was renamed Better Yet, and began a very successful show horse career, but it was one that nearly cost him his life.
“A winner in such prestigious venues as Madison Square Garden, Better Yet was competed so heavily that his back and his legs began to give out. Ultimately, his injuries finally prevented him from competing further.
“Better Yet was scheduled to be euthanized after his owners filed a claim on their insurance policy, but a kind hearted insurance agent saved him and took him home for rehabilitation.
“Two years later, a short video was made of Better Yet, with only limited hopes of selling him. The video found its way to my mailbox, and I stared at the film of a magnificent, technically exceptional show horse, jumping with elegance and heart. Against all advice, I bought him and brought him home where we nicknamed him Hampton.
“I’d been warned of Hampton’s physical challenges, but I too, was recovering—from a fractured back incurred in a fall while jumping another horse. We started slowly, getting stronger and learning to trust each other. We managed our respective injuries, and he taught me how to ride him.
“I had hoped Hampton could compete for one full show season before I would need to retire him, but he surprised us all. For four years we competed and won regularly throughout California in the Adult Amateur Hunter division. It wasn’t until 1996 that Hampton let me know he was ready to leave the show ring for good, and I officially retired him at age 16. We had nothing left to prove, not even to ourselves.
“He finally returned to California in 2007 where he lived out his days in the sunshine he loves.
“My many years with Hampton have taught me lessons far beyond horsemanship. Small acts of kindness can change lives. Trust can conquer fear and pain. Most importantly, though, Hampton has taught me that having heart means many things—showing compassion, regaining strength, recognizing love, and living life with courage. And Hampton has shown me, every day we’ve been together, that to do that with an old friend is even Better Yet.”
Joy Jasinek, of Art on the Avenues, is a retired teacher from Colorado who recently moved to the Wenatchee valley. She can be contacted at email@example.com