The animals in my life always inform my art. They inspire me to consider things from their point of view. iota McHippus most of all.
I brought this little guy into my life to become a Pet Partner with me. I had discovered that miniature horses could be trained to offer provide relief to people like comfort dogs and I wanted in! It looked like important work that would provide a ton of satisfaction.
I also had recently been expanding my new media marketing client base for equine based businesses and wanted to run a sample page to demonstrate the powers inherent in social media. Not too long after he arrived home I began building an online presence for my new mini, iota McHippus. (iota = very small in Greek, Mc echoes my Irish roots and Hippus means horse in Latin).
He was a hit! Not only was he insanely cute, but as he grew I discovered he had a very distinct personality. He was courageous, opinionated and plucky. He was great on the lead and game to accommodate me wherever I took him unlike horses much bigger than he. The more I worked with him the more he started showing up in all my creative outlets. Below is a small sampling.
The little guy recently suffered a brief illness and passed away unexpectedly. I am in absolute shock. He was only 13. I thought we had at least as many years more to go. I was picturing me in some assisted living compartment with him rattling around by my side.
Though Facebook became less and less interesting due to its algorithms that throttled our non-paid strictly for fun engagement, we were thinking about rebooting io's presence through TikTok videos. He would have had hilarious ones!
But no. It is my sad duty to let all of that go and cook up my next fun project. But then I will admit that I've got ideas how to document io's transition to what's next in new cartoons. We'll see. I better not wait too long to figure that out because you just never know what tomorrow will bring.
Here is the eulogy I wrote for him:
iota McHippus was a courageous, engaging little foal and a feisty grown up.
I met him when he was two weeks old. I was at a mini horse farm in downstate Kentucky to possibly buy one of his cousins. But this 14 day old little squirt left his mama’s side and marched right up to me (unusual behavior for a foal) and made me understand the job was his. When he was ready to be weaned my friend Christine and I went back to bring him home in her mini van. Mini van, get it? Heh heh. This horse was that small and my jokes are that dumb.
I used to say that I was glad I had experience working with crazy-ass thoroughbreds before I got io. That boy tested me every day with his shenanigans. He was, in a word, a handful. He honed my horse sense and reflexes in ways the bigs never could.
When he was six months old, Mikey and I agreed to trailer my sister’s very large Irish sport horse up to Wisconsin. I decided he needed a travel companion so we created a sub compartment in our rig for the little dude. He spent one fine evening in a box stall at the fancy facility his friend was going in Lake Geneva. We said farewell and headed down to our former stomping grounds in Chicago. Groovy old Wicker Park welcomed us warmly.
We had a blast surprising the city folk with his wee awesomeness as we took our constitutionals around the hood. He melted the hearts of big tough guys who lurched out of bars to come meet him and charmed school girls who instantly dropped to their knees to hug him. I knew he was going to make an excellent therapist!
Through the years we went so many places together. To parks, festivals, openings, art car parades, equine clinics and friends’ parties. I began training him to become a properly registered therapy pet through the Delta Society (now called Pet Partners) who offer a network of animals trained to go into hospitals and other places to comfort people there). These are the folks who usually focus on canine participants but they did offer a chance for other species to go through their program.
We studied and practiced all sorts of activities that are very much like dog obedience. io became a very good boy, and soon we made our way to Louisville to be properly evaluated by a group of 10 very serious looking women in the lunchroom of a church. He did everything perfectly except the ‘recall’, which is more commonly known as “Come!”. That’s a bit beyond the purview of any equine, but most especially iota McHippus! But you’re allowed a little wiggle room on points, so they didn’t hold it against him. That’s how in 2011 io became an official Therapy Horse complete with certificate, badge and patches to sew on his new vest. He was one of a just a hand full of such candidates in the whole nation. It was a proud achievement.
Anyone who has ever interacted with io is well familiar with his big personality. If they handled him, he tested them. They thought maybe I’d been too lax in his training, too permissive with his behavior. But that was never it. Do any of their horses have a Delta Society graduation in their resumes? When I worked steadily with him and gave him jobs he always stepped up. I mean, yeah, he’d be a butt at first, but I could talk him into it. What they encountered was just who he was.
We had amazing adventures all throughout his life. He saw more events, visited more buildings, had more followers than most people, let alone other horses. We made merry together on Facebook back when it was fun. We laughed and joked with folks from all around the globe. Some even made treks to visit him in person! His year 6 psychedelic birthday party in the barn was one such notable event.
io helped me become a version of myself I never knew existed. He showed me how small does not have to be insignificant. I could have gone with the ‘sweet little pony’ persona as I built his online presence, but that would have been disingenuous to his actual self. He was a ‘bite the butt of the bigger horse’ if he could get away with it kind of guy. He was opinionated, sassy and did not care one whit what anyone or anything else thought of him. He was an inspiration and a welcoming beacon for me into the land of snark.
For the thirteen years, one month and 5 days he fully occupied his place on this earth with self confidence, bravado and a great willingness to accompany me on our adventures together. We were planning an online comeback later this summer on TikTok. We felt the post Covid world would benefit from his insights and KaPOWs. But he’s upstairs lallygagging with Secretariat, the original Godolphin Barb, Misty of Chincoteague and all the other famous horses, family and friends who have passed.
If you’re at all curious, he had a blog here: http://littlehorsebigtrip.wordpress.com And if you want a trip down memory lane you can scroll deep into his Facebook page to relive the golden days. https://www.facebook.com/iotamchippus
Be sure to enjoy Jim Seekamp's original song too: