Big Deuce

(1995 – )
Owned by Brook Hill Farm
Inducted: 2023


He may hate to be groomed. He may occasionally let both himself and his friends out of their stalls. He hates-HATES-to be cold. And he may take a little while to warm up to new people. But time and again, Big Deuce has proven that for those who can see through his quirks, he is a devoted, loving goofball who enjoys a refreshing bath in nice weather. In return for their patience, Deuce has often been the teacher who has shown "his people" how to overcome life's obstacles.

A failed racehorse with just eight lifetime starts and earnings of barely $6,000, Deuce found much better success in the show jumping arena. Ridden and trained by a Florida firefighter, Deuce seemed on track to tackle the sport's most elite levels. But when Deuce's owner became wheelchair-bound after a work-related accident, the horse's future became uncertain. In 2007, his owner surrendered Deuce to Brook Hill Farm in Virginia, a facility specializing in healing both horses and humans.

When he arrived at the facility, Deuce was out of tune and unfocused, and in need of a steady hand to help him regain fitness and condition. But Jo Anne Miller, co-founder and executive director of Brook Hill Farm, is an expert at matching just the right human with just the right horse. Miller knew that a particular teenaged program participant would be the perfect fit for the strapping 16.3 hand gelding; the match worked so well that before long, he was adopted by his new rider. For seven years, the pair were nearly inseparable. With her, Deuce returned to the jumper ring, competing in the childrens/adult amateur division; he even accompanied her to college. But when she started graduate school, his rider realized it was time for Deuce to find his next partner, and in 2014, he returned to Brook Hill and joined their Sanctuary Herd.

The timing was serendipitous. Miller knew there was a young rider at the farm who needed Deuce, now nearly 20 years old, perhaps as much as he needed her. Over the next five years, this young woman and Deuce formed a deep bond, participating in lessons and Pony Club. Thanks to Deuce's support, she was able to finish school, go on to college, and become a successful barn manager-despite the hardships she had faced as a youth.
"Without Deuce, she would never have overcome a past without parents and living in a car," says Miller. "She says she owes him a life debt, and now spends time with him every day."

Since returning to Brook Hill, Deuce has also become a regular in its unmounted equine-assisted learning programs, where he serves as an equine therapist. Miller says that Deuce offers participants "just the right amount" of challenge to enable them to benefit from the therapy offered. She notes that in many ways, Deuce's personality mirrors that of the children he interacts with, and in learning how to connect with him, Deuce teaches them powerful life lessons in persistence, patience, and compassion.

"At first, he's a little standoffish, and he doesn't want anything physical," says Miller. "He's not one of those warm, fuzzy ones right up front. He's a little bit of a challenge-the kids have to work at it.
"When you are working in therapy, the children tend to be this way too, because of the trauma they've been through," Miller continues. "It takes time to get to know them, the same as with Deuce. But once you get to know him---he's your friend for life."