By Cynthia McFarland
Champions leave lasting impressions in the history books and on our hearts. In the case of Rugged Lark, he was not simply a champion show horse and outstanding sire, but to those who knew him best, a dear friend.
On Tuesday, October 26, 2004, the equestrian world and Marion County sadly said goodbye as the legendary stallion passed away due to complications of colic. The 23-year-old Rugged Lark was down in his stall with colic on Monday morning. After a full day of treatments did not turn things around, owner Carol Harris made the painful decision to euthanize him early Tuesday morning. He was buried at his long-time home, Bo-Bett Farm near Reddick.
Anyone who saw Carol with her beloved bay stallion witnessed a remarkable camaraderie between horse and human. That she so freely shared this impressive animal with the horse world and our own community speaks volumes about her generosity.
Much as she loved the personable stallion, Carol clearly understood that fans around the world also adored Rugged Lark. In the show ring, he amassed 326 performance points in both English and Western disciplines, and made history as the first American Quarter Horse to win the prestigious title of Superhorse in 1985 and again in 1987. He later became the first Superhorse to sire a Superhorse, as not only one, but two of his sons have also earned the coveted title.
After retiring from his show career, Rugged Lark endeared himself to an even wider audience, traveling around the country as an ambassador for the American Quarter Horse Association. He appeared at such major events as the 1996 Olympic Games, the 1999 Special Olympics World Games, and the AQHA World Championship Show. His stirring bridle-less performances moved fans to tears and brought crowds to their feet again and again.
Throughout the years, horse lovers of all ages sent fan letters and came to see him at Bo-Bett Farm, sometimes by the busload. They wanted to visit their hero in the flesh and felt that in some way he belonged to all of them. And Lark, being the class act that he always was, would entertain and pose obligingly for photos.
“I think Lark would want everyone to always remember that he was proud to be a member of Marion County where he grew up and spent so many healthy, happy years,” says Carol. “He loved all his visitors and I have enjoyed making them all my friends. Thank you all for your many expressions of sympathy and for appreciating this amazing gentleman, who simply wore some beautiful clothes that made him look like a horse.”
Goodbye, Rugged Lark. Gallop freely and at peace. You will be greatly missed.
By Cynthia McFarland