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May 03, 2009 | | Comments 0

Charlie and Airflow: A Man and His Horse

Written by: Theresa Mazzatti

This is a true and remarkable story about my father, Charles C. Lucas and his horse named Airflow. This is not just another horse story but one of an amazing “comeback” horse, who despite a terrible injury went on to become the Champion Jumper of New York State in the l940′s.

First, let me introduce you to my father, Charles C. Lucas. You see, Charlie, as he was known, had a profound love of horses that began from a very young age. He knew horses, trained them and owned many horses throughout his lifetime, including race horses. He was well known throughout the horse circuit. He judged many horse shows, including those held at Madison Square Garden. His passion for riding was not of the “Western” riding style, but “English.” My father was an expert rider, and looked wonderful sitting on top of a horse. He was an extremely handsome, tall, and slender man, with a great personality. My father was what they called a “man’s man,” because of his many diversified interests. By trade, he was a car buff. He owned and operated a body shop in Utica, New York, called King’s Collision. It was during the time that being a “body man” was considered a real art. He then passed this skill down to his nephews, whom to this day, own and operate their own collision shops. My father bought and sold cars, owned race horses at Vernon Downs, helped to build the “fish hatchery” in Rome, New York, was a member of the Oneida County Mounted Sheriff’s Posse, belonged to the Mohawk Valley Hunt Club, and had many other interests. Most importantly, he loved my mother Tess, my sister Charlotte and me, Theresa Marie. He loved bringing home animals for my sister and I to enjoy, if only for a day. These included a fawn, lamb, bunnies, and of course, ponies. He loved all of his family members, and got a “kick” out of teasing his nieces and nephews. This is how they remember him to this day.

charlie_airflow1

Charlie and Airflow

Now, back to Airflow! You see Airflow wasn’t meant to be a “jumper.” He started out as military troop mount for the 121st Cavalry Troop A in 1931. He worked very hard in that capacity and seemed to enjoy it. One day “Brownie” as he was called back then, soared over a jump at the armory, and his future was changed from that moment on. It was then that his name was changed from Brownie to Airflow. In 1938, after completing the eight-jump course in the ring of the New York State Fair Coliseum, Airflow mistook the out-gate for a jump. Being a powerful and fast jumper, he cleared the seven foot gate with no problem. But on the other side of this gate was a cement incline. When Airflow hit the incline, he broke his neck, back and right front leg and lay unconscious for two hours. Just as the Calvary masters were deciding whether or not to put him down, Airflow opened his eyes. After eighteen months of grueling therapy, he made a miraculous recovery. It is documented that Airflow was one of the few, if not the only horse to recover from such an injury.

In 1941, my father, Charlie assumed ownership. Both horse and owner seemed to sense the best was yet to come. Under my father’s expertise and training, Airflow jumped again. Airflow had a unique jumping style….his tail would fly up in the air every time he went over a jump. This horse was not a handsome horse. He had what was called a “hammer head”…in other words, he had a very large head, a nose that was long and rounded at the end, and he stood over l5 hands tall. But it was his heart and great spirit that stood out.

In the years that followed, Airflow became widely known and respected in the horse circuit. People would come from all over the United States to see this amazing horse jump. He could clear seven foot jumps with room to spare. My father and Airflow made quite a pair. Both horse and rider were unique in their own right. Airflow went on to win hundreds of blue ribbons. He then became the New York State Champion Jumper in the l940′s.

Charlie and Airflow Jumping

Charlie and Airflow Jumping

My father retired his beloved horse on September 8, 1946, before a tear-filled crowd of over twenty-five hundred people, at the Long Acre Ring in Utica, New York. Airflow was 25 years old. Both horse and rider stood tall and proud as they were adored and surrounded by family, friends and fans. Airflow enjoyed his retirement until he passed away. This wonderful horse is buried in the woods behind the house my sister and I grew up in, and my father helped build. Some twenty years later, my father passed away at the young age of 49. I know my father and Airflow are together once again, jumping over clouds in heaven!! What a comforting and beautiful sight to envision.

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