COLUMBIA — Mr. Kid Bars is officially the oldest horse in Missouri.
Kid turned 40 this year. That's about twice as long as the average horse is expected to live.
"Officially, in the horse world, they change their age at the first day of the year," said Karen Grindler, director of Cedar Creek Therapeutic Riding Center, who cares for the horse.
The registered American Quarter Horse was the winner in a Missouri Equine Council contest to identify Missouri's oldest horse. He won a year's supply of grain for the honor.
Grindler said if Kid were a human, he would be the equivalent of someone who is more than 100 years old.
Mr. Kid Bars was born May 16,
1969, in Warrensburg. Richard Nixon was president
of the United States. Apollo 11 would land on the moon that summer. "Sesame Street" would debut in the fall.
The horse's name evolved from his father, Kid Sugar Bars, and his grandfather, Sugar Bars.
When the horse was 12, Jack and Dianna Shallenburger bought and moved him to Boonville. The Shallenburgers had two sons — Joe Henry, who was two years older than Kid, and Jason, who was three years younger.
"The best memories Jack and I have of Kid are of him with our sons. They played with him, trained him, showed him, but most of all loved him," Dianna Shallenburger said. "He always gave his all to do the best he could, and he did very well."
While Kid was in Boonville, he was a champion barrel racer, winning a Missouri State Fair competition in 1988. Kid also placed in shows at the American Royal in Kansas City.
In 1995, the Shallenburgers donated Kid to Cedar Creek as a therapy horse since Joe and Jason were in college.
Grindler remembers her initial encounter with Kid: "When he came here, he was very well trained, completely a gentleman and bomb-proof."
Kid has helped more than 100 children and adults who have autism or other mental, emotional or physical challenges since he started his career at Cedar Creek, Grindler said.
The horse and Nellie Owen first met in 2002. Kid was the first horse Owen rode after a car accident in 1977. At the time, she had been paralyzed for more than 20 years and hesitated to ride again.
When Owen visited Cedar Creek, Grindler confidently recommended Kid as the safest horse in the paddock.
"He knows special-needs kids and adults, and he is pleased to serve them," Grindler said.
Owen remembers the first ride. "Kid was turning around to look at me like, 'OK, is she safe?'," she said. "I believed Kid could do it. I believed I could do it."
After that, Owen moved on to a bigger horse and became an adult independent equestrian rider. She won the exceptional challenge cup at the America Royal in Kansas City two years ago.
"I don't know how to explain how it made me feel the first time I was
up on the horse," Owen said. "Heaven was opened to me, and Kid gave me the life back
that I lost."
"Kid gave her confidence, and it was an incredible moment to watch," Grindler added.
The horse transmitted energy from his body to special-needs people, she said.
"He was in a special place, and he was totally being
appreciated for who he was," Grindler said.
In 2006, when Kid was 37, Grindler decided to retire him, but the horse seemed to become depressed. So she brainstormed one day and decided that maybe Kid could continue to work.
After that, she noticed a difference in his attitude. He trotted in and seemed to say, "I'm back in business," Grindler said. "He's been pretty happy ever since."
Kid now works with children an hour per week in the spring, summer and fall sessions. In the winter, he gets visitors, and they occasionally give Kid carrots, his favorite snack.
He wears a lightweight coat from New Zealand to keep him warm, but no shoes. Ice and snow make it difficult to walk in shoes, Grindler said.
"I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have been able to be called his owner for the last 13 years," she said.
Asked for the secret to Kid's old age, Grindler said he eats three times a day instead of the usual two.
"Lots of love and attention help him live longer in great condition," she said.
Although Kid is blind in one eye and hard of hearing, she hopes he will live five more years.
"He might be the smartest horse in Missouri, if they have such a contest. There is no doubt about that," she said.