"I ducked under a chandelier as we entered the sanctuary.
"James McCartney, Paul's son, jumped to his feet as soon as he saw us and 500 pairs of eyes looked our way. Pay N Go stared at the audience and the banks of flowers with his usual regal aplomb, as if to say, 'Well, I'm here and aren't you lucky to see me.' "
Not everyone had ever seen a 16.2 hand leopard spot Appaloosa of such dramatic coloring: dark rust brown spots on a cream colored coat with a black mane and tail and black legs that looked airbrushed to the knee and hock.
"Pay N Go performed a few elevated steps of Piaffe in the doorway. I caught Paul's eye. His expression reflected his pleasure and excitement. He had told me this would be his wife, Linda's favorite part of the service. A wave of emotion swept up from the church and a collective 'ooooh' rose from the crowd as I gathered all my professional focus and started Pay N Go across the transept in the front of the church in a stately Spanish Walk."
Only two weeks ago it was work as usual for Pam Fowler Grace, a dressage instructor and rider, riding one horse after another at Nancy Flick's Rancho Texelente in Cat Spring, Texas. She was between rides, with the next horse tacked and standing on the cross ties, when the phone rang. Pam answered it.
"Then came one mysterious call after another asking me about my grand Prix Level Dressage Appaloosa gelding. What was going on? Why were Appaloosa association from all over the country calling me?
"At last a call came from Helene Dellechiaie, who identified herself as ex-Beatle, Paul McCartney's secretary. She explained that Linda McCartney had been very fond of Appaloosas and owned a fine Appaloosa stallion herself who she loved to ride. It was Paul's wish that at the memorial service for Linda in America that the most exquisite and highly trained Appaloosa should perform.
"I was speechless. Out of all the Appaloosas in the U.S. they had chosen Pay N Go.
"Several conversations later, Helene said Paul McCartney wanted to talk to me himself. There were a lot of people milling around at the barn who had gotten a sense that something was going on. I broke away to go home to receive that call in private.
" 'This is Paul McCartney ringing you up from England,' words I never thought I would ever hear. Paul wanted to invite me personally to perform at the ceremony in Manhattan. He shared some intimate and endearing stories of how he and Linda loved to ride together and how she loved Appaloosas. He told me that our part (Pay N Go and I) would have been her favorite part of the ceremony.
" 'I would like you to do a Spanish Walk across the church to where I will be standing,' said Paul. 'Then do a Pirouette and formally salute the audience. Then do a Spanish Walk back out. Can you do that?'
" 'No problem!' was my answer.
"As Helene had requested in our previous conversations, he asked that I keep the particulars secret until after the ceremony. No press would be allowed inside the church. The ceremony was only for friends and family.
"Paul expressed how very much he appreciated what I was doing and thanked me sincerely.
"What was I doing: flying to New York with a horse that had never been on a plane to walk into a church after going up rows of steps and through hallways and into unknown surroundings and be prepared in less that a week? I also had to find a substitute official for a local horse show I had agreed to judge. I think under the circumstances they would understand.
"Christine Thompson, president of the Long Island Appaloosa Horse Club and Helene, made all the arrangements to fly Pay N Go and me, all expenses paid, from Houston to New York with a professional horse escort. Pay N Go was very comfortable with being a 'jet setter' and enjoyed all the attention. He was calmly grazing on the side of the runway before we left Houston.
"While in New York, Pay N Go was stabled at Anne and David Gribbon's barn on Long Island. Anne was away at Gladstone when we arrived but David was there to give us a very warm welcome. Pay N Go was treated like royalty, which he always expects. He is a horse with a truly inflated idea of himself. This is what gives him the sparkle and heart to perform well in dressage in spite of his spots.
"As soon as we got Pay N Go tucked in, Christine whisked me off to my hotel where I was reminded that I hadn't slept or eaten in two days. After a quick shower and a sandwich, it was back to the barn to meet Helene for the first time and Paul's bodyguard, Mark, and a friend Michelle, who had all come to see Pay N Go in person.
"I led him out of his stall for them to get a better look at his incredible spotted coat and he stood there with his usual haughty attitude.
"They were taken aback at first. 'He is more awesome than I imagined,' said Helene. She loved him. "After a day off to rest up, Pay N Go and I started schooling on the program we were expected to perform. Christine took me into Manhattan on Sunday to see the church and meet some of Paul's friends. Florists were in the process of decorating the interior of the church with 45,000 flowers. It was gorgeous.
"Riverside Church is a huge gothic style church with great stained glass windows and rows of steps going up to the doors. We discussed the ramps they were building to enable Pay N Go to get up the steps safely. They were to be covered with a special rubber backed carpet to give extra traction for Pay N Go's hooves. the same carpet was being laid inside the church. Everything was being done to insure the safety and welfare of my horse.
"The next evening was showtime, June 22! I bathed, groomed and braided Pay N Go to perfection. He was picked up in style and transported to the church. NYPD and Paul's security had blocked off the entire street behind the church just for Pay N Go, to give us a quiet place away from all the fans and the press. I got dressed in my formal dressage attire: shadbelly tuxedo, and shiny new boots and top hat, a gift from Paul for the occasion.
"The press and some fans figured out something was going on back there. By the time we were ready to go there were plenty of cameras and screaming fans waiting behind the barricades at each side.
"Our cue to get ready was when Neil Young performed, then the Harlem Boy's Choir and then us! I knew at that point Paul would be saying a few words to the friends assembled and he would end with, 'And this would be Linda's favorite part of the ceremony.'
"I took a deep breath and gathered up the reins. Pay N Go responded with his usual arrogant brilliance. Christine helped guide us through the crowd at the back of the church. Reporters' cameras were going off like the Fourth of July but Pay N Go did not shy, he only got a little fancier with his step and walked up the ramps like he had done it everyday.
"I ducked under the chandelier and we were in the sanctuary. The scent of thousands of flowers flooded my already overloaded senses and emotion nearly got the better of me. But we were here for someone else. One look from Paul and we were off across the transept in a Spanish Walk. When we reached the far side we executed a 1-1/4 Pirouette and halted to face the audience.
" I gave a formal salute and hesitated with my head bowed for a moment of silent prayer. Then I turned and looked at Paul once again. He gave me a wink and a nod of approval with a smile and a twinkle in his eyes that made it all feel worth while. We turned and headed back the way we had come. Pay N Go was so charged with the emotion he absorbed from the crowd that his Spanish Walk was huge, his front feet nearly reaching his nose. Everyone who was there had known Linda and knew how special Appaloosas were to her. We existed the church to a standing ovation!
"The press and crowd was looking for Paul McCartney and the celebrity crowd. We headed back to our 'private street' to get untacked and packed to go. Some press did come around and I held a brief press conference before we took off.
"The next day I got the opportunity to school with Anne Gribbon. She loved Pay N Go and was very helpful.
"Paul called me at the hotel before I left. He said Pay N Go was awesome and that we had performed exactly what he wanted. All his family and friends loved Pay N Go and expressed that our part of the ceremony was everyone's favorite part. He said the applause continued long after we rode out. He thanked me several times. Pay N Go had made the ceremony for everyone.
"Then it was good bye. He promised to send me photos of the interior and I gave him a video of Pay N Go and I competing in Florida.
"We're back home in Texas now, in beautiful Cat Spring. But I have a memory I will never forget of a wonderful week in New York and the wonderful people I met there. I feel so honored that we were chosen to participate in such a special event and that my spotted pony and I are truly blessed from above."
June 22, 1998.
Last update: 24 January, 2011
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