Secret Lives of Horses: Angel: a Local Legend

by Nancy Johnson

Angelica Dee Bar, a 26-year-old registered Paint mare, has always been known simply as Angel. According to her owner, Tammy Hanson, the name suits her.

Tammy was teaching at a riding stable in Las Vegas in 2003 when she first met Angel. “I needed to retire my son’s pony which I also used for lessons. The farm owner suggested I give Angel a try as a replacement,” Tammy says. She was a bit hesitant because Angel, a 5-year-old at the time, was very green. 

Despite her greenness, Angel was very gentle and well behaved with the lesson students and Tammy’s son, Kyle, instantly fell in love with her. “We bought Angel in 2004 for Kyle’s 11th birthday,” Tammy remembers. 

Kyle and Angel learned everything together. “Angel really had done nothing before Kyle started riding her,” Tammy explains. Supposedly, the little mare’s previous owner had had her under saddle for about 60 days with the intention of making her a reining horse before Tammy purchased her. Kyle never did any reining with her, but he did just about everything else.

Although Angel took to jumping immediately, she did have one odd quirk for a while. “She had a definite dislike for white fences,” Tammy says. “Some white was okay, but if it was solid white, she’d stop.” She soon got over it and became a very consistent jumper. Kyle and Angel were active in Pony Club and regularly competed in dressage, eventing, and show jumping on the West Coast.

When the family moved to Aiken in 2005, Tammy became the co-District Commissioner for Aiken County Pony Club and Kyle and Angel quickly made a name for themselves, competing in all disciplines of Pony Club rallies as well as other local competitions.

Tammy remembers a highlight of their Pony Club days. In 2008, Kyle on Angel and another Aiken Pony Club member, Mary Taylor Miller aboard her Haflinger, Slick, performed a pas de deux at the Pony Club Championships in Lexington, Virginia. Dressed as bride and groom in costumes made by Mary’s mother, Angel and Slick won the crowd and judge’s approval, taking home the blue ribbon for their performance.

By the time he was 15, Kyle’s interest in riding was waning due to other teenage activities. “That’s when I took over Angel and I’ve enjoyed trail riding her ever since,” Tammy says. Although Kyle now lives in Los Angeles, when he visits, he spends lots of time with Angel and always takes her for a little ride.

For a time, Tammy also taught lessons on Angel and discovered the mare was an especially good mount for students with disabilities. “She was fantastic with Down syndrome kids and kids with autism that I taught, so quiet and patient.” Angel was also in a summer camp program for special needs kids. “She was just unbelievable; kids would be sitting on her, and she would just close her eyes and rest.”

Angel added another line to her resume in 2018 when Tammy and her friend Carol McElwee founded the Aiken Volunteer Mounted Unit. Formed in partnership with Aiken Department of Public Safety, members of the Aiken Volunteer Mounted Unit serve as ambassadors to the community and act in a non-law enforcement capacity in various operations, ceremonial details, and other areas of public relations. 

Angel has been a regular on the team ever since, participating at many local events including the Aiken Trials, opening ceremonies for the annual horse show at the Great Oak Therapeutic Riding Center, and just recently an “Amp the Alley” music concert in downtown Aiken. This summer Angel will be spending some time at the Odell Weeks Center as part of the City of Aiken’s Parks and Recreation department’s summer children’s programs. She will also be at the upcoming movie nights hosted by Aiken Steeplechase.  “She’s become quite a local legend. At events, Angel and I are usually the ones carrying the South Carolina flag,” Tammy says, adding, “The state flag has to be lower than the American flag, and since Angel is only 14.2, she’s the right height.” 

Tammy notes that Angel is perfect for local events because she is good with kids. “She’s not an ‘in your pocket’ kind of horse, but rather is a bit more standoffish. Some of the horses in our group tend to push themselves right into people’s faces for attention, which can scare people. Angel just stands back and waits until they approach her.”                                                                     

Angel has one blue eye and one brown eye, an unusual trait that seems to fascinate the local community. “For some reason this shocks people and they often ask if she is blind in the blue eye, which she is not,” Tammy confirms.

As wonderful as she is, Tammy confides that Angel, like any horse, is not perfect. “The worst thing about Angel is that she does not like to be alone. When we travel to do an exhibition, she has to have another horse with her at the trailers. She has always been like that. When Kyle was showing her, she would scream if a horse that came with her walked off.  Oddly, I take her alone on trail rides all the time. She is fine with that, but if she starts out with a buddy, she doesn’t want them to leave her.”

Ever since moving to Aiken, Angel has lived at home with Tammy, her family and their other horses. She lives outside as much as possible, but during hot weather she spends more time inside with fans. Currently, her stablemates include two mini horses, two mini donkeys, and a mustang that is her best friend. 

“I bought the mustang for myself last October so that Angel could retire,” Tammy says. She rode the new horse in the Aiken Christmas parade, and ever since then the mustang has been on stall rest with one ailment after another, including a suspensory strain. “I’ve spent a fortune in vet bills on the mustang. I keep saying how easy Angel has been for all these years. She has been amazingly healthy, and I hope she will continue to be for many more years.”

The Secret Lives of Horses is a regular feature in The Aiken Horse newspaper, telling the story of a retired horse in the Aiken area, 20 years or older. Do you have an older horse that needs his or her story told? Email us!. Secret Lives is sponsored by Triple Crown Nutrition, providing nutrition beyond compare.