BUBBA: The ‘People’s Horse’ Is Dead

A Clydesdale that grew familiar to town residents
Bubba’s days of appearing around East Hampton Town are over. The Clydesdale, here with his owner, Mary Lou Kaler, died late last month. Dell Cullum

    Mary Lou Kaler, an East Hampton horsewoman who 21 years ago adopted a young horse named Bubba — a Clydesdale that grew familiar to town residents, clomping peacefully in numerous parades and offering cart rides around town — reported his death on March 30, six weeks after a Star turn in a photo on the front page of this newspaper.
    Ms. Kaler said that she and a partner, Glenn Heigl, got the yearling horse in 1992 from a breeder in Jamesport. He was already named Bubba. “With a good Bonac name like that, he was destined to live in East Hampton,” she said.    
    Early on, Ms. Kaler and Bubba took on ceremonial duties, marching in the annual Santa Parade, as well as in the parade marking East Hampton Town’s tricentquinquagenary (350th) anniversary celebration, with the late Carleton Kelsey, a town historian from Amagansett, riding in a Bubba-drawn carriage.
    From 1995 through 2001, Bubba and Ms. Kaler also paraded the carriage around East Hampton Village for wedding celebrations or at Christmas, offering rides, with eggnog, from the Maidstone Arms. In 2006, Bubba was at the head of Montauk’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, squiring Suzanne Gosman, the grand marshal, in her Irish “tub-cart.” 
    “He was East Hampton’s Clydesdale,” Ms. Kaler said last week, “the people’s horse. Bubba was a great horse — a horse in service to community.”
    Bubba was indeed a horse-about-town. He was kept at first at a farm leased from the Tillinghast family in East Hampton, and pastured in an adjacent field, where he became a familiar sight to many passing by the Cove Hollow area. He was housed for a time in Montauk and also in Springs, then again in East Hampton Village.
    Without a farm or land of her own, Ms. Kaler has had to depend on others to house her horses — Peanut and Tucker remain — in existing barns. She occasionally rides on horseback through the streets, and stops so that children, and others who love horses, can say hello.
    “The kids loved it,” she said. “I feel strongly about showing up for the ­parades,­ for the children, for everybody . . . to stay connected to our rural heritage.”
     “I shared him in every way,” she said. Bubba appeared at fund-raisers and other parties, took people on  trail rides, did therapy work, and once posed with Justin Timberlake for a GQ magazine photo spread.
    “I feel that people benefit from contact with horses,” Ms. Kaler said in an e-mail. “Having worked professionally with horses for 30 years, it saddens me to witness the gap between horses and their riders growing ever larger. People arrive at a barn, have a groomed, saddled horse handed to them, have someone tell them what to do inside a fenced-in area, and a half-hour or an hour later, hand the horse off again.”
    Ms. Kaler said that a cash gift recently made it possible for her to move all of her horses to a “beautiful pasture” close to her house, where she was with Bubba around the clock as he neared the end. “We shared a campfire under Springs’s . . . full moon,” she said, before the horse died at 2 a.m. on the penultimate day of March.  The two had been “inseparable,” she said, for 21 years.