Coffee – He may be the smallest horse in our barn, but he is by far the biggest character! Originally trained as a Western Pleasure horse, Coffee was a lesson in just how much you can affect a horse’s natural gait through training. When he came to us, at age 6, Coffee had two speeds – shuffle and dead-run into a sliding stop. It took longer than any other horse I’ve worked with to get to his natural gaits – a lovely, fluid, floaty trot and an easy rocking canter. With a lot of Quarter Horse in his breeding, those sliding stops still show up in play – but those hock-locking stops have disappeared from his work. He is my mother’s beloved boy, but I have the pleasure of training him.
Noble – This is the horse I always dreamed of – only a hand too tall and far more challenging than I bargained for! Noble was literally a gift from a stranger. A Dutch Warmblood with a lot of Gelderland breeding, I knew his great grandsire well, and rode some of his offspring. I always dreamed of owning a foal by that stallion, but knew I could never afford it. Noble is of the solid old-type that I love, and I could watch him move all day long! For being 17.1 and nearly 1400 pounds, he’s soft and light in his movement, and able to go from full ‘cavalry charge’ to a soft stop in one step. But our journey has been fraught, and his training slow. Still, through it all, he’s a real ‘momma’s boy’!
Roxie – Originally trained for Western Pleasure, she was meant to be my trail horse. Roxie has a lot of ‘go’ and a nice little way of moving uphill, for a mostly Quarter Horse halter-bred little Paint mare. Her massive body on teacup feet caused her some issues that stalled her training, and now we’re dealing a sarcoid in a place that makes continuing her training unthinkable. She is still young, so if we can get past the sarcoid I have high hopes for this girl.
Tally – She is my last homebred. I made the mistake of sending her to another trainer to get her started, thinking it would take me too long. She came back broken mentally and physically. After a year of recovery, when I put her back to work, I had a panicked mare on my hands. I also learned the hard way, through a fractured vertebrae, that she needed more time for physical healing than we’d understood. Now finally moving as easily as she did before I sent her away, we are finally on a path forward.
Gone, but never forgotten
Nash (1994-2020) – He was purchased as a mount for my mom. The seller said he was 14-15; the vet who did their vet check said he was 18-20. The tattoo on his upper lip said that he was God Bless Texas, a 10 year old Appaloosa who’d only stopped racing shortly before the other family purchased him. Green as grass, totally shut down, and (when he got going) a big trot – I fell in love with the ornery fellow and gave my mother my already well trained warmblood as her mount. We were beginning schooling on advanced movements when a series of injuries, to each of us individually, eventually led to his retirement.
Dani (1985-2010) – It was Dani who taught me what it was really like to dance. She was my first homebred, and my first chance to try to get it right from the beginning. By the time she was three, she seemed more suited for jumping than Dressage, and I tried to sell her. It was lucky for me that I was not successful. She challenged me to look for ‘back doors’ if the ‘front door’ met with resistance.
She turned out to be a tremendous talent, capable of anything if approached right. An exercise where I was to ride “toward pirouette” at canter, to improve engagement, resulted in a correct half pirouette – proof to me that the right foundation makes the movements come easy. I also learned from her that time invested up front makes later progress easy, as her contemporaries passed us early but lagged in their advanced work, while we sailed through the ‘hard stuff’. I credit Dani for the trainer I am today.
Ben (1974-2006) – If you believe in ‘soulmate horses’, Ben was mine. He was four and I was fourteen when we first met. A green horse for a young rider is rarely advisable, but Ben and I made it work. He was intended to be my next Eventing horse, but he’d have none of it! In the arena, Ben would jump the moon for me – out on cross-country, it varied widely. If he ‘liked’ the course, no fence was too big; but if he didn’t, I could not get him within 20 feet of a tiny log on the ground. After two years trying to figure out the secret, I gave in. If he would tolerate my journey to develop my Dressage skills, we’d spend most of our showing in the Hunter/Jumper arena.
By the time Ben was 19, it was time to retire from jumping shows. By that time I had finally gotten a handle on my Dressage skills, and I spent a couple of years undoing all of my past mistakes before handing him off to my mother. An internationally known trainer dubbed Ben “the best school master around” at that time. Everyone who met Ben fell in love. He was truly a horse of a lifetime!
Wicki (1964-1994) – He was the fulfillment of my childhood dream of owning a horse of my own. Not that he was the type of horse I had in mind – a 15hh Appaloosa gelding who looked more like a Lippizan with his stocky build and cresty neck. But, in the end, I couldn’t have had a better partner for my first horse! Wicki was a little cross-country ‘machine’. From him I learned that once a horse knows his job, get out of the way and let him do it!
On advice that I was outgrowing him, I sold Wicki to what I thought would be his forever home. A few years later we’d heard he’d been sold, and quite accidentally my mother met the new owner through her work. I had the pleasure of teaching his new rider for a few years. He lived the rest of his life with that family, for which I was immensely grateful.
Delight (1970-1977) – She was my first love, though never actually my horse. I will never fully understand why my instructor chose to pair a 10 year old advanced-beginner student with a 4 year old mare off the track – but she clearly knew something we didn’t.
Delight was a donation to our university’s riding program. She would pull back when tied – so I never tied her. A simple wrap of the lead around the rail and she’d stay put. Her back would drop when people mounted her from the ground, so I used a mounting block. I watched adults try to bully and force her into compliance, never understanding why the small compromises I made were not acceptable to them. For two years I was her main rider, even taking her to my first show.
Sadly, she never fit the program and was sent to auction while lame from a hoof abscess. I already had Wicki and we could not afford to save her. To this very day that memory makes me cry.