By Cara Blanchard Kilbourne
When I was a little girl, I fell in love with the Arabian horse and the beautiful art and sport of dressage. My first show horse, a Half-Arabian named Aire Jordan+//, and I learned dressage together and “climbed the ladder” all the way to Grand Prix. Together, we earned several national and regional titles, as well as my USDF Bronze and Silver Medals, and 3/4 of my Gold.
This passion, dedication, and determination paved the way for my career as a dressage trainer and instructor. The year I turned twenty brought along the birth of Cara Blanchard Training, Inc., and it was then that I vowed never to fall in love with a client’s horse.
Less than two years later, in January 2007, I got the phone call to train a 4½-year-old Arabian stallion, SoHos Southwind++/ (“Steele”). It was love at first sight and I fell hard… so hard that, the following year, I bred my mare to him. He was like a fairy tale – the Arabian I’d dreamed of my entire life, and one of the most gorgeous horses I’d ever seen. Over the five years that he was a client horse, I did my best to keep him at arm’s distance. Having a son of his was a blessing enough.
My birthday marks the anniversary of the phone call that changed my life forever. The familiar voice on the other end asked, “Do you have any interest in Steele?” I hesitantly said, “Yes, I’ve always had an interest in Steele. What do you mean?”
“Well, he loves you, and you love him. We all know that, so we want him to be yours.”
And so he was, unintentionally, a birthday gift.
One hundred days later was the worst day of my life. My heart horse, Jordan, left this earth and a giant hole in my heart. Losing the horse that you grew up with, the one that was the foundation of everything that has made you who you are, is like losing a spouse- you never get over it. You experience, slowly, all of the stages of grief. Overwhelming sadness is the hardest struggle of them all.
Steele saved me. He was my motivation to get through the worst days, to get through every day. He was my reason to get out of bed every morning and ride. There are always goals to be accomplished, including the fraction left of my Gold Medal that Jordan left behind for us to earn. That is the fire pushing Steele and I to work hard together – to be stronger, wiser, and the best team we can be to achieve our many goals. Steele has shown me that he loves me just as Jordan did. He’s happy to work and loves the one-on-one time that we spend together. We have a palpable bond. Steele has taught me how to live again, to set goals again, be proud of every small victory, and cherish every nicker, every ride, every rainy day in the barn, listening to my “kids” munch on hay.
It’s the simple things, and I’m forever grateful. He’s taught me that if you’re lucky enough to have a heart horse, and feel the adoration of such a giant soul, you’re lucky enough. But should
you have more than one equine soul mate in a lifetime, you’re truly beyond blessed.
Among his many accomplishments, in 2017 Steele was USEF Horse of the Year Arabian National (and Region 12) Champion FEI Dressage Combined Levels. My fairy tale gift horse mended my broken heart, garnered a huge
National Championship and made his Grand Prix debut in June 2018 – earning the last score for my Gold Medal! And that is just the beginning of our story.