Cynder: Lighting a Fire in My Soul

Cynder gets a pat

Mustangs are our YourDressage Breed of the Month for June!  Known for their wild and majestic spirit, these free-roaming horses are rounded up periodically to be sold to new homes where they will be tamed.  These unique equines are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.

Dressage enthusiasts who ride Mustangs have the opportunity to earn special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards as The American Mustang & Burro Association Inc. is a Participating Organization.

We recently asked our social media followers to share stories about what makes these horses so special.  Here, a rider from Region 1 shares how finding a special Mustang kept her from giving up horses.

By Jordan Belanger

I think I always knew I wanted to ride; it was just in my blood.

I rode off and on most of my life, up until right before college. This is when I really got to begin honing my skills, as this is when I could actually afford lessons. This is also when I began riding dressage. I fell in love with the idea that any horse can benefit from it and that it is all based around biomechanics and partnership.


After college, I continued riding dressage and expanded to other disciplines as well, schooling horses up to Third Level and personally competing up to First Level on young horses that I helped to bring along.

Cynder silly face

Right around this time, my mother signed on to the BLM auction and picked out a young mare to bid on. Much to our disappointment, we did not actually win the bid. However, that did not deter my mother. She continued scanning through the site and that’s when we saw the horse that we would come to call Cynder. She was what is called a “third strike horse”, meaning, she had gone through the auction three times, and would likely not be put up again. I’m not quite sure what happens after the third strike, but luckily Cynder will never know.

After several months of waiting, we finally got the notification that she would be shipped over to North Carolina for us to pick up!

Once we had her settled and at home, she got to learn that people aren’t the worst things in the world, and that they typically bring food around. Unfortunately, due to health issues, I personally was unable to do much training with her, and after a few months of my parents trying their best, my mother decided professional help would be the best thing for her.

During this time I was dealing with serious burnout when it came to the horses, and I thought I surely would never ride again.

Then I got this call from my mom: “Look, I don’t care if you never want to ride again, I just want you to sit on her one time, just once, so you can say you did.” Begrudgingly I agreed, and we made the trek up to see her. All it took was that first ride, and I was beaming. Sure, she had only had a “colt start,” but her eyes just told me she wanted to give it her all.

Flash forward to now, about six months later, and having a Mustang as my partner is completely different than anything I have experienced.

I have never worked with a horse so introverted, yet curious. I wouldn’t say she’s the easiest horse sometimes, but I don’t think I’d want it any other way. She likes to negotiate and give her opinion, and once you have earned her trust, she seems to give it completely (well, some days more than others). Seeing her develop during our partnership has been such a pleasure. She has gone from a weak, pencil necked baby, to a sturdy yet elegant teenager. 


We have been to two competitions together thus far, after only 6 months of partnership, and we have learned a lot each time. I think the most interesting thing about competing on a Mustang is that no one realizes she is a Mustang until they see her brand. After they notice that, they are almost shocked. No one seems to believe that a Mustang can do dressage (and be good at it) when in reality, a Mustang can do anything other horses can do.

When it comes to the actual competition, we are taking things slow and enjoying schooling shows in the lower levels, before we try anything too lavish. She is still young, and I am not seeking ribbons or trophies.When I show, I show to improve ourselves each time. I only want to be better than I was last time. My ultimate goal is to one day achieve my USDF Bronze Medal together. Ever since I began learning the intricacies of dressage, I’ve always wanted this. I feel I am very lucky to have an amazing instructor and trainer that believes in us as a team. With the right support system behind us, and a whole lot of hard work and patience, I truly believe that Cynder and I can do it.

She has the talent, heart and courage to do anything I could aspire to, and I think this all comes from her hardy heritage.

Stay tuned to YourDressage all month long as we celebrate this breed, with photo galleries and exclusive stories from Mustang enthusiasts across the country!


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