The Little Cart Horse That Could

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At the 2021 US Dressage Finals - Photo by Chelsey Burris

By Michele Omran

I am going to tell you a story about the coolest horse I have ever met. We call him Quentin or Q – in the show ring he is known as Kashmire Knight. 

Amish Country, Pennsylvania

One cold dreary day, a trainer driving down the road noticed an adorable small cart horse carrying two young girls bareback between farms. She thought he was way too nice to be a farm horse and purchased him immediately. With little training under his belt, he was offered for sale.  At the same time my mother, Susan Omran, was browsing the internet for a new horse to do obstacles and to take on the trails.  She came across the listing, and it was love at first sight.  He was vetted and shipped to Florida not long after.

Brooksville, Florida

The shipper arrived at our family barn and off the trailer stepped Quentin. We expected to see a small horse, but this was more a pony than a horse.  Though adorable and sweet, my mom was on the fence about if she was going to keep him. We did not need another pony.

Mom headed out of town for a few days, and I decided I was going to make him perfect for her return. Very confident in my ability, I proceeded to tack him up, put on my helmet, and throw on my cross country vest, and off to the mounting block we went.  As I picked up the reins, the little adorable pony turned into a bucking bronco, who showed no signs of stopping. I strategically planned my escape, slid off, and rolled away. As I watched Q run back to the barn with my stirrups flapping in the wind, I thought “typical freaking pony.” Being he was a cart horse, I found he lacked two important things…brakes and steering.  My attempt to make him perfect in two days failed miserably.  Regardless, Mom fell in love with his Disney-like personality. He is so curious and into everything…including the dreaded plastic bags.

September 2020

Mom and Q progressed nicely with obstacles and dressage lessons with my trainer, Blaire Martindale.  Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Blaire and I worked hard all season, with my horse The Black Tie Affair, aka Marley. With just 2 scores away from a possible USDF All-Breeds Award in the Paint division, and a month away from my first Great American Insurance Group/USDF Regional Dressage Championships Competition, Marley was out for the season with an injury.  I was devastated.  As the amazing mother she is, my mom offered to share Q with me.  I was to jump him while she focused on dressage.  Unfortunately, only a few days into our plan, Marley, Mr. Drama King extraordinaire, decided he had other plans.  Startled by something outside, his acrobatic movements put mom in the ER with a broken hand.  Mom joined Marley on stall rest, and a new plan was formed. I was to take over training Q until Mom’s hand healed.  After a few months of lessons, Blaire, Mom, and I decided that I was going to show him this season.

Now off to find good fitting show clothes!  Not an easy task when you are 5ft tall with the chest and rib cage of a 5’8 women.  I immediately contacted Southeast Sport Horse and started designing a coat.  The coat is now called Jo’s Magic Coat, I will explain later.

February 2021

We entered Q into a schooling show with a day stall to see how he would take it all in. I picked a show which just happened to be setting up for a National heavy horse carriage show…probably not the best idea for an ex-cart pony. I had a sinking feeling as we pulled in with our trailer, shadowed by the huge rigs.  As Q unloaded and saw the horses with their massive carts and carriages, he was not pleased with his current situation. As I headed to the schooling area, a red truck followed behind me. Who could it be? None other than the EMT, they asked if I was okay and I yelled back, “I am, but not sure my horse is,” followed by a chuckle. The truck kept us in sight the entire time I was mounted.  Staying in the arena was not our forte that day.

The following two months, Blaire and I worked endlessly. Though his canter was less than desirable, we decided to head to our first USDF-recognized show.  Our first test we scored a 60%, which I could not balk at, by any means.  Second test scored 64%, a qualifying score!  The next day he found his groove and pulled out a 69% and a 70%.  The shock to everyone was almost too much to handle and we said it must have been Jo’s Magic Coat.  Q was a rockstar, and I was ready for the next show. 

Mothers Day 2021

When I was a pony rider, it was tradition that Mom and I would be at shows on Mother’s Day.  After a 20-year break from riding, the tradition came alive again.  The first day, Q came out guns blazing and scored a 67% and 70%. I asked Mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day, a score of 72% was her answer!  I looked at her and told her she was crazy and had lost her mind.

We were the last dance of the day. I received the text message of my score, a 72.069!!! We left his second show with a first in every class, we also received reserve AA high score. It must have been Jo’s Magic Coat, that was my only thought.

Next off to WEC in Ocala.  He tore it up again with scores ranging from 68-73%. Leaving with two firsts, two seconds, and a third place ribbon.

Let us not forget that he is not your average dressage horse, nor was he bought with the intention of being one.  He was thrown into it but held his own over all the big fancy horses.  He had done all of this without schooling in the arenas prior to competition.  I hand walk him around the night before and let him smell the roses, literally.  I knew the day would come when I would not be able to school, so I decided to start his career that way.  I may have lost a point here and there, but in the end, I would not have changed a thing.

October 2021 – Conyers, GA

We made it to the Great American Insurance Group/USDF Region 3 Dressage Championships!  The weather leading up was terrible, and the grounds were underwater.  There was no schooling the day before, and the rings were closed in hopes they would dry out.  Little Q did his best in that sloppy arena – stretchy trot is hard for a little guy when there are 10-meter puddles in the ring. We looked as though we just ran cross country after our ride. 

We left the show with a sixth place in the USDF Adult Amateur Equitation Regional Final class and a second place in First Level Test One. It was the first time we rode that test, as we do not have an arena at home. So why not try it the first time at Regionals?

I arrived home to an email that we were on the alternate list for the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®. Not knowing what it all meant, I sent the email to Blaire.  She informed me that there is a possibility we were going to Kentucky for Finals.  Following that email was another, letting us know we were ranked 33rd in the Adequan®/USDF Training Level Adult Amateur Year-End Award standings.  In my eyes, we had already won the season before the show.

November 2021, Lexington, KY

We have arrived!! Thanks to the help of a few wonderfully amazing people. They showed us the ropes while I waited for Blaire to arrive.  Kashmire Knight was making his debut at Finals after just four shows in his first year of dressage training. This was going to be a true test of both of us.  Neither he, nor I, had ever traveled this far for a show.  We walked around our show ring the day before and people just fell in love with him.  He wanted to touch every sign, every flower pot, and talk to any person who would listen.  The weather was deteriorating fast as the days went on, but Pony didn’t seem to care at all.  Amidst the intense temperature drop and 30mph wind gusts, nothing phased him, there was not one spook from the little man.  I felt like the lucky one, as others were not having such a pleasurable horse.

Rain and sleet visible against Q’s coat during his test at the US Dressage Finals. Photo by Chelsey Burris

As the final test approached, during our morning walk, it started to snow, and the wind picked up.  I was concerned, as leaves bigger than his head flew by, but again he did not seem to notice. The time had come; I got on the tiny cart horse and headed to the schooling arena.  He was a bit quick that brisk morning, but controllable. My name was called to enter the show ring, and I heard some pelting noise on my helmet.  I looked at my magic coat and noticed it was sleeting – let’s not forget it was 27 degrees, wind gusts of 30mph, and now sleet.  Kashmire Knight rode that test like it was a normal sunny Florida day.  He ignored all the flapping tarps, leaves flying in front of his face, and the pelting sleet. I left the ring in happy tears, so proud of the little man. He proved himself as a real show horse that weekend.

I knew going up to Kentucky that I was not going to be in the ribbons but went for the experience and to see what we could handle together.  Q was the best little cart horse in the world that week.  We even made it in the photo gallery of Sunday highlights on USDF’s social media post! The Little Cart Horse That Could may not have won any ribbons in Kentucky, but he won the heart of everyone who met him.

A pat for a job well done. Photo by Chelsey Burris.

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