Discovering Her Roots

Dixie and Alana

The versatile Morgan Horse! We are celebrating this breed as our June Breed of the Month on YourDressage! We asked our social media followers what makes Morgans their favorite breed, and got an overwhelming response.

Did you know that dressage riders who choose Morgans as their mounts are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the American Morgan Horse Association Inc. (AMHA) is a participating organization?

Here, a Region 8 rider shares the Morgan she stumbled upon through PetFinder, and the journey to find out about her new best friend’s past.

By Alana Bernhardt

Dixie before being rescued

Not many people think to look on adoption websites for their next dressage partner. But, having recently graduated from law school and with limited funds for a purchase, I found myself browsing PetFinder, hoping to maybe find an Off the Track Thoroughbred. The first profile I clicked on was of a 5-year-old, 13 hand pony mare, named Dixie. Dixie was surrendered to the MSPCA’s Nevins Farm rescue in Methuen, Massachusetts, due to a neglect situation, sadly involving mental health decline and illness. She had not been handled in almost two years, was seriously underweight, and was a bit suspicious of people. Nevins Farm had started a program called ‘Green to Great’ where adoptable horses were placed with trainers in order to give them the best chance at a bright future. Dixie had been paired with Jacqueline Toher, a wonderfully kind and talented dressage trainer, and her training was sponsored by so many kind people; a sort of “Team Dixie.”

Dixie and Jacqueline Toher before adoption

I made arrangements to meet Jacqueline and Dixie a few days after finding her ad. Dixie was a bit aloof, but as I rode her, I felt that this was a pony that could be both a good friend and, perhaps, a prospect for some lower level dressage and jumping. I visited her a couple of times before I took her to a barn I had selected for us, and each time we connected a bit more.

Dixie and I have tackled a variety of disciplines, from hunter/jumpers, to some eventing, and even barrel racing. But what has been even cooler is the people (and horses) I have met because of Dixie. Through DNA testing, the American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA) was able to assist the MSPCA with discovering that Dixie is, in fact, a fully registered Morgan, named PLB Tennessee Waltz. While she had fallen on difficult times, she had many people who had loved her, and I was able to connect with her breeder and original owner, who was still her owner on record with the registry, Paul. Paul was kind enough to assist me with transferring her ownership over so that I could be Dixie’s owner on record. Not only was I able to connect with Paul, but also his niece Renee, who still owns Dixie’s dam, Primrose Loretta.

Dixie and Alana with trainer

When I connected with Renee through social media, I was overjoyed to know that she still had her dam, and that we would be able to come out and meet her. Renee and her daughter Melissa also provided us with photos of Dixie as a foal, something I never thought I’d be able to have. While Dixie’s dam was hundreds of miles away from us in Connecticut, we discovered her sire, Amberfields Stetson, was only 20 miles from us in a neighboring town. Meeting Stetson and his owners was incredible and, again, a memory I never expected to be gifted with. Having not only photographs of Dixie’s parents, but photos of myself with them was a very special gift.

Dixie and I are just beginning our journey together and I cannot wait to make many more memories with her. We are tackling our first USDF-recognized show together this month at Mount Holyoke College. In another twist, Mount Holyoke College is not only where I did my first ever dressage test as a child, but also where I attended college.

I am so excited for our first trip down centerline where I did my own so many years ago, and for all the centerlines to come.

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