Photo by Ella Chedester Photography (www.ellachedester.com)
Sweet Seniors! In October on YourDressage, we are celebrating the special horses in our lives that are ages 20 and up through photo galleries and exclusive stories. Join us all month long as we celebrate the ‘Golden Oldies’ of the dressage community! Here, a Region 6 lifelong Arabian lover shares the story of her gelding who has come out of retirement to play in the sandbox.
By Amy Pike
My love affair with Arabians and Half Arabians started when I was in kindergarten and taking lessons at a local program. Arabians are known for being spirited horses, with great athleticism. Arabians are also prized for their wisdom, kindness, and generosity. As a teen, I had plenty of athleticism of my own, but I lacked a few key things that I would need as an adult to be successful and happy.
As I transitioned into high school and my neurological disabilities started to manifest, it became clear that the only place I felt at home was in the barn, with the horses. In 1999 my parents agreed that if I was going to continue to be successful in and out of school, I would need a deeper connection to the animals and sport I was becoming more and more involved with. In November of my freshman year of high school we purchased our first horse, C Breeze +++/.
We had been searching for a few months for the right fit; I needed a horse who was athletic and capable, as well as a horse who would be willing to hold me accountable, and help me develop self confidence. After looking at horses who just weren’t right, my trainer, Katie, suggested a young gelding she was training with the intent to sell. He was beautiful, spirited, and exactly who I needed. C Breeze +++/ was just coming five, and we were assured that, with consistent lessons and help from the trainer, we would have a successful partnership.
Katie wasn’t wrong, with many lessons and consistent training we did make a successful pair! First, we had to figure each other out and that meant lots of getting bucked off, bitten, chasing the trainer out of the arena, private lessons, not being allowed to canter for four months, and some pretty tearful weeks. It took us a year to figure out how to be a team. He taught me the meaning of perseverance, too. When I was hardest on myself, C Breeze +++/ would give me a good ride, and remind me that I was capable.
C Breeze +++/ and I attended our first shows in 2001, and managed to earn some prizes. This was enough to convince me to keep learning new skills, and improve my riding. This was also enough to help me teach myself to focus under pressure. We continued to develop and explore many different disciplines over the next ten years. We earned titles in hunter pleasure, western pleasure, in hand, dressage suitability, hunter hack, driving, and working cow disciplines. Each new task was an opportunity to grow and enjoy this incredible horse. I retired him for the first time in 2013, after earning many regional and national titles. He was 19, and had just been diagnosed with a heart murmur. While the veterinarians all agreed that he could and should continue to be active, I felt it was time for a change of pace.
In the following years, I was developing other horses and competing with them, and C Breeze +++/ became my preferred trail riding and camping companion. We conquered the Three Sisters Wilderness area, swam in the ocean, and went on many other adventures. We participated in many breed promotion activities, and C Breeze +++/ gave some lessons to fill his time.
In early 2022, a dear friend of mine started working with her 28-year-old horse to show some limited dressage, and she encouraged me to do the same with C Breeze +++/. I had been taking dressage lessons for a few years, and just started showing Training and First Level. While I already had a horse that was doing well, it did sound fun to work with him on another new discipline. At 28-years-old C Breeze +++/ completed his first dressage tests. We are only as old as we allow ourselves to become. Another lesson this wonderful horse has taught me is to never stop learning and trying new things. He scored a fantastic 68% in his tests, earning him new regional titles this summer. He is happy in his work, sound, and building strength every week. His veterinarians say it is improving his well being, and so long as he wishes to come and play, I will find things to occupy his time.