Mr. Sensible – My COVID Pony

Charlie showing off his versatility

The fabled Norwegian Fjord! We are celebrating these horses as our October Breed of the Month on YourDressage! We will be sharing stories and galleries all month long from folks who love this breed.

Did you know that dressage riders who choose a Norwegian Fjord as their dressage mount are eligible for special awards through the Adequan®/USDF All-Breeds Awards program, as the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry is a participating organization?

Here, a lifelong equestrian shares about her “COVID pony”, the dream horse that she got when her job went remote, and what makes Fjord horses such great partners.

By Kate Skufca Doster

CRF Charlieboy was your typical “COVID Pony” – if there is such a thing. As a lifelong equestrian, two years post divorce, working remotely from home… the time seemed right to look for my dream horse. Miraculously, it only was the span of a week and a half between finding his ad online and him being delivered to our new, expansive trail barn. We have been adventuring since July 17, 2020.

Like I mentioned, I am a lifelong equestrian. However, Charlie was my first three-year-old. He had been trained under saddle and to pull a carriage the year I got him, so I had no idea what to expect. In true Fjord fashion, you would have never known he was a baby. So much so, that while I was getting his saddle adjusted, again in Fjord fashion with the widest gullet my extra wide saddle takes, I tootled around on the trails bareback with him solo. Vultures landing eye height in trees and taking off as we walked by? Nothing to worry about. Deer? Underpass tunnels? Water crossings? Clippers? Nothing bothered Charlie. His previous owner described him to me as “sensible” and that is a very accurate descriptor.

Charlie as the “Pony of Honor” at my wedding.
*Note: USDF strongly recommends all riders wear protective headgear when mounted.

Our first year together, we spent lots of time on the trails learning more about concepts like starting and stopping (this is the least effort and therefore the favorite). We also worked on dismounting and mounting back up and steering as well as navigating varied terrain and elevations. We had many opportunities to go trail riding with groups and by ourselves; both were excellent for building confidence and a solid foundation on a young horse. I also enlisted a trainer with a dressage focus for lessons, to start more structured training. 

Around that same time, I learned about working equitation and how it was starting to take some hold in the US and thought that might pull me back into the show ring… which it did! At first, it was obvious that having “stuff” in the arena was preferred by Charlie, and it really helped him apply the dressage concepts to a specific task. Little did we know, three years later, in June 2023, we would be showing L1 at our first Two-Day Working Equitation event! Day one of the show, we got high scores in both dressage and ease of handling, winning our division as well as having the highest overall score for the day. On day two, we improved our dressage score AND ease of handling by three points each, and won our division again! Charlie thought that meant he should be able to retire, but I assured him it was not that time yet. 

I would be remiss to not talk about the versatility of the Fjord breed. In addition to excelling in working equitation, Charlie is also wonderful to drive and really seems to enjoy it. I took some driving lessons to make sure that I had at least the basics down, and we have been enjoying occasional drives for pleasure and also cross-training/conditioning. As part of prepping for our working equitation show this year, we tried our hands (and hooves) with ranch pattern and ranch trail, and went so far as learning how to throw a rope and drag a target (which was, of course, a non-issue for Charlie). Charlie also knows some tricks like counting and smiling; he also can demonstrate his lateral work under saddle or on the ground. He is game for anything really; we have had the privilege of being able to swim in Lake Erie for a summer, hauling out to many of the local bridle trails, tried our hand with cow sorting, gone on moonlit trail rides, and he was even the Best Pony of Honor in my wedding this September. He is currently schooling Second Level movements with our trainer. 

My main goal with Charlie, when I bought him, was to have fun, and he has truly made that a reality. He provides a lot of comic relief and with his “down for anything” demeanor, we have gotten to do so many new and fun things that I can only look forward to what the future brings for us.

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