At the age of 26, I began my journey into the wide world of equestrian activities, still young in the grand scheme of things, but old to be just learning how to ride!  In my now 4 ½ years of riding, I have yet to meet another rider who didn’t at LEAST grow up around horses.

When I was younger, the closest thing I had to that was my My Little Pony collection – and I had over 40 of those, complete with the Paradise Estate!  I used to section off the carpet in my bright yellow bedroom so that my ponies could graze in their fuzzy yellow pastures.  I always thought horses were beautiful, but it wasn’t until after I was married and out on my own that I ever got to really ride a horse outside of my imagination!

After 2 years of instruction, I decided that I wanted to own one of these majestic creatures. So, I started my hunt on sites like equine.com and dreamhorse.com, with the help of my instructor of course. I had a very tight budget of less than $1,000 to spend, so it was already well know that I wouldn’t be getting myself a push button pony of any sort!  Instead, I fell in love with a rescue pony – a buckskin mare who was going on 8 years old at the time, registered APHA and green broke.

I’ve had her in my life now for the past 2 ½ years, teaching her (and myself) with the help of trainers and learning a thing or two about owning and caring for a horse!

She was dubbed “Sandie” when she was given to me and I decided to keep her name, rather appropriate considering her coloring (I swear if not for the black mane and tail she’d blend into her shavings like a ghost!).  She has truly proven to be a soulmate to me. She’s carried me through some serious illnesses with my parents, and she lifted me up and practically dragged me through life a month ago when I lost my father, at the too-young age of 60, and felt like I had no strength to move forward.  I consider meeting her a true blessing, and have vowed to her that she has a forever home with me no matter what.

Although I’ve been trained in Dressage since day 1 of my riding life, I bought Sandie simply to have a trail riding buddy.  I had never shown before and neither had she, and that just didn’t interest me…until one day a good friend I’d met at the barn introduced me to the wild world of Eventing…and that was it, I was hooked!

We only compete at the low levels now (just getting into Starter this year with 2’0” max fences), but it’s been a (sometimes unforgiving!) learning experience.  I must say I’ve enjoyed much more than trail riding with this mare!  We’ve now got Eventing, Fox Hunting, and Hunter Pace fun under our belts and were Champion of the Very Green Rider division last year in the Northeast Ohio Mini Trial series, and hoping for a repeat this year with the next level up! 😉  Sandie has taught me that no matter your age, you can still become a part of the wonderful world of horses if you have determination and are lucky enough to meet your “soul horsemate” as I did!

South Farm combined test 2011 USDF Intro C in Middlefield, Ohio

Here are some lessons Sandie has taught me that I’d like to pass on to other “newbies” like myself, especially those starting “late” in life:

1.  They say your horse can pick up on your emotions…and they are so right!  If you don’t think you’re jumping the fence, you’re not (well, you may jump it alone, but your horse won’t be going along for the ride with you!)

2. Live life in the moment…so you royally screwed up your canter depart in your dressage test.  You’ll get a 5 out of 10 instead of a 7, what’s the 2 points worth in the grand scheme of your test??  Forget about it and focus on the movement at hand!

3. Don’t forget to breathe…because if you hold your breath you’ll pass out and fall off and what good will THAT do you?!

4. If you have never fallen off, you’re not a true rider!  There’s a reason for all the funny tee shirts out there, it happens to all of us, even the BEST of us.  It’s inevitable, and if you relax and embrace it, you’ll do less damage to yourself!

Sandie AKA “Hoofprints in the Sand” showing off her hard earned ribbons!

5. Here’s one of the most difficult ones to learn, but also one of the best – 99.9% of the time, mistakes are YOUR fault, NOT your horse’s.  But if you think about it, that’s better than the other way around – it’s much easier to correct what YOU are doing than convince your horse to correct what SHE is!

6. Above all else, even just standing and watching your horse grazing in a field is very soothing, better than a therapist and cheaper (ok well sometimes) too!  If you’re stressed out and going through a rough patch in life, don’t stay away from the barn because there’s no time or you’re not feeling motivated to drag yourself there.  Because you’ll be very glad that you did.

My mare is my baby, my sister, my soulmate. At times my caretaker, my therapist, my teacher, my friend, and my life.  No one else on this earth can lay claim to that, so I appreciate every day God gives me to be with her.  She is a blessing in my life, and I’d like to dedicate my inaugural blog on this wonderful site to everyone out there who feels the same connection with theirs!

Stefanie

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