When I first met Belinda, a Hanoverian mare at a breeding and training farm in South Florida, I didn’t think much of her.
Sure, the tall, black middle-aged mare with striking markings was beautiful. But she was a broodmare.
I was coming in to a new farm to work the owner’s younger sale prospects. They were geldings, and as handsomely marked as Belinda. They were younger, fit, and brimming with endless opportunity for advancement and training. It was easy for me to funnel all of my attention toward these horses, which gave me a chance to make some money and challenge me as a rider.
It took nearly three years for me to recognize Belinda’s true worth.
I remember the first time I got on her. One gelding had pulled a shoe and the other was lame. The schoolmaster thoroughbred, (the mismatched boy in the barn,) was fun to ride but I was itching for something else while I waited on the younger Warmbloods to recover.
So I got on Belinda.
She was hard in the mouth and strong at the canter. She wasn’t fit — she hadn’t been ridden in some time. We weren’t connecting. Every time I added pressure from my hand or my leg, her head would shoot up or she’d drop her back and scoot out from underneath me.
Our school in the field was short. I groomed her and put her away.
The next time I was riding one of the geldings, an older woman who was friends with the farm owner came out to ride. She had ridden all her life. She was in her 80s.
She chose Belinda. I watched carefully from the other end of the arena as she effortlessly rode the big mare. Belinda huffed away from her low level of fitness, but carried on in balanced gaits, happily in the bridle. She even schooled over a few small fences in the field.
I was embarrassed.
It would be three years later when Belinda’s owner would offer her to me. It’s been a year now since I took her home. Purchasing Belinda was the best decision I ever made.
I’m grateful for the humbling experience that reminded me there’s more to a horse (and a woman!) than usually meets the eye.