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Bucking the Trend

Every month we send hundreds of thousands of supplements in SmartPaks to riders in every state, and those SmartPaks are used to keep horses of every breed and discipline happy and healthy. That means we not only have the best job in the world but we also get to experience just how wonderfully diverse the sport of riding is.
As a dressage rider and draft horse owner, I have a special place in my heart for unexpected horse/rider/discipline pairings. But when I read horsey publications, I don’t see a lot of recognition or celebration of horses and riders who “break the mold.” So I talked to my fellow SmartPakers and gathered a few stories of atypical combinations, which I’ve shared below. We may not have the most traditional horses for our disciplines, but we do know that anything is possible when you have a goal and horse you love!

First, let me tell you all about Hale:

“You actually ride him?!” If only I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that! It always starts the same way, I have my horse Hale out on the cross ties and as I’m grooming him, curious glances and whispers turn into questions and then out right disbelief as I grab his tack and saddle up. Hale is a draft horse – a full Shire – and at 17.3 with full white feathers, he is not your typical dressage horse! It used to bother me a lot, and honestly hurt my feelings, that people would think less of him just because of his breed and what we were trying to do. But I have realized now that it doesn’t matter. Hale has taught me more than any other horse about how confidence can affect your riding. He is so sensitive and willing that if I’m not there for him 100%, he knows it. Part of having Hale was also accepting that we have to face some pretty intense training challenges. Teaching a horse built to pull to use his body differently is not an easy task, and we are still working on it every ride. But for me and Hale, it’s about the journey, not the destination! – Martha B., Customer Care

Introducing Newman of All Trades:

Newman is the poster child of crossing disciplines in the horse world! He’s a Trakehner and his main “job” is dressage, but combined driving has become a close second. We jump once a month and have begun fitting a side saddle to him and me (even harder than fitting an astride saddle if you can believe!). This new discipline of western dressage intrigues me, maybe I’ll have to explore the western tack SmartPak now offers…
I typically don’t face unwelcoming behavior in the driving world, probably because everyone thinks if I’m crazy enough to drive a 17-hand Warmblood at speed through obstacles, I deserve to be there! When I’m jumping and someone looks down their nose at me, I point out that Newman actually comes from a jumping line, yet I make the poor thing “do” dressage. His daddy competed with Darren Chiacchia in eventing and his granddaddy was a hunter! – Dr. Lydia Gray, Staff Veterinarian

Meet Miss Molly, a Racehorse Turned Cow Horse:

My first horse was a Thoroughbred mare named Molly, and she was the quintessential “Dressage Diva” – if she were a human she would’ve been a tall, skinny, snobby ballerina. The barn where I boarded was an old cow farm that would have a few new calves born every year. Those little babies would squeeze under the electric fences and get loose in the back fields and wouldn’t you know that my little Thoroughbred dressage princess was a mean, lean cow-herding machine! We would round them up and heard them back into the pasture they belonged in. We even tried our hand at team penning — you should have seen the looks when I mounted up in my dressage saddle, Charles Owen Helmet and full seat breeches I felt so out of place and self-conscious. Despite being a novice to formal team penning, it was the best feeling in the world to be aboard dainty Miss Molly while she cut in the herd fearlessly, and then to see the Quarter Horses and Paints, many born and bred to work cows, shying away from them or misbehaving. From that point on I knew Molly could do anything despite being an OTTB, and it gave me so much more confidence in our partnership regardless of what we were doing. If I had been afraid of trying something new, that I may have thought we weren’t “meant for,” I don’t think I would have ever realized Molly’s full potential, or mine for that matter! – Autunm I., Merchandising

The Tale of Dante the Pintabian Eq Horse:

My first adult modified horse was a “pintabian.” I know – you’ve probably never even heard of that breed, never mind in the H/J world!! Dante was small – almost pony sized ¬– but he was able to get the horse strides in any line. Although we usually didn’t do well in the hunters, we held our own in the equitation. He held his tail flagged like an Arab all the time, and people suggested that I nerve it so it would lie flat. My response? “NEVER! Who cares?! He jumps great and is wicked safe! If a judge didn’t want to pin me cause I’m on a part-Arabian, then that’s just the judge’s narrow-minded view!” We always had a ton of fun horse showing, and I always appreciated those times when the judges were able to look past his breed. – Jessica R., IT

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11 comments on “Bucking the Trend
  1. Rachel Wykes says:

    Way to go Martha and Hale!!!!

  2. Catherine Kowalski says:

    Thank you, Martha, for a wonderfully encouraging story! I have an 18 hand Clydesdale who I am training to Dressage and have heard the same remarks you have – especially since I stand only 5’4″. But Obri is my best friend and I know that despite what others may think of us, we’re going to be a very flashy couple thanks to my wonderful trainer. I can’t wait to show him off in the Dressage ring and do my trainer proud!

  3. Anne Molloy says:

    Even though I have ridden for a long time, and it is my life’s passion, I am a timid and fearful rider. Some days I feel braver than others! Ride who you can, where you can, when you can, as long as it feeds your spirit. I have been trying to get a consistent left lead on my horse for forever, but he is the love of my life, and is my partner forever. I just bought another horse to be my forever buddy, also. Now our family is complete.

  4. Erin Conklin says:

    I have a mule who was a rescused and once used for plowing. now he loves being a hunter! great stories!

  5. Tiffani says:

    Thanks for posting this! I love hearing stories like these. I used to get a lot of judgement doing hunters and eventing on my QH mare who is 15.2, but we have since proved to everyone that QH’s are just as able to do it as anyone else. The judges actually adored her in hunters and they love her in dressage now and she has intense passion when it comes to jumping. She may be short and bred for halter, but she is a beast in the english riding world and I am darn proud of her!

  6. brittany cole says:

    i absolutely love these stories would love to read more like them.

  7. Ellen says:

    Very inspiring. I’ve got a wild-caught, BLM branded mustang I do dressage with and hopefully we’ll soon be driving!

  8. Kristina Shankel says:

    Love these stories! Great teamwork doing what you enjoy.

  9. Alexandria says:

    This is a great read and it’s very encouraging to know that I’m not the only one who gets the crazy comments about the horse I ride. I ride a 17.2 hand half Percheron gelding named Apollo. We ride hunter/ jumper and also dressage and are working towards eventing. At the end of May this year, we went to our first show together (his first ever) and, even though it was a open schooling show, we got tons of weird looks and back- handed comments on his breed. I was also told by a trainer that I was insane for “riding that beast” in “such a flimsy bit”. I ride in a loose ring, french- link snaffle bit. About the mildest bit I could find. As we are about to head off for a week long show, I was very happy to find this article as it has given me the extra boost to do what I love with the horse I love and not worry or get upset about what others think of Apollo. Thanks for this post!

  10. Diana says:

    Nice job! It’s nice to know there are others out there that have wonderful horses that may not be typical. I have a shire cross who is up to the challenge of most everything and is a great all rounder.

  11. Olivia Spencer says:

    Go Martha and Hale!!! Love this story– keep ’em coming…

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