Finding Sawyer – Part I: Finding Myself

My first pony was a shaggy, chestnut gelding named Dexter. Although I don’t come from a horsey family, my grandfather always loved horses, and bought me Dexter at a very young age, starting my lifelong passion. Those of you who were around horses as a kid surely remember that unequaled feeling – back when you cared about nothing more than time with your horse. I wouldn’t brush my own hair, but I sure loved to brush Dexter. ☺

Jno-grooms-Dexter-scan

I began taking formal lessons around age 10. Some of the wonderful horses I learned from in those early years growing up in Vermont were kind, sensible “old type” Morgans (our state animal!). Eventually I was fortunate enough to own a horse of my own, and moved from open and 4-H shows to the local hunter/jumper circuit during high school. At that point Morgan horses were no longer in the picture, but the breed was determined to come back into my life again…

Jno-morgan-scan-600x427

I had to sell my Thoroughbred jumper when I left for college, but my broken heart was consoled a bit by the chance to ride on the University of Massachusetts equestrian team. I’ll never forget showing up for team try outs the first week of my freshmen year. I was wearing crisp Tailored Sportsman breeches, my hair net perfectly arranged under my unapproved helmet (it was 1999, people!). Having been immersed in the hunter/jumper world for years, I vividly remember thinking it was a little un-cool that I’d given up my “fancy” horse to ride the unassuming UMass Morgans… Shame on me. Over the next 4 years those little horses helped bring my riding and horsemanship to a whole new level. During this time my eyes were opened to dressage, eventing, and natural horsemanship, which is my true passion to this day. The government line Morgan horses bred by the University represented well the kindness, sensibility, and versatility that makes the breed so special, and I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. But I still didn’t think I was a “Morgan person.”

Jno-UMass-Morgan

Fast forward to “grown up” me, here at SmartPak. Although I’ve been with the company for 10 years, I had a hiatus from owning a horse of my own. But I did ride friends’ horses, and eventually ended up with the free lease of a gorgeous, young Thoroughbred mare named Graysea, who had been started for the track but didn’t race. I spent a year and a half working with her on the ground and re-starting her as a riding horse.

Jno_Graysea2

I adored (still do) this lovely mare, but she’s a rather challenging and athletic horse, and I was always a nervous to ride her. I learned a tremendous amount during that time with Graysea, but last fall I ultimately decided that she was a bit too much horse for me. With my hectic work schedule I have precious little time in the barn, and I realized how important it was to relax and enjoy the time with my horse. Happily, Graysea was able to go back to her home in Kentucky. She’s now getting some time to grow up a bit more, while living the life on acres of bluegrass!

GrayseaGrazingKY

I took several months to regroup after Graysea left. My time with her showed me what I did want and what I didn’t want in a horse. Although I was still feeling confused about what type of horse was right for me, I managed to work out the following priorities: I needed a horse that would allow me to have fun, and to have fun, I needed to feel confident. Enough horse to challenge me, but not so much that I had a pit in my stomach at the thought of riding outside of the arena. (I guess I’m officially an adult amateur now that I admitted that out loud?!) Also, I realized that the right horse for me would be versatile. I wanted the option to compete in dressage, possibly some low level eventing, but also hit the trails on any given day, and maybe also use Western tack or drive a cart! (Can you believe this is the same chick that once only wore Tailored Sportmans??) I was making progress by admitting that my perfect partner wouldn’t be the “big, fancy show horse” that I used to want, but still didn’t know what type of horse would fit the bill. I looked at horse rescues and I researched various breeds (l’ll even admit to considering an Andalusian, just because of how awesome they looked in Lord of the Rings. Yeah.)
Finally one weekend my friend and coworker, Casey, asked if I wanted to check in on her horse while she was out of town. Her gelding Newt is an adorable six-year-old bay Morgan. Here comes the vivid memory thing again… I was tucking him in for the night after three relaxed, confident, fun-filled days of playing auntie, and BAM, it hit me: I WANTED A MORGAN.

I literally laughed out loud. Then I went home and pulled out my oldest horsey photo album to track down those wonderful Morgans that helped me learn how to ride, as well as college pictures on those UMass Morgans I had grown to love, despite myself. Talk about coming full circle! After that Ah-Ha Moment (has Oprah trademarked that?) my Morgan Adventure (aka Schmorgventure, don’t ask) was under way, and I never looked back.

Stay tuned for Part II…
Morgans

Posted in Stories & Adventures

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4 comments on “Finding Sawyer – Part I: Finding Myself
  1. Annie says:

    Great story! Can’t wait for the next installment!

  2. Victoria Tunis says:

    How neat, my Dad was Dean at UMass in the 60s and 70s and both my Mom and I have wonderful memories of those Bay State Morgans as we were allowed to ride and spend time at the barns. My lifetime breed is the Connemara Pony, but Morgans are wonderful.

  3. rory says:

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  4. GR says:

    Oh my gosh, are you riding “Charles” from UMASS in the third picture???

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Jen and Tally
Apparently I've been obsessed with horses since I was born, and I used to beg for pony rides on a regular basis. I started showing in 4-H, progressed to equitation and jumpers in high school and rode on the IHSA team in college where I also discovered the joys...

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