Thursday, June 2, 2011

Shelly - the horse I owe an apology to Part 1

Shelly as a 3 year old

I've been told never to purchase a horse based on emotions. I've done it twice now. Grace was the second, Shelly was the first....

I was working at a local hunter jumper barn my senior year in high school, cleaning stalls on weekends and feeding the horses at night. I worked hard and was willing to do anything, always with the hope that someday I would get to ride the young horses that were in training. The barns trainer was getting ready to head to California for a winter series of shows. Shelly only had a few rides on her and he needed someone keep her going while he was gone. When he put the offer out there to me I didn’t hesitate, I finally had the chance to sit on one of his training horses. She was the greenest thing I have ever ridden, and by far the most breathtaking. Shelly was out of a Trakehner mare that was by the 1984 Olympic Gold Medal Show Jumping Stallion Abdullah. Her sire was a Dutch Warmblood who it was rumored had his papers pulled because his babies had a nasty reputation for being hot. None of that mattered to me; I just wanted to prove myself as a rider. I grew up just down the road from the barn riding in its shadow. My grade horses were small and average at best compared to the beautiful mounts that I often shared an arena with. When I started working there I was occasionally asked to hop on a rank pony or two, but this was the first time I had been allowed to ride one of the Warmbloods.

The trainer told me to stay out of her face and just guide her. She didn't have a clue how to walk a straight line with a rider on her back. He said what she needed right now were miles; I was to take her for walks on the nearby trails, the goal being to get her out to see things. After the trainer left for California I couldn't wait to get to the barn each day with my saddle in tow. Shelly was really quiet on the ground and uncomplicated under saddle. She was incredibly confident out on the trails, nothing seemed to faze her. By the end of the 3 weeks I had her trotting over poles in the arena. I dreaded the return of the trainer, as it meant that Shelly would be back in full training with him. I was thrilled to find out that the peering eyes around the barn had reported back to him that I had done a good job with Shelly and I was asked to continue to ride her several days a week. Any time the trainer would run short on time in his day he would leave Shelly for me to ride. Soon my own TB gelding was taking a back seat to her. Just a few months after I had started riding her, the trainer had me jumping her over low cross rails. She never hesitated; Shelly would jump from whatever spot you put her in at the base of a jump. She was cat like over a fence, incredibly agile. I even rode her in a cross rail class at the nearby show grounds. It wasn't long after that her owner pulled her from the barn to move her to a dressage facility where she would finish her training before being sold. I said my goodbyes and figured I would see her in the show ring someday. There was no possibility that I at 18 years old would be able to own that magnificent mare.

6 months later as I was headed into my day job at a local restaurant I ran into Shelly's owner as she was on her way to get coffee. I worked up the nerve to ask her how Shelly was doing. She let me know that Shelly was on her way back from the dressage trainer, it sounded like the mare wasn't going to be the dressage star that she had hoped for. I gushed on about how much I enjoyed riding the mare and how I could only dream of owning a horse like that. I had no idea that my rambling on about her horse would lead the owner to consider me a viable option as a buyer. When Shelly came back to the barn I was again asked to ride her several days a week. The trainer again advised me to stay out of her face, he felt that she had been over schooled at the dressage barn and just needed to enjoy being ridden again. It wasn't long before we were back out on the trails and hopping over small fences. The more I rode Shelly the more connected to her I became. My own gelding who took the best care of me was clearly in 2nd place for my attention. One day while I was tacking up Shelly in the aisle way of the barn I said out loud that if I could afford her I would consider selling my gelding Kidd. I was immediately approached by a very kind woman who told me that if I was serious she was very interested in Kidd, she had admired him from afar and would love to own him. In whirlwind of events that included the trainers at the barn going to bat for me with Shelly’s owner, Kidd was sold to Karla and his sale price was used as my down payment for Shelly. She was now mine.


  1. I love this story ~ I've already read part II, so I know what's to come. Regardless, you seem like a beautiful rider and you looks admirable in your pictures! I need to start taking hunter/jumper lessons again - ;)!

  2. Sounds like a fantastic mare. Clicking to part 2...