Inspired by a recent thread...I was going to include it in there but my story turned out longer than I thought! So rather than hijack their thread, I decided to start my own...so for anyone who's been a member here awhile and has ever wondered, here is Sandie (AKA Hoofprints in the Sand)'s story!My story with my mare Sandie starts off with the fact that I had only been riding a total of 2 years when I bought her! (and I didn't grow up around horses or anything, everything I had learned about riding/horse care had been in those 2 years).
I was half leasing my instructor's horse and I got the itch to find one of my own. I had no idea what to look for, as I was trained (very basically) in dressage but didn't show or do anything except trail riding occasionally. So all I knew was that I wanted a calm horse who I could take on trail rides with my friends at the barn. I went online and searched on dreamhorse.com and equine.com, and the only criteria I chose were a small horse (under 15hh) and a calm horse (temperament of under 5!) I wasn't too concerned with anything else.
During my search I came across (and visited) multiple different breeds...the first horse I went to see was a Tennessee Walker cross, but my instructor pointed out that if I ever wanted to show dressage a gaited horse would make that more difficult for me, so we passed on him. The next horse was a beautiful bay QH and I was in love...his name was Boston, and I was sure I would love him and he would be "the one"! But as it turns out, my instructor knew the guy who was selling him and when he called to inquire, found that the gelding could be quite spooky on trail...not a beginner's horse!
I was getting so frustrated...I found 2 more horses who looked like they might fit the bill. One was a chestnut Morgan, named "Mr. Morgan", and the other a buckskin named "Sandie". Mr. Morgan was my first choice, as he was listed with dressage training and the buckskin, although adorable, was listed as "broodmare prospect" and nothing else. I of course had no idea what that really meant, so I printed the listing out and brought it to my trainer.
At first he dismissed her, informing me that I didn’t want her, broodmare prospect meant that she wasn’t trained in anything. But he discovered that he knew the owner so he decided we could stop by to see her on our way to check out Mr. Morgan.
When we arrived at the farm, what we found was a rotund fuzzball of a mare who was more interested in eating grass than anything we had to offer. I don’t even think she acknowledged our presence! But he hoisted me up into the saddle and I tried her out, mostly walking, but we trotted a tiny bit. It was clear she didn’t know anything, but she was trying to understand…and she was so calm! I instantly felt a connection…
We left the farm to head to Mr. Morgan’s, and my trainer said “You’re going to get her”. I was a little surprised since he had told me she didn’t know anything, but deep down I knew he was right. Mr. Morgan and I didn’t click at all…he didn’t listen either, but it was out of distaste for what I was asking him, while Sandie’s was out of innocent misunderstanding. Mr. Morgan was much more trained but I just felt like Sandie was a kinder mind and that she would give 110% if I could just learn how to speak her language. So the next day, I called her owner and made an offer…and for $1,100 she was mine!
It was only after we began the process of transferring her into my name that I learned about her history. She has been on a farm with 47 other horses nearby, the product of a breeder/hoarder who didn’t know when enough was enough. The pastures were barren with no shelter, and Sandie had been found with third degree burns on her nose and white face from overexposure to the scorching summer sun. Her feet looked like they had never seen a farrier, and she had some wounds that had not been treated. But she was lucky…when the local SPCA came in to seize the horses, they found dead carcasses strewn about the property. Sandie was actually one of the survivors. And while being outside with no shelter had taken its toll, the horses inside were fighting their own battles…some were 2 to a stall, standing knee-high in manure and urine. Many had infections, thrush had eaten into their fragile hooves, and their coats were mangy and unkempt.
Sandie had a foal at her side when they arrived to rescue her. As it turns out, she had 2 foals before she came into my life – a buckskin and a palomino filly. Both survived and both were rescued I’m happy to say.
My early rides with Sandie were precarious to say the least…she had no power steering, no brakes, and sway bars would not have helped her balance! It was a mess watching us ride together, but I had already started to develop a bond with this mare that I can’t put into words. Slowly we grew together, even learning how to jump together at the same time! Because I was pretty untrained myself, we learned our own language…not always conventional to the current training methods, but it worked for us and since I planned on keeping her forever it didn’t matter to me whether it was the “proper” way to train the aids or not!
The second year I had her, we started showing…of all the sports we could choose, we got into the wild world of Eventing…and we were hooked! To say that our start in the sport was rocky would be an understatement…I was nervous which made her nervous and as a result, she refused a jump in our very first show and I fell off, eliminating us from the placings. It was certainly a frustrating start to our Eventing career to say the least! But we never gave up.
Now almost 4 years after I showed up and saw her for the first time, this mare has done so much and learned so much with me…we’ve shown Dressage, Eventing, Hunter/Jumper, and even gone Fox Hunting together! And the most exciting part is that for every first I have, it’s hers too! We get to experience it together which is both rewarding and emotionally touching to me. To think that I almost passed up her listing just because of what she didn’t know at the time!
In the local Eventing circuit, Sandie has been Grand Champion of her division the past 2 years in a row! There seems to be nothing this girl can’t accomplish and she makes me proud to be her “girl” every day! I’ll never give up on Sandie…when we hit a wall, we find a way around it. When we took a break from Eventing this year to try out Hunters, it was exciting to learn something new and I’m glad we did. But we also discovered that we may just not be cut out for Hunters…we may just not have that kind of look/movement. But we’re darn good at dressage and Eventing, and when I took her from the ring (where she was beginning to get sour) out on the cross country course, the old Sandie was back again, expertly negotiating every obstacle, eager for the next one! So back to Eventing we are going, because that seems to be our niche and what BOTH of us really enjoy!
When we hit a snag, we’ll switch gears again…so many people I see simply sell their horse if they can’t fit them into a certain mold/discipline. To me, I know I’ll never be some Olympic rider, it’s just not something I care to try for. So Sandie is more a family member to me than a means to a medal or ribbon. I want to do things with her that we both enjoy and excel at. So if that means switching disciplines every year then by God, we will!
God brought Sandie into my life for a reason…when my dad, who I was very close to, passed away last year I was devastated. I didn’t go to the barn (or anywhere) for a full week, just locked myself in my house and cried. I didn’t want to go to the barn to ride and end up frustrated and project that to Sandie…she didn’t deserve that. But after several days of not seeing her, my trainer called me to say that Sandie was depressed. She was upset I had been away that long, as she was used to seeing me almost every day. I finally dragged myself to the barn, and seeing Sandie and just grooming her made me feel so much better. I truly believe she understood the pain I was feeling and helped me through my grieving. God works in mysterious ways, and I could go on for pages and pages about all the ways He has spoken to me through her.
I truly believe we don’t choose the horses in our lives, but they find us and choose us. Everything in life happens for a reason, it’s all part of a plan He has made for us. And my only wish for Sandie is that she can feel the same love that I do for her, and know that she has a forever home with me. I am blessed that she chose me.