In the summer of 2006 Lauren and I went to look at an 18 month old filly named Mariah. Her breeder had moved from doing dressage to western cutting and this solid-bred Paint horse was already 15 hands high at this early date. Originally, we were interested in her solely on her size. Most babies at this age might have been hitting 14 hands but not 15. Mickey is just over 15 hands as a grown horse. Dr. Lynn Criner went along for the look at the filly. Overall, she liked the baby said she would go in on her so we could sell her as a three-year old. I said, “but if we start and train her we will want to keep her”. So, Lauren and I bought the big filly. Another girl at Whipple Tree, where we kept her initially, had a yearling only one day younger than Mariah.
Here is a picture with Mariah in front and Gunner behind. Look at their size difference. Note Mariah’s coat color. Already going grey around her eyes, we knew that as an adult she would be a grey mare. Lauren was sitting bareback on Mariah at 20 months. I was leading Riah with Lauren on board (this in itself was amazing for a young horse to just take in-stride without bucking or objecting). As we got down to her paddock, two of the other horses right next to us, were tagged by the hot wire. They reared and roared off while Mariah just kept trudging along with Lauren on her back.
Lauren and I did most of the day-to-day work in breaking and training this girl. She was pretty smart and we took it slow to make sure we were doing it right. Barbara Arlington spent some time ground-driving her which I think has paid off big time with how easy she is to turn and handle. She was so big by age three that she was a little intimidating. Okay, she was a lot of horse and scary. I remember wanting to canter her on the lunge line so we would have some control if she started to buck or run off. Lauren really never was a big fan of Mariah’s as she came along in her training. She was younger then and secure on Mickey and not a risk taker. I told Lauren to get on her and I would hold the lunge line. There was no way she was getting on that horse with me on the ground holding a whip. So, instead at age 50+, Granny got on the super green three-year old and took the first canter on the mare.
Then she went to Dev to learn to really learn to canter. She came back from Dev’s ready to show. She did her first show at Whipple Tree in November 2008. She was reserve champion first time out. Honestly doing pretty well for a young horse in her first show. I was so excited about her and pleased with her progress. Lauren was not. We moved Mariah to jumpers and things really started to fall apart. Lauren got too aggressive, asking for too much speed too soon in the mare’s training and it went bad quickly. I was very unhappy with the results of that first day doing jumpers and it was made worse because Mariah’s breeder had come to see her compete. I realized my dreams were not necessarily my daughters.
It was decided, reluctantly and with a broken heart, that Mariah deserved to go to a new owner, hopefully someone who would continue her path in the jumper world. We found an ideal candidate in a young vet and her husband. The vet had ridden thoroughbreds for years. She had the experience and background to take my mare to the next spot. Unfortunately, she did not really like my horse, it was for her husband (and he loved my mare) but he did not have the riding skills to really fit her. Still, I felt as good about them as owners as I was going to feel. We had a lot of trouble loading her that day. it was like she was telling us she didn’t want to go. But she did and I broke down and cried hard. Grief over her leaving, grief over a dream undone and grief over a horse I had personally taken from a baby, trained and rode who would no longer be with me.
It wasn’t too many months later that I heard from a Facebook friend that Mariah was up for sale. I was devastated. The owners had promised me to allow me the option of buying her back if they wanted to sell. I didn’t want her back, nothing had changed with my daughter not wanting to ride her but I did not want her to go to just anyone. I called Caroline who I knew from Whipple Tree. I had thought Caroline and Mariah would be a great team. She went to College Station to try her and bought her. I was overjoyed.
Yesterday at Caroline’s, with Dev down to do a lesson on-site, I was so gratified to see my “little girl” take off and do several jumps at 3’6″. She would jump and she would buck. But she jumped well and compentently. Dev encouraged Caroline to just ignore it-ride through it. I have to give Caroline props on this. This is a big, strong mare and jumping the big jumps is daunting enough. Add to that the bronc ride she was getting in the interim and it made for quite a wild ride.
I am excited to see what their future will bring. When we got Mariah we had never done an “A” show or jumped 3’6″ in competition. Those were huge dreams. Mariah is ready for all this. At age seven, Caroline has prepared her well for her next steps. Dev has been there each step of the way as well. And I would like to think that maybe the time I spent starting this mare has helped as well. If they are never better than they were today-they have exceeded my expectations! Bravo!