From the first time I saw Sophie I knew she was the horse for me.
the other horses. And when we were finished riding, when I tied her up and brushed her, she changed shape. Her head lowered, her eyes softened and she looked at me.
I’d tried out so many horses, and none of them had ever sought a connection. They looked right through me, or they shoved their faces into my personal space in search of food. This mare looked right at me, and I knew that was important somehow.
How do you tell someone you love that you won’t hurt them like the others did? And how can they believe you? It would take some time---we faced a rocky road.
Sophie had once been on a rental string, and that’s only one of at least three former owners that I know of. The woman who was selling her had bought her as a backup ---a good trail-riding horse to fill in while her gelding was recovering from an injury. I don’t know when, if ever, the Paint mare had her own special person before.
I think that’s where a lot of her anxiety came from--no stability, never knowing who she was going to be carting around or if they would be kind to her.
She had some physical problems to be diagnosed and treated. Part of her forward-going, almost frantic nature was due to her painfully thin-soled feet. She was literally trying to stay off her feet by running. We had her fitted for gel castings and saw an immediate change: The nervous, belligerent horse who had just dragged my mom down the aisle was suddenly a gentle soul who would stand quietly with her lead rope on the ground.
Her feet weren’t her only problem. She also had compensatory muscle issues and advanced arthritis. Based on the x-rays, I was told, I might be able to ride her only at a walk. We tried injections, and they only made things worse. For several weeks, she was so uncomfortable that I thought about having her put down. I knew I would have to if she didn’t get better.
But gradually her stiffness eased, and we settled on a more natural approach. I put her on a comprehensive joint supplement and rode her through her stiffness, backing off and going back to hand-walking during the occasional flare-up. Over time, her hock fused, and she required no time off at all.
After five years, Sophie and I have settled into our life together. When I walk out to the pasture to catch her, she picks up her head and watches me. Sometimes she’ll walk up to me. When I ride her, we flow. We’ve adapted to fit each other, and we’ve developed an easy language. She will always be my favorite horse to ride.