My Life

Practical Horseman - - Contents - By Christina Keim

A dif­fi­cult Thor­ough­bred mare gets a se­cond chance and finds her call­ing with a new rider who also ben­e­fits from the part­ner­ship.

Sandy Porter-Bean and her daugh­ter Au­drey have a rep­u­ta­tion for tak­ing on hard-luck cases. So when Sandy got a call late in 2012 that a 9-year-old chest­nut Thor­ough­bred mare was go­ing to be eu­th­a­nized be­cause her own­ers had lost their pa­tience with the sen­si­tive crea­ture, she was be­hind the wheel al­most be­fore she had hung up the phone. “They told me to just get her the bleep off the prop­erty,” says Sandy.

Once the mare ar­rived at Sandy’s Pen­dragon Eques­trian Cen­ter in Cornville, Maine, her stu­dents looked up the mare’s tat­too. They found that Ly­cius Ly­dia (Ly­cius x Whis­per Lightly) seemed to have been un­raced and had had nearly a year off from be­ing rid­den. She could be bossy with other horses. When she was in heat, she was re­luc­tant to go for­ward, and when she was over­whelmed, she just shut down. But the Beans weren’t dis­cour­aged be­cause they had met tough horses be­fore—and they knew that time, pa­tience and find­ing the right rider match were of­ten the cure for a life­time of mis­un­der­stand­ing.

Sandy and Au­drey de­cided to com­pletely start over with Ly­dia, tak­ing time to build both her phys­i­cal strength and con­fi­dence in the rider. They found that with a calm and sen­si­tive ap­proach, Ly­dia be­came a joy to ride, and af­ter a few months they of­fered her to a stu­dent for an on-farm lease. But un­der her new rider, Ly­dia’s per­for­mance be­came in­con­sis­tent, and the part­ner­ship fiz­zled. “It just wasn’t the right match,” says Sandy. “So Au­drey and I de­cided to give Ly­dia three months off, then started her over again.”

Once back in work, Sandy fo­cused on re­build­ing the mus­cles of Ly­dia’s to­pline and show­ing the mare that she could move freely for­ward. Af­ter Ly­dia im­proved, Au­drey took over the ride and rein­tro­duced her to jump­ing. The women were thrilled to watch the mare quickly re­gain her con­fi­dence. But they knew that what Ly­dia needed long term was one rider, some­one with the pa­tience to de­velop a re­la­tion­ship with her.

Madi­son Blod­gett was just 13 years old but had been com­pet­ing at the lower lev­els of event­ing in the Pen­dragon pro­gram for sev­eral years, and her cur­rent mount was show­ing signs of slow­ing down. Sandy de­scribes Madi­son as a “quiet, nat­u­ral-born rider,” and she knew that the teenager had the tal­ent to move up the lev­els. But de­spite try­ing sev­eral horses, they hadn’t found quite the right match for her next part­ner.

Madi­son was used to rid­ing sen­si­tive an­i­mals. Her most re­cent mount, Joy, re­quired tact­ful aids and calm con­fi­dence from the rider. Late in 2016, Sandy had a hunch that a match with Ly­dia might work. The two clicked al­most im­me­di­ately.

“Madi­son is such a lovely rider, and she doesn’t move around a lot,” says Sandy. “These sen­si­tive mares don’t get scared by her.”

Madi­son spent the win­ter get­ting to know her new part­ner, and in June 2017 they fin­ished sev­enth in the Ju­nior Novice di­vi­sion at the GMHA Spring Horse Tri­als in Ver­mont, their first rec­og­nized com­pe­ti­tion to­gether. They com­peted at rec­og­nized events twice more that sea­son, fin­ish­ing in the top five both times. In 2018, they com­pleted sev­eral more Novice-level rec­og­nized events, of­ten only adding a show-jump rail to their dres­sage score. Their com­pet­i­tive re­sults val­i­dated the be­lief that Sandy had in the part­ner­ship from Day One.

“Ly­dia’s dres­sage has come such a long way with Madi­son,” says Sandy. “We are so proud. Madi­son has re­ally shown her off well. I feel that it has turned out fan­tas­tic.”

But more im­por­tantly, the quiet and fo­cused teenager, now 15, has de­vel­oped newfound con­fi­dence and be­lief in her own skills from her re­la­tion­ship with a chest­nut Thor­ough­bred mare that no one wanted. “Ly­dia needs you to be there and to tell her it is OK,” says Madi­son. “Ly­dia has taught me to be con­fi­dent and to show her what she needs to do.”

Boosted by their suc­cess to date, Madi­son planned to move up to Train­ing level with Ly­dia, with hopes to tackle Pre­lim­i­nary in the fu­ture. But in the mean­time, she is also fo­cus­ing on en­joy­ing the part­ner­ship she has made with this unique mare.

“Ly­dia just has a re­ally big heart and loves her job,” says Heidi Blod­gett, Madi­son’s mother. “She loves her hu­man.”

Ly­dia needs you to be there and to tell her it is OK. Ly­dia has taught me to be con­fi­dent and to show her what she needs to do.” —Madi­son Blod­gett

Madi­son Blod­gett and Ly­cius Ly­dia

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