Who Was Your Once In a Lifetime Horse…?

Occasionally, there are horses that stand out more than another for us, sometimes equally, but in different ways.

  • Tell us about your once in a life time horse…
  • Do you own that horse now?
  • If you haven’t had that experience, what do you imagine that horse to be?
  • How did your expectation of this horse differ from the reality? (Often, it’s the horses we don’t connect with right away that can become incredibly special.)
  • If you could choose a once in a lifetime horse right now, what would you look for?

15 thoughts on “Who Was Your Once In a Lifetime Horse…?

  1. I took riding lessons for the first time when I was about 13 years old. The instructor showed me the horse I’d be riding that first day. It was Cavalier. I looked up at this HUGE horse and thought “No way! That horse is way too big”. Up onto Cavalier I went in spite of my thoughts and fear. I was sold on Cavalier that same day. Huge, yes, but also wonderfully gentle and seemingly tailor-made for me. I was given Cavalier the next week, and possibly the next. Then I was given a new horse to ride. I was not happy about not being with Cavalier. Miss Pika, my new horse, and I did not last long. I fell off of her and broke my arm that very same day. The instructor then showed all of my siblings how to properly fall off a horse. To this day I think fondly of Cavalier, and will continue to do so until I die or lose my mind. 🙂

  2. I don’t know if I have a “dream horse” but I have been lucky enough to have 2 in my life that are special. The first was my old gelding Adam ( he passed away from ripe old age in 2002) He was a really well bred QH, but to look at him, you wouldn’t have known it 🙂 He was 15’1, dark bay and had a roman nose. He had been a barrel and pole horse in a previous life, before he became my hunter–the first six months were entertaining for the folks watching, he’d drop a shoulder and spin and I’d be sitting in the dirt wondering what happened :)Over time, he became a fantastic hunter/jumper, trail, baby eventing, dressage and in his old age, a lesson horse. He would jump anything and do it well, no one ever told him he was a short QH in a world of TB’s and Warmbloods. I’ve never had a horse with so much “try” until my new one.

    After years of riding sale and other folks horses, I finally bought one of my own again. Cashmere is a 7 yr old TB, a reject polo pony and a true diva. She’s really talented, brave, very athlethic and too smart for own good sometimes. She came into the barn untrusting ,abused, headshy and now will visit with everyone she thinks might have a peppermint. She’s got more natural abililty than Adam had and she has his heart to try. I am hoping she will make a great horse, we’ve been to our first hunter show this spring, to school and she took it all in stride, LOVED the attention.

  3. I don’t know. Really I don’t, each horse that I’ve had for any length of time has been special to me in some way. But right now, I have a little solid paint mare that is completely suitable for me. I had my criteria listed carefully when I started to look and she fit the bill. She was led’n’fed with an attitude bigger than her when I got her, but we now have most everything figured out and we just like each other. She might very well be the last horse I own, I’m in my early 50’s now and Paige is only 6. Unforseen circumstances barred, we will be together as long as allowed.

  4. I believe Alice is my once in a lifetime horse. This may seem odd, as I’ve only had her for a few months, but I could tell the minute I saw her picture. She was on a feedlot, I bought her sight unseen. She is gorgeous, but she has issues. Mind you, not with me, just everyone else. She’s big for a Morgan (15.1hh) and has the type of build you rarely see these days, especially on a large Morgan. Thick, big feet, gorgeous head, liquid eyes.

    I sort of feel bad saying that she is my once in a lifetime horse, as I feel as though it should have been the horse I showed to a national championship in 2004, but it isn’t. It also isn’t my first mare, who has since passed, or our two geldings, or my palomino mare.

    Yes, I love(d) them all, but Alice is the only one that I would do literally anything for.. it’s taken time to get her to open up (she was Amish owned and clearly has some trauma responses, not sure if they are from the Amish or the other people who had her), but the first time she nuzzled me, I melted. The first time she nickered, I was ecstatic. She, at first, would go to the back of her stall whenever you opened the door, but now she will stand still and doesn’t feel the need to do that.

    As much as I despise photos of myself, I quite like this photo of us. She looks so eager and hopeful. http://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y226/ilovehorses_28/Alice/DSCN0897.jpg

  5. I was an unhappy kid, as in VERY unhappy, and I had an awful temper- fortunately for me I had the World’s Best Arabian, Radal, to teach me how to be a better person. He was extraordinarily smart with a rather wicked sense of humor, he was also quite sensitive and opinionated. He taught me better than any human ever could to get a hold of my temper, if I did something to make him mad I paid for it! I’m surprised I have knees left because he certainly did his best to scrape them off after all the stupid things I did to him. He was the best though, he was a grade A trail horse who loved to go- which was very handy when I needed to escape from the house and my parents. I lost him to colic at age 22 and was a complete wreck over it for months. I still am really, and that was 8 years ago.

    I have two horses now that are completely awesome, but my mare is the one I really connect with. She’s picking up the work where Radal left off and is now teaching me patience. Poor girl has her hands full with me on that one!

  6. I’ve had a few once in a lifetime horse, but there are 2 who are at the top. In 1986 the Standardbred racetrack closed. My friends had a young mare they raced who needed a job. So I started her and training her to be a riding horse. People thought I was crazy and that I’d never get her to canter. Had that down in a month! She was so smart. I rode her for 4 years and of course fell in love and we had a great relationship. My friends didn’t want to sell her so I asked if I could breed her and they agreed. I crossed her with a Hanoverian and Rock Maple DJ gave birth to my true Once In A Lifetime Horse. I was there when he was born, helped him stand for the first time. I had a wonderful 3 years with him on the ground doing everything I could think of with a baby. I got married and when he was a green broke 4 year old, I gave birth to my daughter. All my dreams of cross country courses were put on hold. By the time my daughter was in pre-school I found myself getting a divorce. Things were rough, but I managed to keep Deacon with us. I had many people helping me by leasing him and riding him. Thanks to a great trainer, Deacon had a very successful jumping career and would often go to shows and when his name was announced I learned he had his own fan club, full of people I didn’t know! Most of the time I was on the sidelines watching my boy become the talented horse I knew he was. It was sad not being the person in the saddle, but I was proud anyway.

    Deacon and I go on trail rides and he is the best trail horse I’ve ever sat on. Our bond is unbelievable and I know it will never be duplicated. We’ve done Gymkhana and I love going in the arena on my 16.3h Warmblood cross and beating the Quarter Horses at their own game. He’s amazed many a person with his ability to turn with speed. We go Team Penning and he loves getting those cows! The “cowboys” love how I sidepass him down the “hole” to keep the cow from escaping! He retired from his Jumping career sound and we are working now on becoming a Dressage horse with a little Hunter Undersaddle work. We still go for trail rides, team pen, do games and versatility courses when we can. Hoping to do some Dressage shows this year.

    He is at a busy boarding/lesson barn with many people coming and going on the farm. He knows exactly who “his people” are and gets mad when one if “his people” show up at the farm and do not pay attention to him. He definitely knows who I am and lets me know it if I delay getting to him!! There have been times when he’d be feeling good and give a big buck, realize I was unseated and move back under me to “catch” me. I’ve ridden for over 40 years and I know when I should be hitting the ground, but he’s never let me.

    Deacon will turn 21 this year. I know our time is getting shorter, but he doesn’t as he frequently acts like a 5 year old. I love him more than I can ever express. He’s taught my daughter so much. He’s been my rock for all my life’s ups and downs. When I bred the mare, I just wanted a horse that jumped. I did not realize I was getting so much more. He does whatever I’ve asked of him and more. He may not do it right, but he tries with all his heart. He knows what “job” is expected by which tack I use. I learned the hard way not to put the trail saddle on and go in the ring and expect ring work! He got really mad at me that day until we went in the woods! He has my heart and I know I have his. Deacon doesn’t lie. He’s always happy to see me. He doesn’t care what I look like and it’s OK if dinner is late and it’s the same thing that was served last night! No man can give me what Deacon does. He is definitely the longest relationship outside of family I’ve ever had. I do not look forward to my life without him in it.

  7. I’ve only been a horse owner for 2 years now, so I haven’t had the oppurtunity to be around very many equines, but I have feeling that these two ponies are going to be at the top of the list, if not THE top. And seeing as ponies – especially Shetlands – can live to be over 40 years old, and I got both of these guys as 2 year olds, if the gods are willing, it looks like I will still be sitting with this mare watching dribble her oats and eat the out of my lap, gazing into her soft brown eyes when I am 90 years old. (The boy will probaby still be standing on his ball)

  8. I have two once-in-a-lifetime horses: Porter and Joker. I’ve never owned either of them, but I had the opportunity to lease Joker. In fact, the lady I was riding with offered him to me several times, but I just couldn’t afford it.

    Porter was a big paint/draft cross. He wasn’t too hue, but he was solid. He was older and eventually put “out to pasture” in a horsey retirement home up in the mountains of Northern California, where he could just be a horse all day long and eat green grass and kick up his heels when he felt like it. I loved that horse. He had a beautiful feel to him, riding him felt completely natural. I was very nervous about getting back in the saddle, but was so so smooth that he calmed all of my nerves. And patient. I was trying to do a turn on the forehand for the first time, got all the cues completely wrong, and he managed to figure out what I wanted from him and do it anyway. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t pretty, but he figured out what this nervous, inexperienced rider with all her cues backwards was trying to get him to do. I loved that horse.

    Joker was a failed race horse, turned jumper, turned therapy horse, turned lesson horse. I worked with him at the therapy barn, then I got to ride him again when he came to the lesson barn. (I rode him once at the therapy barn–usually I just groomed and tacked and lead the horses at the therapy barn.) He had a reputation for being nippy at the therapy barn, but the fact was he had a sore back. When he came to the lesson barn, the instructor went through several different saddles and pads until she finally found a combination that didn’t hurt his back. He had some funny quirks, and sometimes choppy gaits, but he was really pretty laid back once his sore back was addressed (on top of saddle fit, my instructor also took him to a horsey chiropractor or massage therapist, I can’t remember which, maybe even both). He wasn’t as patient and smooth and smart as Porter, but he had personality and I wanted that horse badly. There was just no way I could afford him. I couldn’t even afford riding lessons–I worked at my instructor’s barn in exchange for lessons.

    Thinking about my ideal horse now, I started making generalizations about warmbloods, but then I realized that while Porter was a warmblood, Joker was not, and I loved both horses equally. So I think what I really want is a smallish warmblood. (Porter was not a giant horse, but he was built and sturdy, and fit me just right.) And a horse who is patient and forgiving and calm. But who has a sense of humor and personality. (Some horses definitely have better senses of humor than others!) I like a little spirit, a horse who enjoys running; but I also like a horse who doesn’t just plod along and have to be kept after just to keep a decent walking pace.

  9. Surprise Goes Grand….My first show horse. I decided to begin my show career in the American Paint Horse Assoc. because everyone was so friendly and helpful and I didn’t know diddle. He had a bald face and one blue Eye. Slick and muscular, his over markings really stood out in the crowd. As time went on he became everyone’s horse and I taught my first lessons on him. Eventually he got cancer in that white face of his and my husband thankfully put him down while I was out of town. Before I left, I hugged his neck and thanked him for his loyalty and grandeur. A friend gave my a poem called Blue Eyed Paint in the Rain. I want it read at my memorial service. Quite a horse.

  10. Well let’s see… I have had the honor of riding some very, very special horses during my lifetime (which is amazing since I never could have afforded to buy any of them, but somehow managed to get the ride, through a lot of hard work and a little luck).

    The one that really stands out for me is Chelsea. She was a dark bay TB, with three small white socks, and a star/stripe/snip down the middle of her face. She had absolutely classic, beautiful good looks. She was elegant, pretty, athletic, and exuded the kind of confidence that the old-time movie actresses did. She was a star, no question. She had been a twin (her brother didn’t survive), so everything about her was petite. She was about 15.1 1/2, fine-boned, and very dainty. The perfect ride for me, since I am about 5′ tall. Others found her to be quirky, difficult, stubborn, but she and I clicked immediately, like we had known each other forever, from day one.

    I got the ride on her because her owner (my then trainer) had back surgery and couldn’t ride for a couple of years, and Chelsea had navicular, so she only had another couple of years of soundness left. So, as luck would have it, I got to bring her with me to high school in Connecticut. We showed in the Children’s Hunters and then the Junior Hunters, and man could that girl jump. She definitely took a particular kind of ride, but if you got it just right, she was an absolute dream, never missed a beat, auto lead change, spectacular jump, gorgeous canter, and an unbeatable hack-winning trot. Of course, if you got it wrong, heaven help you. She had a particular nack for making sure that you landed right square in the middle of an oxer, typically upside down, while she trotted back to the in gate with her head held high. And she was usually justified, I had made a mistake and she and I both knew it, so it was hard to be mad.

    Chelsea retired right at the end of my high school career when her off days were starting to outnumber her sound days, but what an amazing couple of years she gave me. She was the first horse that I felt that “click” with, where I felt like we just understood each other. She was sweeter to me than she was with other people, it was the first time I saw that horses could pick their favorites. I spent most of my time basically marveling over the fact that I got to ride her every day and pretend she was mine for a little while.

    And now, of course, there is Tucker, and although if I met him tomorrow, I probably would think that he’s all wrong for me… all I can tell you is that when I swing my leg over, it just feels like home.

  11. I’ve been fortunate to have 3 in my life so far. The first was a mare called Snow that I had when I was a teen. She was a cremello QH – all white with blue eyes. She would go anywhere and do anything for me and we had lots of fun together.

    Then I had a wonderful, big, dark bay TB mare named Promise when I got back to riding as an adult. She was a 4’6″ jumper who I bought as a hunter. She was strong-minded and unflappable – she never had to be lunged before riding even at shows and never stopped at a fence once, not once, for me. She would do this silent nicker when I greeted her – just her nostrils would move – we called it “doing nostrils”. Unfortunately I lost her to a fracture in a turnout accident after only a year.

    And now there is Pie. There’s nothing quite like him – he radiates serenity. He’s smart, he’s got try, and he’s just plain fun – and he’s only 4. And he’s a sorrel – my first ever.

    And then there’s Noble – I loved him dearly and he would do anything for me – Lily, Norman, Maisie and now Dawn and Drifter. Dawn is very special in her own way and I’ve barely met Drifter but think he’s going to have real potential too.

  12. My current horse is my “one true horse.” I didn’t want him when I went to look at him to humor a fellow boarder at the barn where I had kept my last horse. He had just been put down and I was a wreck. The boarder really thought this horse was right for me and she was trying to be kind so I agreed to look at him.

    She told me he was just a plain little sorrel quarter pony that needed work. I hated sorrels. (My last horses had been appy’s and both had bouts with moon-blindness).

    So that Feb. Sunday morning I was all set to say, too small, too green, or what ever came to mind and then politely leave.

    That morning I drove own the long driveway to the barn and when I turned the corner I saw this bright red gelding supervising morning chores. He wasn’t a pony. His right ear was notched- they told me it was a brand which has been confirmed other sources). He wasn’t big, 14.3, but he was (and still is) bigger than life.

    I took him on trial that afternoon. He was pushy the first few weeks but by the end of the month he was a pussycat. Several years later he is the barn favorite. He’s the horse that keeps the herd calm. Fellow boarders like going out on trails with him because he seems to have a calming effect on the other horses.

    The bond I feel with him is strong. He takes care of me. I’m old and not very fearless, but he makes sure we stay out of trouble and because of that, I get to do things with him I only dreamed of doing before. Last year we tried pole bending. Last weekend we trail road with a wild mustang playing tag with us.

  13. My current horse is my once in a lifetime. He’s something like my 7th horse (depending how you count other horses who may be counted as mine or my mom’s.) The first time I saw him I thought he was the most beautiful horse I had ever seen, but that didn’t necessarily mean anything to me – there are lots of beautiful horses out there. However, every encounter with him he made it clear I was special to him for some reason. That first time I saw him he was competing at a horse trial and got a stone bruise, so when I met him he had just gotten bute which he HATES, and was standing with his ears pinned and nose wrinkled. He put his ears forward and head down (I’m 5’1″, he’s 16.3hh) to greet me when I went past his stall, and stood with eyes closed while I scratched his forehead. Ears immediately pinned again as soon as I walked away.
    The next time I saw him was when I was horse shopping 5-6 months later. I thought I would be getting a 15-15.2hh quarter horse of some type most likely, but my trainer had competed him the previous year and loved him; she also paid me a huge compliment when she said most people didn’t get along with him, but that I ride like her so she thought I would. It turned out she was right.
    Two weeks into our 1 month trial period, it was obvious we had a much stronger connection than normal. This horse who most of my new barn had known for years showed up and immediately changed his demeanor. He had apparently always been grouchy, not happy to get out and work, unhappy about grooming, and spent a lot of time standing around with ears back. For whatever reason he just clicked with me, and spent all his time looking around to see if I was coming, would leave his hay if he heard me, mellowed under saddle. As far as training goes, everything has just been easy for us compared to what it’s supposed to be. It’s not because I’m a great rider (I’m not!) but because we click so well together. I’m now moved onto horse property and building a barn to ensure I have a home for him in his old age (after about 10 more years competing together!), and looking into buying or leasing another horse because I want to get in better shape for him, and just riding him isn’t making me feel fit enough for him. He makes me feel driven to be a better rider even more than my goal-oriented, driven tendencies do. Apparently I make him feel driven to be a better horse, as he practices whatever we do under saddle when I turn him out. As he was learning shoulder in and haunches in I would turn him out and he had a whole routine down the rail of leg yield-haunches in-shoulder in including chances of bend that he’d practice each direction. Next he started practicing round canter lengthenings instead of his normal ex-racehorse gallop. Lately he’s been practicing transitions within the trot, really working on lengthening while keeping an uphill balance. It’s both hilarious and awe-inspiring to watch.
    I will most likely have a warmblood who is even more talented than he is at dressage in the future, and I have loved every horse I owned, but this horse is absolutely the love of my horsey lifetime with whom I connect on a much deeper level.

    1. This is his expression whenever he sees me:

      And because I had become available to walk to, he marched straight up to me at this point. To him, turnout is only for running if cuddling isn’t an option. (The only odd part about that photo is it looks like he has a belly. At the time we were working with a vet to try to get weight on him because he was underweight!)

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