You may remember a few months ago Tiger introduced his new girlfriend, Sadie (Tiger’s Tales: I Have a Girlfriend). Sadie is a stunning, tall, and large-bodied morgan mare. She’s unusually large for her breed, standing at 16 hands. She is 11 years old. My trainer recently got Sadie from a friend and since barns were closed during COVID I was asked to assist in Sadie’s training and care. She came to us at the beginning of April and stayed for two months. While she was with us I was focused on getting her fit, helping her lose weight, and training her.
The mare I met was large, overweight, and anxious. At her previous home she spent her days being a loved pastured pet. She’s been ridden, but not in some time and not often. Moving to my trainer’s turned her world upside down to begin with; my trainer had 9 other horses to exercise while she was unable to give lessons and she also has young children. Moving Sadie to my house made sense, but the move was still terrifying to Sadie.
Sadie used her size to her advantage so groundwork and ground manners were our first key goal. I gave her a space of her own. It was small and closed off from the grass and she felt safe in her area.
We began training the first day. It was a simple session of getting to know each other. I led her around our backyard and let her investigate all the new sights, smells, and sounds. There were so many new things! I also began to desnsitize her to the training whip. I touched her with it all over until she knew it wouldn’t hurt her.
We began to work in the roundpen. The first session wasn’t brilliant but she picked up on what I was asking very quickly. When I felt she understand we called it a day. We roundpenned daily for a while. It was a learning lesson for us both. Sadie is an incredibly sensitive horse. Being a thoroughbred lover I appreciate sensitive horses. She redefined the term for me; I recall a session where Sadie became overwhelmed. In hopes of finding the right place to release the pressure (I wasn’t adding pressure, just holding it consistently) I missed the transition from her working to her becoming overwhelmed. She cantered around and around my roundpen looking for a release I failed to give. Horses are forgiving. She forgave me for my shortcomings and I learned a lesson.
The day following our mishap Sadie performed calmly and perfectly. Her and I were in sync. It was a wonderful feeling to see how far Sadie had come in such a short amount of time.
We were coming on three weeks in and I could flail the whip high in the air above Sadie’s head with her staying calm. We were getting to a point where Sadie would follow me around her pen and around the roundpen at will. She began to lunge on a line. She happily walked across my trail bridge.
I came to another roadblock when I thought I was ready to begin riding. I was able to saddle her well and began to lunge her in tack. I sat on her the first day and she accepted. We walked a few strides. The next time I walked a few more. We struggled with turning; it seemed that a bit was new to her. It took work to bridle her, and it was explosive removing the bit from her mouth. Despite holding the bridle quietly and offer her to release the bit gently she stood with her jaw clenched. As I opened her mouth she threw her large head high in the air and her bottom jaw caught the bit and took it with her. Very quickly I felt like a beginner again. Very quickly I lost my confidence.
My trainer came to help me work through this roadblock and onto a better path once more. We established new training expectations and found a better way to calmly unbridle her by undoing the caveson. Sadie and I returned to a happy working/training relationship.
It got to the point that Sadie nickered for me and enjoyed my company.
As the grass grew I was able to release her onto a larger part of the paddock for limited grazing time with the grazing muzzle. The process of photosynthesis generates sugars in grasses, so by the afternoon grass is at it’s highest amount of sugar. The grasses use that sugar throughout the night so by early morning the sugars are lowest. Once she was gradually introduced to pasture Sadie was allowed to graze from midnight (nightshift) to noon. She resented the muzzle at first but learned that it allowed her to have fresh green forage. Up to this point I had to double bag her hay and, despite my “24/7 hay” rule, limit her hay.
Sadie got fit and lost a good amount of weight while keeping her stunning figure.
Finally, in early June, Sadie returned to the farm. I am strongest with my groundwork and the biggest goal for Sadie during my time with her was to lay a good foundation. I was able to give her the fundamentals of groundwork and expose her to new things. She’s smart, willing, and kind. I was less confident in transitioning into the training under saddle…especially given that I am often training at home alone or with people nearby that don’t know horses. My trainer and I had both ridden her a couple times together at my home at this point. The barns were back open to lessons and it was a good time for her to continue her training in an environment with more horses and more horse people. She loaded onto the trailer nicely.
My trainer found the perfect match for paddock-mates with her other new morgan mare, Cherry. The two got along instantly.
On Sadie’s first full day at her new farm my trainer rode her in the paddock.
She’s now also been ridden by other advanced students. She nickers to me when I come to the farm for my weekly lessons because I will always have a special fondness for her. Just like Happy, Sadie has become a part of our family.
Sadie loves her new home and I have to admit, she’s happier there with her new friends than she was at our home. Sadly I wasn’t able to introduce her to the boys so she was in her solitary paddock (she was never far from them but having a companion is always nice). It makes my heart smile to see her there every week and thriving.