Name Sake

May 12, 2024

It was just after New Years Day in 2007 when I got the call from a new potential client. They had several horses, but there was one in particular that they were most interested in me training – a coming 5 year old Arabian stallion, Steele. 

I arrived at their farm and parked at the bottom of the hill, next to the arena. To the south, were two pastures with a grass driveway between them that lead to an old sheep barn that now had a handful of horse stalls.

And suddenly, there he was, at the top of the hill with his owner on the other end of the lead. He snorted loudly as his black tail flagged up over his glistening grey back. The horses in the two pastures on either side of the driveway parted like the Red Sea as he pranced down the grass path in my direction.

I couldn’t believe my eyes – a unicorn, in the flesh.

In an instant, I had broken my own Rule #1: DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE, FALL IN LOVE WITH A CLIENT’S HORSE.

Without hesitation, I agreed to take them on as clients and Steele became one of my main mounts. How could I say “no?” I was in love and I was falling hard and fast.

Over the next few years Steele and I grew our partnership. We garnered several awards for his owners at the locally rated shows, as well as at the Regional and National level. 

I even bred my mare to him. That’s another story for another time…it’s a long one!

The economy took a turn for the worse and Steele’s owners couldn’t rationalize keeping him in training. Instead, they put him up for sale. It was a price tag that truly was out of my budget, at the time, and I just didn’t need another horse for myself. I needed to grow my business. 

I was devastated. It was like a break up that is all consuming. It was all I could think about, dream about…I couldn’t eat, I just wanted to sleep my sorrows away. Our “break up” just didn’t feel right to me. It was unsettling, deep in my soul. Luckily, even as the economy plummeted, my business continued to grow and I stayed busy. Every once in a while I would call and check in on Steele, but I couldn’t bring myself to visit him. It was just too hard. 

A little more than two years passed and I got a phone call on my 27th birthday changed my life forever.

“Do you have any interested in Steele?” The familiar voice on the other end asked. 

“I always have interest in Steele. Whaaa… what do you mean?” I said, as my heart pounded out of my chest.

“Well, you love him and he loves you…and we want him to be yours. We’d like to give him to you.”

I couldn’t breathe or think or even process what had just happened. 

“I have to build a stall for him. I’ll call you back.” I said, excitedly. 

Three weeks later, Steele came home for good. 

Exactly 100 days later, the unthinkable happened. I lost my first heart horse and main show horse, Jordan, to complications after colic surgery. I was a shell of myself. I just went through the motions, I couldn’t talk about him for nearly a year, I had little motivation and I felt every single stage of grief like a harpoon to my soul. 

Steele was the only thing in my world who kept me going. He was my biggest reason for getting out of bed in the morning, he gave me something to focus on, new goals and an already strong foundation in our relationship to build on. I don’t know how or if I would have survived that time in my life without him.

Jordan left me with just needing one more score for my United States Dressage Federation Gold Medal. It never dawned on me that it was improbable, that Steele is 100% halter bred or that he is an Arabian. We were getting that last score and there was never a doubt in my mind.

Six years went by as I carefully brought Steele up the levels at his pace. All the while garnering more titles at the Regional and National level. He was even USEF FEI Horse of the Year in 2017 which was a huge accomplishment to me. 

The following Summer, it was time to debut him in Grand Prix. It was surreal to finally have him schooling at that level, but to have actually put the entries in the mail for the show…I back pedaled. I went back to the mailbox twice before I took a deep breath and left the show entries in the box. We had to start somewhere, right?

It was like old times, just me, my dad and my main 4-legged squeeze at the show that weekend. 

I doubted myself right up until that final halt, but man, was I proud of that horse and how far we’d come together – against all odds. 

I got my score. 

I got my Gold. 

He got my Gold. 

He deserves the world…and even a blog named after him. 

More to come!

Peace, love and good rides,

Cara

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