She is almost 12 years old, and we have had her for almost 8 years. She is a Thoroughbred, and raced briefly until a bleeding episode ended her career. She is small, about 15.1 hands, and stocky for a Thoroughbred - some people mistake her for a Quarter Horse. She is the beta of our mare herd, and is quite dominant over all the other mares except for the supreme alpha, Lily.
This photo captures Dawn's fire, spirit and alertness:
She is always vigilant, and is one of the most hair-trigger reactive horses I have ever met. She spooks fast and hard, and has an amazing ability to bolt and is very athletic - she can do acrobatics that would put a rodeo bronc to shame.
My daughter rides her bareback only (although she goes well in a saddle) and has the ability to ride through, and stay on for, almost anything. My daughter mostly rides her on the trails, and even gallops. My daughter and Dawn have a strong bond.
Partly due to her disposition, partly due to her confirmation, and partly due to her history and training, Dawn tends to be very stiff and bracey. Part of her issue is that mental softness and the trust it requires doesn't come easily to her. She also tends to be focussed everywhere but on her handler/rider.
When my daughter goes to college in the fall, Dawn will be my responsibility to work with. There is a lot to do with her, starting with groundwork and in-hand work. My daughter is on a school trip right now, so I did a little work with Dawn today, using the maze that I had set up for Lily several days ago - our ring is too hard-packed after rain and drying out to use for lungeing until it is dragged. Part of the reason we did the maze, in hand, was because it was a good way for me to assess her attentiveness and softness.
As I expected, she had a tendency to want to rush when parts of the maze, particularly the turns, were difficult for her. She often exhibits anxiety by rushing when she finds something difficult or stressful. To do the maze successfully requires attention to each step and each shift of weight. She also was more bracey and stiff when we were turning to the left.
We did the maze in hand several times in each direction - by the end she was beginning to slow down and listen to me, even in the parts she found difficult. I'm looking forward to doing more work with her - she is a wonderful, capable horse who is a real challenge for me.