Today is Dawn's 18th birthday. You'd never know it from looking at her - she's glossy and muscled and fit. Since she had her two rounds of dental surgery last summer, she's been eating up a storm and holding her weight better than she ever has - even so, she gets 4 times the feed my other three horses do.
She's a bright red bay - she gets much darker in the winter - with no white markings at all. She was a TB race horse, and has old-style breeding. On the top line, she goes back to War Relic, a son of Man O'War.
Since I ride her in the early morning - she objects to the presence of other horses in the arena, and at her age I'm glad to accommodate her rather than try to change it - she probably gets ridden more regularly than my other horses, except in very cold weather when it's just too darn cold in the a.m. to ride. Most weeks, we ride 5 times, and almost never less than 4. This helps keep her fit and healthy. She's been barefoot since 2012 (she was probably shod since she was a young horse before that), and is doing well with that.
Dawn has taught me many things. Our family has had her since 2001, when she was 4, but she was my younger daughter's horse until the fall of 2009, when my younger daughter went to college and I "inherited" Dawn. Before that, I'd only ridden her a few times. In fact it would be safe to say that I was a little bit scared of her, and not that happy to be stuck with her. She and my daughter (bareback, from age 12 to age 18) would gallop flat out on the trails. She couldn't be ridden safely in company - she kicked, even sideways at a horse next to her - was extremely forward and prone to reactive spooking, bolting and bucking. There were a number of days where Dawn would show up at the barn well ahead of my daughter, who would come limping in after being bucked off on the trail. Dawn was a fearsome mare, and I wasn't at all sure I was up to dealing with her. This worry was amplified when she kicked me in the jaw in 2009 when I made a bad decision to pick her feet in the barn aisle, loose, when she was in heat (yes, call me stupid). I broke three teeth, but luckily not my jaw, and had a bunch of dental work afterwards, including eventually having two teeth removed since they were too damaged to save.
She's taught me so much since then. I've learned how to ride an extremely forward, reactive horse, by being quiet and non-emotional. She taught me how to have a soft, following contact rather than bracing against the horse. She and I are very close, now, and she now bestows on me the "nose rest" that she used to reserve only for my daughter. We do this almost every morning when I groom her before riding - she puts her nose into my chest, or on my shoulder next to my face, and we breath together for a while, sometimes with my face against her muzzle - this is not something I ever ask her to do, she insists. She will attack the stall next to her or other horses nearby in the pasture when I am with her - this is the same behavior she shows under saddle in the arena - I think she's claiming/defending me. Otherwise she's good with the other horses in the pasture. She will make biting gestures - she knows not to connect - if she's crabby, in heat or objects to what I'm doing. She makes her opinions known. She's small, only about 15.1, and very feminine, although sturdily built.
She's a remarkable mare, and I care deeply for her. She's my Dawn mare, and I'm hers. Here are some pictures:
Happy birthday to a lovely mare!