have a story I’d like to tell,
About a naughty boy we know so well,
While I was not there to see his birth
His announcement I’m sure, read,
“Welcome, Holy Terror, to Earth!”
Rumors say he had a harshest start,
Black Beauty yes, although without the cart,
His tender years culled a survivals way
Which left him challenging unto this day.
failure on the circular track,
Ousted him to the field out back,
Where he likely stressed about not being the best,
Then a second chance, with hope at last!
made his way to the Peninsula hicks,
Where his new career would be jumping sticks,
Confused and unfocussed, with speed on his mind
“How do I combine the two? …. An Eventer I must find!”.
so his wish came on February 18, 1992
As my dreamed-about horse stood before me, I knew
That he was mine, sent as a gift from God,
And with silent cries I screamed my applause!
was young and intense, and cheeky at best,
I was naïve and tenacious; all work and no rest,
We battled it out, spinning circles like “Dosey-Do”
Until I accepted he’d never be my replacement “Alpo”!
judgement gone, his own halo could shine
Our hearts quickly melded, I took his into mine,
And the love that then flourished, blossomed and grew
No more the façade: love truer than true!
Ribbons then coolers, and finally trophies,
He jumped bigger, ran faster – anything to please,
He served me like a Royal Queen
With loyalty, faithfulness and trust unforeseen
him I reached the moon and the stars,
Glided down rainbows, circled the sun, even Mars,
There was nowhere that he couldn’t take me,
On him I felt completely, utterly free.
However, with all such stories, an end must come,
When the chapters close and the “we” becomes “one”,
When heavy hearts say sadly, “the dance must end”,
And now I lay you down to rest, my friend.
here is my tribute to a most stoic soul,
Whose service to me left my memories full,
So rich I am now, in experience and heart,
From my beautiful Black Beauty, that now I must part.
do not be so sad on this day,
As I had promised God, I’d return him to play,
In His mighty Kingdom of pastures green,
Where He also provides for “high maintenance” beings!
fact, I had to say an extra prayer,
To please not hold it against me, once he returns “there”,
For I expect he’ll carry on with his devilish ways,
And perhaps even St. Christopher may want me to pay!
can only predict he’ll convert Heaven to Hell,
Trade his wispy locks for a serpent tail,
Grow knobby horns and wear a cape of red,
And make all angels leap for cover in bed!
hope the Pearly Gates will be open wide,
To discourage stopping, and thus a chewing post provide,
For it seems his teeth cause destruction and pain,
To both humans and objects, to him all the same!
if you feel like crying, just imagine this,
He can now lick God’s toes- all day as he wished,
And remember you horse folk, with waiting horses above,
That he now has the means to corrupt your dearly loved!
do not feel sad for his depart from our World,
He has left in us all great friendships formed,
With my love and prayers I cease being his “Care Taker”,
And free him with peace, back to his mighty Maker.
bless you my dearest, most kindred soulmate,
Just promise me this, you’ll be waiting at the Gate,
For when my turn comes to fly back home to you,
I expect you to be doing tempis every two!
served me most well – I owe you not only the wings that enabled me to fly,
but also the wind that allowed me to soar! Thank you!
All my love and gratitude forever, your Earth bound Mommy, Karen
……. Please don’t corrupt Alpo too much before I get back home ………
… I’ll meet you at Rainbow Bridge …… until then …………
ALPO- 1983-2000 (ALPINE RENEGADE)
Alpo: Alpo was my first true love! When I was approximately 12 years old I fell in love with Alpo. He belonged to another girl then, but was at the same boarding barn as where I had my chestnut Thoroughbred mare named Patty. It was love at first sight! And I have learnt since that when I feel such strong unexplainable attractions like that, that it means I will inevitably share my life with whoever it is I feel that way for. Such is how my time with both Alpo and Merlin came to be!
Alpo was an immature 6 or 7 year old when I bought him. He was part or full Morgan, with possibly Arabian in his blood too. He was spooky, quirky, surprisingly athletic, and just the cutest thing I had ever laid eyes on! He stole my heart from the get-go, and then went on to steal many other hearts after I sold him.
He was small at 15.1hh, and had the typical round “sausage-like” body of a Morgan. He stood “camped out behind”, and was as comfortable to ride bareback as sitting in a lounge chair! (although he was so spooky that I fell off more times than not while riding him bareback!)
Alpo loved blackberry picking together, and he very quickly learnt to eat out of the bucket while my back was turned. He was also my faithful “apple orchard raiding companion”, and made me laugh at his fickle tastes as he would part bite into an apple, and if it was too soft, he’d drop it and go onto another one!
He was the first horse I ever flew with, and I will always remember looking back from my seat on the plane to see Alpie’s adorable face looking back at me from his crate in the back cargo area! I had many “firsts” with Alpo, and therefore learnt many valuable lessons from his stoic character. He set mighty big hoof steps for every other horse I would own afterwards to fill, and to be honest, only a small number have been able to equal Alpo’s heart, personality and honest character.
His name came to be because he was saved from being slaughered, at a meat market auction by Bridget Flynn. I was told he was either going to be named Alpo or Bones. I think Alpo is cuter. Alpo was paramount in my choice to pursue a career in horses rather than a University education. He gave me much needed success and confidence after owning a tough and challenging Thoroughbred mare, and he allowed me to feel a great sense of accomplishment from our 7 years together. I will be eternally grateful for all that he gave me!
Sadly in January 1997 he had to be euthanized after fracturing his forearm while in turn out. However, it wasn’t after great pains had been made to try to surgically pin and rod his leg together that such a decision was made. His current owner at that time loved Alpo as I did, and tried very hard to stabilize his leg just to retire him in a beautiful Californian pasture. Unfortunately this was not meant to be! I dream of the day that I get to go apple orchard raiding on him again, and know that when I do, every apple will be oh so sweet!
PATTY- 1981-1983 (FORGET-ME-NOT)
Since I have previously mentioned Patty above, I should probably tell you a bit about her!
She was in fact my very first horse, although I am just as happy to forget about her entirely! My poor parents were talked into letting me buy a horse, by yours truly, so the Brain family went about looking for a horse! At 11 years of age, I never thought twice about being able to find myself the perfect horse. After all, I had leased a pony for 6 months, and taken weekly lessons for about 2-3 years prior to that. What else was there to know about buying a horse!!
I phoned every ad in the paper, and set up a date to try a chestnut Thoroughbred mare named Patty, AKA “Forget Me Not” (yes, I will NEVER forget her!!). It was the first horse my mom and I would go look at together…idiots! We were told about her chronic cough, and how we had to wet her paddock and hay most months of the year; her refusal to trailer; her need for a special saddle due to the calcium growth on her withers; her inability to tie…to anything; her sensitive back and how I had to ride her in the 2 point position; and her need for extra blankets in the winter months. Yes, can you say “high maintenance”!
However, there were signs that I felt meant I had to buy her, and they were that her birthday was in the same month as mine-April, and she had also just turned 11 years old-just as I had that year. If these weren’t signs that she was destined to be mine, then I didn’t know what was! (again…..idiots!) And so Patty was purchased, and the start of a very tumultuous 1 ½ years together began!
Suffice to say that my love affair with Patty did not last very long once I routinely began to fall off multiple times in a lesson, and when she began to run away from me when I went to catch her to go riding. It became clear from her neurotic reactions at horse shows and her hatred of jumping that she needed to find another home. I remember fondly the day she was taken away in a trailer by her new owner (after spending hours getting her into it), and how my Mother had to elbow me in the side and tell me to stop smiling! She was afraid that the new owner may wonder at my great delight seeing my horse leave, and turn around and bring her back! Lucky for us that never happened, and Patty got to go on and finish her days making pretty baby chestnut Thoroughbred foals!
PUMPKIN-1983 (COUNTRY PUMPKIN)
Between selling Patty and purchasing Alpo, my coach Lynne Owen found me a nice, safe reliable Quarter horse to lease for approximately 6 months. He was very sweet, and contrary to Patty, he nickered and came up to me when I went to catch him to go riding. My heart quickly melded into his and he allowed me to get on with my riding and learning like the rest of my friends were doing.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t the soundest horse, and the low level Eventing I did with him was too much for the onset of his ringbone. After waiting for a couple months to see if he would come sound, it was diagnosed that his riding days were over, and so he was retired.
He was a turning point for me; from hating jumping and the constant possible risk of falling off, to enjoying new challenges and the introduction to Eventing. I will always remember him with great fondness!
After selling Alpo and suffering a year long depression, where I quit riding and went back-packing for 7 ½ months, I came home from Sweden to a new temporary mount named Paddy. His owner had fallen off and broken his leg, and needed someone to lease him while he healed. Again, my coach Lynne Owen (now Lynne Larsen) had arranged the lease for me, and literally the day I landed from Sweden I was in the saddle again.
Just 12 days later I took him to our first event together, and before I knew it I was hooked all over again with Eventing! I only had Paddy for about 7 months, and gave him back to his owner in early 1991 when he came up for sale for too high a price, that I couldn’t afford. It was sad, but I know now that he was my transition horse, and responsible for getting me back into Eventing again.
He later went on to win at the Royal Winter Fair in the Medal classes with his new owner. A more realistic career for him due to his dislike of water jumps, and his natural slow motion movement and square kneed jumping style!
MERLIN- 1992 - present (DOUBLE TAKE)
Where to start with my amazingly generous Merlin! Well, as with Alpo, I had actually “picked” Merlin out before I even knew he was for sale! I had seen him ride into the farm where I was working, for lessons with Bo Mearns, and I remember dreaming of owning him.
I was looking for a new horse of my own when Bo told me of a horse for sale, and said to come one morning to watch it in a lesson. The day I went to watch the horse, I walked around the corner into the indoor ring, and there stood my black dream horse….Merlin! That same sensation grew in my stomach as when I first saw Alpo, and without even sitting on Merlin, I knew he was mine.
I went through the typical trying out process and vet check, but it was merely protocal: Merlin was meant to be mine, and that was all there was to it! And so began our 15 year long marriage, that as like a marriage, was a fine line between love and hate at times! It took close to 2 years before I learnt to accept Merlin for who he was, and to not expect him to be a bigger Alpo. Once I began to love ALL his idiosynchrasies (and believe me there were MANY!), our relationship quickly began to solidify and things began to look up.
Merlin has been the highlight of so much in my riding career, and ultimately carried me to the World Championships on the Canadian 3 Day Event Team in 1998. There is too much to outline that he did for me, but I can credit him for not only enabling me to reach the highest level of my sport, but for also bringing me back after my accident. He has been with me through many other difficult personal moments as well, and I have spent many long hours in the corner of his stall while he licked my tears off my face (literally!).
The lessons I have learnt from this amazing horse go far beyond the hours sitting on his back. For many years he was the most constant presence in my life, even beyond my parents and family. As we traveled from province to province, state to state, country to country, barn to new barn, event to event, he was literally the only thing that never changed in my life. He quickly became everything to me, and my source of companionship.
Merlin is the type of horse that not many people could have owned. He was difficult most of the time, not just to ride, but also on the ground. He has a definite knowledge of what he likes and dislikes and has never been shy to express himself! This is putting it mildly! While other people aren’t always as enthralled with him as I am, he will always live up to the fondest nickname I refer to him as; SUNSHINE!
To my forever kindred spirit friend, Merlin, you will ALWAYS be “my Sunshine”! God Bless you my dear, special soulmate!
MATZI- 1995-2000 (MAZERATI)
My little Minnie Moo! She was good competition with Alpo for being the cutest little thing you ever laid eyes on! At a slight 15.2hh she was surprisingly athletic, and man could she jump! She was opinionated and like any Princess, she wanted to be in control at all times. She could run and jump like the big boys, and no one was going to tell her how to do it, or if she could do it, regardless if it was me on top of her in the pilot seat!
She was a source of constant compliments wherever I took her. Having been purchased by my Sister and Brother-in-law, Terri and Rob Gold, she was meant to be a resale project. Eventually she was resold, but it was about 4 ½ years later!
Matzi ended up competing at the CCI*** level in Eventing, and after I sold her, continued to have a successful career with her new owner. She was “the little horse that could”, and she looked as cute as a bug while doing it. Matzi renewed my faith in mares after my early negative experience owning Patty, and it was with her that I learnt the true difference between mares and geldings. She was also with me for several of my “out East” years, and between her and Merlin I felt I had my version of the “million dollar family”! (a daughter and a son)
She was a dear, sweet little horse that truly deserved the luxuries of fine living. She gave all she had and then some, and was just as much a delight to sit on bareback standing in the stream as she was to jump around a big Advanced X-C course. Her sale was unavoidable since I had incurred too big a debt by 2000, and she was my only possible sale horse to get me out of the red! I will always remember her fondly!
MIKO- 1999-2001 (SECOND THOUGHT)
Hmmm….I don’t think I should go on about this one for too long! He was the horse that I fell off of in Sept. 2001 when I incurred my Spinal Cord Injury, however; I will share some of his attributes with you.
Miko was purchased in early 1999 in Florida. He was a relatively unbroke 4 year old, who was ridden in a chambon while the woman showed him to me. At the time I never questioned why she showed him to me in the small fully fenced dressage arena out back, and not the big open jump arena by the barn! Hind sight is always 20/20, and I understand now why she did what she did!
Let’s just say that I knew Miko was difficult, but like Merlin, I figured he’d come around, and that it was just a matter of time and training. I made a low ball offer, and the woman seemed a bit offended, but it was all I had. In fact, it took me about a week to talk myself into making the offer, and his show name was a reflection of that, “Second Thought”. Again, hind sight is 20/20, but it was a very valuable lesson in what happens when you don’t listen to your intuition!
I tried very hard with Miko but he always seemed to plateau at a certain level, then have melt downs, and after some down time, only get back to the same level again before he had another melt down. It felt very much like that movie “Groundhog Day”, I just could not get him past a certain level of obedience or training.
I will say that I loved his personality on the ground, and that perhaps my greatest moments with him were the times when I played with him and Merlin in the paddock. I used to go out in the paddock with the two of them, and play hide and seek. They would hide in the shed, run out, chase each other, chase me, then I’d run and hide….it was a lot of fun! Then I would get the two of them close together, grab a fist full of mane on each of them, and then cluck to get them trotting or cantering. They’d get going quite fast, and I would be doing a cartoon version of running with my feet only touching down once to their every 4 or 5 steps. It felt like I was floating! Then all I had to do was say a firm “WHOA” and they’d both stop immediately. I would have to admit that this truly was Miko’s “claim to fame”! Sad but true!
To my knowledge he got sold to a trail rider in Ontario somewhere after my accident. I was of course quite drugged up on pain killers, etc. at the time a lot of decisions were made for my horses, so while I do know I was very with-it when I made the decisions, my memory isn’t that great. He always did have a set limit on his work ethic, so trail riding was probably the best life for him.
Odie - 2004 – Present (VDL ODETTE)
My little Odie! My little “P” (short for Princess)! My little, not so little, voluptuous Dutch girl! Yes, she has MANY nicknames, and they constantly change directly related to how she is going at the time!
I first got Odie as a sale horse to train and compete for the owners. I needed a new horse after my finale with Merlin, completing 3 horse trials in the Fall of 2003 post injury. I knew Merlin’s eventing days were now over, and while I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my riding, I did know that I needed a new horse. Odette was a good solution since she had an amazing jump, was brave enough to event if I wanted to, and yet could do dressage if that’s where I was headed.
I had her for a while and put a lot of work into her, but by June 2005 I had not been able to sell her. At this time I decided I had enough of the tough winters in Ontario and wanted to move back home. I would sadly have to give Odette back to her owners and cut my losses.
The owners, knowing that she would require a special owner that would fully appreciate her, made it happen that I would end up with Odette. Just days before I went to Europe to compete that summer, I received a phone call to say that Odette would be making the trip back to BC with me! She was now officially my horse! Thank you so much to everyone for making that possible.
Odie is currently in training with me trying out for the Canadian Paralympic Team to Beijing! She is very athletic and I have been told by Conrad Schumacher that she is Grand Prix dressage quality. Her great bloodlines (sire is Ahorn) predispose her to be a great jumper, which she is; however I am determined to make her into my first super-star Grand Prix dressage horse! It is still very much in progress, but she has captured my heart, and therefore has earned a spot in my barn indefinitely!
Odie possesses many of the traits and qualities of Alpo, Merlin and Matzi put together. At times I wonder what it is about her that I am so drawn to, but over the last few years we have become very connected. I feel her in my heart as I feel Merlin and Alpo, and feel that silent form of communication growing between us. Again, like several of my other horses, she is not an easy horse to train, but I am attracted to the challenge and am determined that she will take me to Grand Prix one day. Knowing Odie, much like Matzi, it will be on her terms and in her time, but as long as she gets me there, I can live with that!