Kachina got a late start in life and wasn't started under saddle until she was 8 years old. She was then used as a pasture ornament and occasional trail horse by her previous owner. When I bought her she had never worn English tack, rarely been inside a barn or indoor arena, and couldn't canter on anything smaller than a 40m circle.
I like to joke that I never have to worry about Kachina being stolen from the barn. Especially at this time of year when she is shaggy and covered in mud, she does not look like a very impressive horse standing out in the pen. It doesn't help that she is always dirty. No matter how well I groom her she will roll the instant I turn her out and grind dirt into all of her white parts.
|Majestic Dressage Beast Right Here|
However, everything changes when Kachina starts to move. Instantly she has all of the presence, grace and power that is hidden when she stands. She naturally has great hindquarter engagement and uses her body well. My jaw still drops when I watch her do an extended trot at liberty. Her elevation and reach is seriously impressive (she can overtrack by more than 2 feet when she really gets going!) and I can't wait to someday experience that under saddle.
|A normal trot for Kachina, tracking up is easy|
|Check out the hock action|
Buying Kachina was a bit of a gamble on my part. I was horse shopping completely on my own with no trainer or even dressage friends that I could get a second opinion from. Only time will tell whether the judges agree, but I truly believe Kachina had the best dressage movement and conformation of all the horses I tried, even purpose-bred warmbloods with pricetags more than twice as high (to be fair, the warmbloods in my budget weren't exactly the creme de la creme).
Additionally, she had two other important things going for her.
The first was responsiveness to the aids. On my test ride I played around with asking for different types of lateral work. Kachina wasn't trained and didn't know the movements but she gamely tried to understand and it was relatively easy to independantly control her shoulder, ribcage and hip. That may sound basic but it was more than I suceeded in doing with a number of other horses I tried.
The second element Kachina had was trail confidence: Kachina is stellar trail horse who will go over water, ditches etc without hesitation and go the exact same speed away from or towards home. While I love dressage, I also love going for trail rides. That wasn't something I was ever able to do much of with my previous horses so I wanted a horse that I could hit the open range with and not need a babysitter. I felt comfortable starting dressage training on a horse but I knew I didn't have the guts or knowledge to instill trail confidence myself.
|Open spaces not an issue|
|Checking out the herd of antelope out to the right (too far away for cell phone camera to capture)|
So that's the story of who Kachina was when I got her. Over the last year and a half we have been working to learn dressage. We are at training level and focused on those bottom tiers of the dressage pyramid: rhythm, relaxation and connection. When it's too cold to ride we work on groundwork manners, and when we start getting frustrated with 20m circles we go ride across the open fields by ourselves or with friends. There's been ups and downs but I've enjoyed getting to know Kachina so far and I'm excited for what we'll do this year.
|Between tests at our first show|