Some time ago I posted the story of how I aquired my mare Devonessa. She is a 9 year old TB/Connemara cross. She came to me from a well known dressage facility that happens to be right next door. After being layed up for over a year due to a stifle injury and mild intermitant lameness it was determined that she would be unable to withstand the vigorous training required to be competitive in the upper levels of dressage.
Devon's previous owner decided to take her to the Verband Oldenburg
inspection in hopes of registering her with the International Sport Horse
Registry. Devonessa scored second highest of the day and was accepted
into the Oldenburg Mare Book.
She was now sound, fit and still perfectly capable of being ridden and way too nice of a mare to not have a job. I had just started my business and was in need of another lesson horse so I decided to take her on a one year free lease.
Although Devon stands at barely 16h she is quite the mover. The problem was the majority of my students then consisted of beginners and a few intermediate riders.That big beautiful trot can be a bit intimidating to a new rider. I couldn't have my beginners flopping around like fish on her back so Devon was ridden by a handful of select students and did a lot of walk work. At first I wasn't sure if she was going to be a good fit in our program. We were just beginning to build a lesson program and I was hesitant to take on another mouth to feed permanent basis. I liked Devon but I kept a degree of distance between us as I knew that at this point she was only a lease. The agreement could be severed at any time and I didn't want to get too attached.
As time went on it became increasingly difficult to remain objective to the possibility of giving her back. I wanted to do what was best for my business and I knew I could probably replace her with a horse that could be ridden by anyone. Another horse that just shuffled along day in, and day out lesson after lesson. There is just something about her... I'll admit that I have a preference for mares. It is true that they can be moody and tempermental, and over all geldings tend to be the more level headed choice. Sometimes you come across a horse that is just special. Devonessa has presence... At the ISR inspection it was obvious that she was in her element. She isn't just beautiful, she is steady, confident and LOVES to strut her stuff. She is always noticed and always complemented by everyone who visits the farm. If I only had a dollar for every time I heard "She is such a nice mare" Everyone loved her... As hard as I tried not to, I loved her too... I knew I would eventually seal the deal and I finally did. Devon was mine.
I was interested in breeding her but I wasn't willing to do so without being certain that I could truly afford to do it right. It was then I was approached by two of my clients with an offer to sponsor Devon's breeding. They would own the foal unless I decided to buy in, so in essence they would be leasing Devon from me over the next 18 months. I would oversee the process and Devon would remain in my care. I was involved in the process of researching and picking the stallion (which was very exciting and educational!) We spent a lot of time planning and researching as we needed to be sure there would be a market for the foal as well, should we decide to sell. It was a great opportunity to breed her without having to come up with the very expensive stud fee (which happened to be the least of our expenses BTW) This process would also determine if I should one day breed Devon on my own. It would be an excellent opportunity to own and train a sport horse of this caliber myself.
In early spring of last year the stallion selection had been narrowed down to two. Both of which were standing at Hilltop Farm in Maryland. We took a field trip to Hilltop to tour the facility and meet the beautiful studs in person. The choice was between Royal Prince and Contucci. They were both breathtakingly beautiful and extremely well mannered. Temperament and ridability were among the top determining factors in our decision. We were able to spend a bit of time with each horse and watch them move as well.
The facility was amazing and it was nice to see stallions treated so well. The stallions were all stalled in a particular wing. The stalls were huge with bars from the chest up so that they were able to see and interact with each other. They also had long narrow runs for turn out each day! Imagine that! Dressage horses actually being allowed to be horses, running and playing OUTSIDE! I think that has a lot to do with how sane and easy to handle they truly were. After we left it didn't take long to make the decision. Contucci was beautiful and built so well... he had a shoulder to die for and looked incredibly powerful yet he was just a big sweetheart who loved scratches and attention. Contucci was amazing but in the end the choice was Royal Prince. He was much smaller than Contucci but every bit as awe inspiring. Watching him move gave me goosebumps. He dances... He has this rhythmic flow in every move he makes. He just looked so nice to ride. Just thinking of the combination of Devon and Royal prince made me smile. Devon never got to meet her Prince but I made sure to tell her he was quite the catch.
The first cycle we sent her off to the vet to be bred. In retrospect I think that was a bad decision. Although they were able to monitor her closely and inseminate her accordingly, she was incredibly distraught. I have come to believe that it is best to leave a horse at home, in familiar surroundings, whether it is undergoing a medical treatment or for breeding purposes whenever possible. She did not catch. The second time we stayed home. She had her mom and lots of bananas to eat while she was poked and prodded. She did great! The next time the vet came to visit we had great news! Devon was in foal and we had a little white blob on sonogram to prove it!
Now I was all excited with nothing to do but wait. Devon went on as usual being alpha mare, giving a lesson or two and suddenly being congratulated by everyone who came her way. She didn't know what all the fuss was about but she had no less than 3 visitors with bananas in hand daily and she couldn't be more pleased. Poor girl had no idea of what was waiting down the road... to be continued...
stay tuned for part 2... The countdown