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Ellis River Riders Versatility Trail Challenge - July 25, 2020

So you need a little background before I talk about this trail challenge thing! Throughout 2020, I put some time and effort into riding Ellie's dam, Rejoice. She never had consistent training when she was younger and then she spent several years just being a broodmare, so while I did not (and still do not) have any lofty goals for this mare, I did want to enjoy her as a pleasure horse. Mostly because she is safe and sweet and seems to enjoy getting out and about.  she is the BEST trail horse and will go anywhere I ask! being all majestic, I guess But when I first started riding her the fall of 2019, I realized I had my work cut out for me LOL! She didn't understand my seat, she was used to being completely ridden off her face/bit (owner just before me rode her in a tie-down/draw rein combo), and had zero half halt. Like we called it a 1/16th halt haha. early April 2020 I took my time, reminded her about how inside leg to outside rein works, and never used any devices on her. I

Joydale Sparklerslas ~ June 5, 1982 - July 2, 2014

On July 2, 2014, I earned my merit badge in one of the most difficult areas of horse ownership.  How incredibly devastating it was to let go of my first horse, the horse who has shaped the woman I am today.  I always knew this day would come, but I also never truly prepared myself for it.  

In late June, I made an appointment for July 21 to put down my beautiful Morgan mare Sparky, but she told me her time was much sooner.  Twenty two years is a long time; we met as a thirteen year old horse crazy girl and a thin and timid ten year old mare.  She has seen me through all of life's trials and triumphs, from suffering through teenage angst and heartache, to going away to college, to becoming a mother.  I have had this little mare by my side for so long I really don't know how I will be capable of facing her empty stall.  

She left this world with her dinner grain and hay in her grave because she certainly never missed a meal while I owned her, as she was previously misused, abused, and had her food withheld for being "stubborn".  She was wearing her fancy show halter because I remember reading as a kid that all good horses should be buried in their bridle (but I just could not part with her fancy show bridle).  

Even when she couldn't jump higher or bring me to the next level in the show ring because of degenerative joint disease at age 19 and my parents asked if I wanted to sell her, I literally changed disciplines from eventing to combined driving so I could keep her and still compete.  

I promised this mare a forever home and she got it.  We didn't always see eye-to-eye, as she was sassy and spunky with a "make-me-do-it" attitude that only a redheaded mare can have, but I would like to think she knows that I loved her fiercely and without question.  We never missed a Christmas Day bareback ride, and 2013 was the last time I sat upon her broad back.  She took off with me when I asked her to trot, cantering through the snow, and I laughed because this was the horse I remembered.  

It is difficult to see the horse you once carefully conditioned and fitted become older and more feeble.  This mare would've done cartwheels for me if I had asked.  She taught me more than any textbook or person ever could; she defined me. 

Every horse deserves at least once in her life to be loved by a little girl.

Rest in peace and know you were loved beyond measure, old mare.  

"A very sad merit badge earned by a true horsewoman is the one where she puts the horse before herself.  The most gracious final reward any horse can hope for, and lucky are those horses who receive it." - unknown

"To place your horse's need to leave her failing body above your need to keep her with you, that is the greatest and purest love."  - C.Garrett

"When we think of those companions who traveled by our side down life's road, let us not say with sadness that they left us behind, but rather say with gentle gratitude that they once were with us." - unknown

Our final photo shoot. 

Back in 1995, two years after Sparky entered my life.  In this pic, I was 15 and she was 12.
Exactly one week before she died (though I didn't know it at the time), the day I made the appointment for the end of July.  She spent the summer enjoying the pasture at my grandfather's, which is where I boarded her for many years in high school and college.  It was like we had both "come home".
One of her last photos (the night before)
One of her last photos (the night before)
Her final resting spot, in the little clearing area on the lower right.
This is the land where I eventually started building a house...


  1. So very sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.


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