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To be honest, I had no idea what I was getting into when I adopted Chance from ERRI in August of 1997. I had never owned a horse before, although I had been riding for six years. I just knew that I liked the challenge of adopting a horse, and I also liked Chance!
Chance came to ERRI after his past owner died of cancer. He was very fond of her and went through a period of depression when she died. It was a struggle to keep weight on him, and he didn't trust anyone.
When I first got Chance he was a completely different horse than he is today. He liked me alright, but he didn't trust me. (That in itself was something; apparently, he had tried to buck off other people that had ridden him.) He was incredibly ear-shy, a problem which stemmed from being ear-twitched at the racetrack. He was so afraid of people touching his ears that his "bridle" was nothing other than a hackamore with a leather strap. There was no throatlatch and no browband, and still it had to be unbuckled in order to get it on his head. Furthermore, he had no training over fences; I remember a time when he needed heavy persuasion to even pop over a 12" cavaletti jump!
Earning Chance's trust did not happen overnight. He was a good sport about most things I subjected him to but let me know clearly when he was unprepared for advancement. Gradually, he became more and more honest and bold. His "ear fear" grew less; still, it was a big step to be able to put his fly mask on without a fight. He taught me how to trust in him just as much as I taught him to trust in me.
Now, nearly two years later, we have developed a strong understanding. I trust him more than I trust myself; if I ride badly into a fence, I can count on him to get me over it in one piece. He is very honest; although he may not be the world's most graceful jumper, he will jump most anything that is set before him. I can bridle Chance with a normal (that is, complete with browband and throatlatch) bridle without taking the bridle apart. He crossties, he loads, and he clips. (Yes, he even allows me to clip the outside of his ears!)
Recently, Chance went to his first show. I had no idea what to expect from him and expected just to go to give him more experience. We came home with a Reserve Champion for Junior Over Fences!
I can say now that adopting Chance was the smartest thing my parents agreed to; he has made me learn to trust and to set high goals. He is my friend and my partner, and I wouldn't trade him for anything in the world. -- Sarah McCord
Chance and Sarah at home...
Chance and Sarah at a show...