This month our Spotlight highlight Mary Sadler. She has been a member of HCWE for the past two years. She competed last year and is competing this year. It has been amazing to watch her relationship with her horse grow and develop over that time period. At HCWE's schooling show this last weekend she was Reserve Champion in the Intro Amateur division!! She has persisted!!
Mary and Heart dressed like hippies at HCWE's Halloween show in 2016
I moved from Georgia to Colorado approximately seven years ago. I had always lived in the southeast so moving to Colorado was exciting and unfamiliar territory. My daughter and her husband had relocated from Atlanta to Boulder, which peaked my interest in heading west. My husband, Jeff, and I bought a bungalow on the hill in Boulder, initially. I settled in more easily than I expected. We still travel back and forth to Georgia quite a bit and still do. We are now living in a house on Lake Hartwell that Jeff built and we both have family that live in the area. My son lives in Lander, Wyoming and works for NOLS. I have a feeling we are all here to stay for a very long while.
As I was adjusting to being so far away from friends, family and a new rhythm, I wanted to find community. I had taken papermaking at Penland Arts and Craft school the summer before I left Georgia. The Students Arts League in Denver had an art journaling class that was not full. This class met in various places in Denver, such as the Botanical Gardens, and it allowed me to discover many cool places to explore and be artsy. I love paper and I collect all sorts of objects that I use in my dabbling of mixed media.
Mary and Heart
It was always my dream to have a horse. I still remember the first time I looked into the eye of a friend's horse when I was only about 5 or 6. There was a connection that seeped into my heart and has been there ever since. My experiences with riding were limited. If I was somewhere and horseback riding was offered I would sign up. I took lessons in Georgia which really were just trail rides. In Alaska, I rode in Denali National Park, which was also a trail ride. I decided to find an instructor in Boulder and that led me to the boarding facility at Greentree.
At Greentree, I rode weekly and enjoyed learning to do the basics with horses. Along the way, I started talking about buying my own horse. A farrier by the name of Joseph Newcomb was selling his horse, Heart. he had owned him for five years during which time they had worked on a cattle ranch. Joseph's girlfriend had been working with Heart, doing more jumping and English riding. I decided to buy him, especially since his name was Heart, I had moved from Hartwell, Georgia, and he had a heart brand on his left hip.
Mary and Heart working cattle
Isn't that how everyone chooses their horse?
My lifelong dream finally came true at 55 years of age. I literally knew nothing, but I didn't know I knew nothing. He walked off when I tried to mount, he reared when he was being walked, bribes didn't work and yes, I thought he would like me if I gave him treats.
One day I was watching some people in the arena doing ground work with their horses and they looked like they were having fun. I decided I needed a different trainer and a new strategy. These folks were in the Parelli method of natural horsemanship. Kime Conkright became my new instructor and my learning began.
It was hard to feel so inadequate and feel like I should not be a horse owner. Along the way, there were so many people who encouraged me and celebrated my successes, no matter how small. My confidence grew and my community expanded. Especially after meeting Lyndsey Fitch, I began to trust myself and my horse in a whole new way.
When I purchased Heart, my focus was on trail riding. I continue to do that and we've gone camping at Jack's Gulch with Vicki Kneckt and the Natural Trail Riders group.
One day I was talking to Kim Speek and she told me about Working Equitation. She had met Chris Stanko at a Parelli Rally at Teri Sprague's. It had never crossed my mind to compete but I was curious about it. For me, working on the skills to improve my performance and understanding what is needed to reach my goals has been challenging and rewarding. I remember my first clinic with Tarrin Warren and I had no clue about dressage letters. I felt like a fish out of water. What I found is that the people who are a part of High Country Working Equitation were supportive of each other, cheered each other on, and are generally happy to be doing this. One day I hope to canter a really good 20 meter circle, have lead changes down, jump that bale of hay and do the speed round.
This is my third summer having my beautiful sorrel quarter horse at my home. It's hard to believe it's been six years since I looked out into the pasture at Greentree and realized that he was going to be mine. He's taught me so much about trust and patience. I was forced to become a better leader, which helped me grow in my human relationships as well. Heart and Ms. Fizz seem very content living on the farm with me, my husband Jeff and our two dogs. I feel very grateful that I didn't give up on my dream of having a horse. It is as wonderful as I imagined!!