"A Palomino?? But I thought we were looking for a Bay mare?!"
We were living down in Virginia at the time and I had been advertising on a Connemara Bulletin board for a free lease of a bay mare to breed. I was thinking of breeding to a dilute stallion to hopefully get a dun foal. Jinx Springer emailed me and said she had a lovely, 13 year old, wonderful mare, originally imported from Ireland, who had 'told' her that she would like to have a baby. The unfortunate thing was that the mare was a palomino roan – unusual for a Connemara and not the hard coloured bay I was looking for! But she was by Grange Finn Sparrow, she was imported etc. so worth having a look at.
Well it was love at first sight when we saw Honey! Jinx told us that she had sold her farm a few months previously and that Honey was not happy at the fancy stable she was in now. Honey liked being in the back yard and having her 'own person' looking after her AND of course, wanted to have a baby. I was a somewhat sceptical of this 'communication' with Honey ....but as we have got to know Honey she does actually 'communicate' her thoughts quite clearly at times. As we were patting and talking to Honey in the stall on this first meeting – Honey shifted herself around and backed right up into me. At first I was a bit worried that her lovely rear end was being directed at me as I didn’t know her yet... but it didn’t seem aggressive so I finally got the message being sent – "please scratch my tail". Jinx was very pleased with this as apparently Honey only did that to people she liked and approved of. That seemed to seal the deal – Honey was given to us to breed for her first foal!
We bred her to the imported bay stallion – Hearnesbrook Dunoon and had a lovely little filly – Ballencrieff's Fleur de Lis. Jinx told us that Honey seemed happy with us so if we wanted to keep her longer Jinx would be happy to let us.
Our daughter Kenzie had joined Pony Club and her first pony was having some lameness issues so she moved on to Honey. Now Honey had not done much ring work in her previous life. Most of her life she had galloped and jumped with The Hunt in Virginia so dressage was a quite a challenge for her at first. Kenzie worked hard with her and did a great job. A very special relationship developed between them. Kenzie took over where Jinx left off – telling me what Honey was thinking. One that sticks out in my mind was that Honey didn’t like having the halter on. So Kenzie started grooming, saddling etc. in the barn aisle-way without a halter on Honey. If Honey moved, then as punishment, the halter went back on. Again, I was sceptical at first – thinking this is just a 12 yr old girl's fantasy until I saw Honey responding. Eventually, Kenzie could hose Honey off on the lawn (Honey standing completely still - not even eating grass) without a halter. When we first got Honey we had trouble loading her on the horse trailer so one day when Honey was halter-less, I said to Kenzie, "I bet you can’t lead Honey over there to the trailer and get her to go on". Kenzie took the challenge – lead Honey over by just a hand under her chin – pointed into the trailer and Honey marched right on all by herself! After that I started listening to Honey and our daughter more!
Honey and Kenzie did very well in Pony Club in Virginia, qualifying and participating on a Dressage team at the Pony Club Nationals. Their team came in 4th place overall with Kenzie and Honey doing a great Musical Freestyle to N'Sync's 'Bye, Bye, Bye'. At Pony Club camp they won a well deserved Best Partnership Award. They also competed in lots of Events, winning many ribbons, and schooled jumps up to Training level. This pony could jump!
Kenzie kept in touch with Jinx over the years, updating her on all their adventures and accomplishments. One Christmas, Jinx wrote back and said obviously Honey was happy and Kenzie loved her so she (Jinx) was going to sign over Honey's papers to Kenzie! We couldn’t believe it. Kenzie and I both cried, we were so happy – what a nice, generous thing for Jinx to do! Honey was ours and had a forever home with us.
We tried to breed Honey again several times but apparently her cervix had torn when she had the first foal and because of that scar tissue her cervix wasn't opening properly anymore. That was very sad to find out as we would have loved to have more foals from this lovely mare. We moved back to Canada with Honey, Aladdin's Winter Promise (aka Winnie) and Aladdin's Jasmine. When Kenzie moved up to our Connemara x TB cross, Jasmine, I inherited Honey as my pony. But with settling into a new home and life getting busy – we just managed the occasional trail ride and clinic. Honey was number 1 babysitter for Winnie's foals – so patient and so kind to them. Now at 24 years of age, Honey has come out of semi-retirement and is Eventing again with me! Not at the same height that she used to compete at but that is probably more limited by me than her. We went in three Events this summer and placed well in each one. At the end of season I was surprised when I was notified that Honey and I had won the 2011 Horse Trials BC High Point award for Pre-Entry Division! We were also Reserve Champion at the Championship Event in August. Not too bad for two old gals!
Honey is a very special and amazing pony– Still going strong at 24 years old. She doesn't even seem to get stiff after these Events (which is more than I can say for myself!!) We have been so blessed to have Honey come into our lives and very grateful!
Once total points were tallied from the approximately 50 Connemaras entered, Cara was awarded the Greenway Kilronan Trophy for Pleasure Driving, the Lambay Seamus Trophy as the Champion Working Hunter, the Sue Dexter Memorial Versatility Award for the most points in 5 disciplines and the RHF O'Harazan Trophy as the Grand Champion Connemara! Many thanks to the hard work of our team and specifically to Amanda Beard, his rider and Mary Lee Quinn, his driver. Cara really has lived up to the slogan "Connemaras do it all!"
Team left to right: Cyndie Adams-Crook – Solaz; Elsie Priddy – Century Hills Aedan Zodiac; Morganne Cochrane – Bein Mallins Rory O'Sullivan; Karter Duke – Devonridge Precious Gem.
There were three new ponies on the team this year. Former team member Elsie Priddy rode her 8 year old dapple grey stallion "Aedan" with a good score in dressage, and a very competent round in the trail class.
Cyndie Adams-Crook drove her young gelding "Solaz" in both the driven dressage and the obstacle driving. For his first big competition he behaved extremely well with good scores.
Teenager Karter Duke has had great success jumping her grey mare "Jewel" and had a perfect round in the jumping, including the jeopardy jump. This was their first time barrel racing which they both enjoyed and had quick times.
Back again this year were young Morganne Cochrane and the veteran of the team "Rory". Their excellent jumping round gave our team first equal in this event with the Morgans. Unbeknown to us, time was taken into consideration and we ended up in 2nd place – they would have gone faster if they had known!
For the first time Morganne undertook obstacle driving with Melonie White as navigator. A good score placed Morganne and team mate Cyndie in the ribbons. Rory's fast times in barrel racing placed our two young riders 4th.
Throughout the classes, the top 5 teams had been very close in each event, with the overall leader changing each day. The last event was the trail class, which is always very difficult with teeter-tooters, steps, flag carrying etc. Elsie had an excellent round including the jeopardy obstacle which involved taking a telephone book from a booth, riding through the water obstacle one-handed and placing the book in the second booth. Rory had done this jeopardy perfectly last year and Morganne went in full of confidence. However, this time Rory decided that he was not going anywhere near the booth, so unfortunately they lost points. The Morgan team won again, and we ended up a very respectable 5th.
The Featured Pony is Devon Ridge Precious Gem, a half-bred Connemara mare. She is by Bally's Friar Tuck & the TB mare Sea Me To & was bred by Devon Ridge Farms, Edmonton.
"Jewel" belongs to the Duke family, and she & Karter have made a phenomenal team & achieved great things together. Their story follows:
-- Karter comes from a horse family. Her Dad Jay Duke is not only her trainer but was a past Canadian Team Member and has a training business in Calgary. Her Grandpa Fred Duke is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame and her Grandma Cheryl Anderson is a well known trainer in Edmonton who has coached several people to the olympic level.
Every year since Karter and Jewel have been together they have been year end champions of their division. Last year was no exception as the 2 were the 1.10m Alberta year end Champion. She competed against horses mostly for this division title. She was also Canadian Pony Jumper Champion in 2009.
This year she won 3 mini prix's in 2 days (RMSJ) 2 at the 1.10m and one at the 1.15m. She also moved up to the 1.20 m at RMSJ the following week. Karter, at 13, was the youngest rider to ever compete in the international ring this year and Jewel was the first ever pony to compete in the Double Slalom. The pair were followed around all week by camera crews and also did many interviews. Beezie and John Madden from the USA both coached her for the week and Beezie and Karter did the walk together and an interview before the Double Slalom started. It was a very special day and Karter could not have imagined doing something like that with anyone else then her trusted best friend Jewel. They tied for 5th and did their first victory gallop in the International ring! Karter said after, "It was an honour to share that experience with Jewel, she is so special to me".
Jewel is a very special pony. She has taught Karter well and continues to be Karters favourite ride. She has always made Karter feel safe while keeping an eminence spirit for "the win". You can not teach a competition horse that kind of spirit. She knows when Karter is nervous and takes care of her. She knows when Karter is too anxious for the win and slows down to keep them safe. She finds time to teach Karter how to ride to a skinny or how to jump a derby successfully. She is not only the most successful show jumping pony but she is the ultimate teacher.
We believe that children often don't spend enough time on ponies. For many reasons they are great teachers and give an amazing amount of confidence to kids. I hope Karter and Jewel inspire more kids to stay with their ponies and of course find a good Connemara! Jewel was bred right here in Alberta by Devon Ridge Farm owned by Jocelyn Garneau-Davies. This sadly will be Karter and Jewel's last year together. They have been together for 4 years. Jewel will stay with our family and go on to teach our younger daughter just the way she did Karter. We feel blessed to have her in our lives.