Eagle Eyes Miss Dixie is a 2002 bay roan paint (tobiano/sabino?) Tennessee Walking Horse. She's not a Spotted Saddle Horse - I have TWH papers only on her.

She could be double registered THW/SSH or triple registered Racking or quad registered with some even lesser known registry, but I haven't bothered. I hate the TWHBEA, I'm not real thrilled with the SSHBEA, and why waste the money on the others?

Dixie was bred to be a show horse. Broke to ride at 18-24 months, probably sored, shown in pads in two- and three-year-old shows. She sucked at it, and got passed along for less than her sire's stud fee to a lady I boarded with. She pulled Dixie's pads and got her flat-shod, and showed her a few times (I think I rode against her in one of my few fun local shows, actually), then sold her to me because the mare just kept growing. The lady I bought Dixie from was all of 5' in show boots, and Dixie was 15.3 and lanky.

And totally untrained. Broke to ride, yeah, but only if you put her in a ring with other horses. She didn't stand still to be mounted. She went where you dragged her head to point. Any leg in any position meant "rack faster, damn you." Moving your hand from above her withers (say, to scratch your nose) meant "I'm going to hit you in the head now, damn you." There were two ways to get a woah: hauling her nose to her chest and waiting, or pointing her into an immovable object like a barn wall. She went in a double twisted wire curb bit, but because she had a "soft mouth" the bit was vet wrapped.

But I bought her anyway. She had this utterly indomitable look in her eyes, and she made me feel like I was the queen of the world when I was riding her. (Boosted up, very quickly, with two helpers.) I had just over a year of riding experience, with no formal lessons at all and no trainer.

I pretty much turned her out and left her alone for six months (I did have three other horses to occupy my time), then started riding her. I taught her the wrong things and the right things. She scared the shit out of me and put a huge smile on my face. I got her going in a snaffle and only moved to a Myler curb when we started competing endurance. Many times, I cried and wanted to sell her, but I never did, for various reasons.

In 2009 my sainted steady gelding died unexpectedly, and Dixie got promoted to Only Horse status. Things were pretty bleak for a while, but after we moved to Nevada they started improving. I stepped up and forced her to work through a lot of her fears - random bolting, scary rocks, demonic trash bins, being alone, being with other horses, blah blah. There were very few movie-quality breakthrough moments, just a ton of tiny victories that I might never have noticed if I hadn't blogged all the lows in excruciating detail.

I'd always wanted to do endurance. It seems like the one horse sport that cares the most about the welfare of the horse - you won't find vetting like endurance vetting in any other sport. And it's the most friendly sport to people without trainers - we understand the importance of cross-training, especially dressage, but hardly anyone has an Endurance Trainer. You just get some lessons on your form and go out and do the miles. Also, biothane tack rocks.

We did a year of Long Slow Distance, then a year of LSD and Limited Distance endurance rides, then in 2011 we moved up to 50s. We tried a 50, got pulled metabolic. I adjusted her electrolytes and completed a 25, then a 50. Our second fifty was a disaster.

I gave Dixie six months off - well, except for some light riding, and a 30 in the mountains, and a couple of flat 20s - then started bringing her back in shape in December 2011. In January 2012 I bought clippers, shaved her neck, and discovered a new horse. Poor thing was sweltering under all that fur.

2012 was an amazingly perfect year for us.  We did two LDs and five 50 mile endurance rides.  No pulls, no problems, just an endless string of completions.  Our 2013 record is more average - a RO pull at Rides of March, our first 50 of the year.  Two completions, with our first (and probably only) top-10, at Washoe Lake.  A RO pull at 80 miles on our first 100 attempt.  A solid completion at a tough 50 at Tahoe Rim.  And the year's not over yet!

At the moment, Dixie's gaits are: all of them. She has discovered a beautiful running walk, but she can't hold it for very long. She has a super smooth step-pace and a fast hard pace. She racks sometimes - that's the gait that makes me feel like the Queen of the World.  Right now her "go all day" gaits are an easy trot or that lovely step-pace.

I feel like everything is always a work in progress, but somewhere underneath that scared unstoppable mare, I found a really good-hearted horse who's willing to learn with me.


  1. What a great post. Thanks for telling us about Dixie--and filling in the holes. I've always been curious just what/who she was and how you came by her.

  2. A lot of times when you ride a horse that makes other people think you're crazy ( "why don't you get a NICE, normal horse??")it's because you can tell that the horse is actually incredibly worthwhile!

  3. I love Dixie's story.....and I'm so glad you got her away from the padded-walker lifestyle (makes me cringe with disgust every time I see one).

    I think it builds a lot of character to work with difficult animals -- they can teach us so much and seem to do nothing short of making us humble people ;-)

    I hope to try a long-distance ride myself in a few years and look forward to following your blog :)


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