Coincidences—I don’t believe in them. I believe that everything happens for a reason.

Sophie was no coincidence. She is the manifestation of my childhood dream of raising a palomino Quarter Horse filly. How that dream became reality is beyond me. All I know is that she is here, now.

It is Sophie who started us on this long path of living (and loving) the ranch life. She is the beautiful free spirit who reacquainted me with the grace and beauty of horses. She is my Avatar.

Sophie is a Quarter Horse, but she is not registered, so we do not know her IMG_958_2bloodlines. That does not matter to me. What matters is the joy that she has brought to us as we watched her grow from a gangly foal into a beautiful adult. What matters is how much I have learned, being around and working with a baby horse. What matters is the relationship I have with her, and how much we are teaching each other.

Since we purchased Ortega Mountain Ranch in part as a home for Sophie, she has had the good fortune to grow up in open space. From the time she was 8 months old she has spent much of her time roaming freely about the ranch. I figured that among other things it was excellent trail horse training for her—getting her comfortable with open space and new stuff, and teaching her how to interact with other horses. We have spent a lot of time watching her explore the ranch, and while exploring her territory she more often than not chooses to go cross country through the rocks, brush, and trees. She is sure-footed, independent, and terrain-savvy. She also makes a point to go to every corral and visit each horse at the ranch. She pretty much gets along with all the horses…good social skills are valuable, and I think it’s important for her to be able to get along with others.

Sophie was born in March of 2005. As I write this she is 4 ½ years old, and I am just now starting to get serious with her training. I strongly believe that it is important to let a horse fully develop before riding them. Horses aren’t physically mature until they are 5 years old. Rarely are horses allowed to develop completely before being ridden because it is not cost-effective to do so. That’s very unfortunate, as it contributes to physical problems in the horse. Putting stress on joints, ligaments, tendons, and bone that aren’t fully developed is a recipe for causing breakdowns.

Prior to now we have done a fair amount of ground training with her, and I have been on her back a few times. Sophie is very intelligent, and she has the typical and ideal (for me) laid-back Quarter Horse temperament. Very little fazes her. She has never been frightened of ropes swinging over her head or around her body. She IMG_795never flinched the first time she was saddled. The first time that I got on her back she turned around and looked at me as if to say “what took you so long??” I enjoy every minute of training her, and I look forward to the day when we are able to ride out on the trails together. She has been ponied on long trail rides, and she has responded like a seasoned trail horse. Of course I am biased, but I believe that she has the potential to be an outstanding riding horse and a partner to me for life.

The wonderful thing about raising a foal is that you get to mold them into the horse that you want. One of the joys of raising Sophie is that we were able to start her on her life’s journey in a way that will keep her healthy, and we are able to keep her in an environment that will give her the freedom that a horse deserves. She is strong, sound, and she has terrific feet—well balanced and easy to trim, hard as rocks, and very healthy. She will never have shoes nailed to her feet. She will never have a bit in her mouth. She will always be loved, she will always be treated with kindness and respect, and I know that we will share many happy trails together.

It is all good.IMG_965