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By Patti Stedman | Apr 24, 2017
Damn. This one is tough to write.
Ned has been a huge part of my life for nearly twenty years. And tomorrow we will be letting him go.
Some creatures — human or equine or canine — just have more personality than others. Ned has been mammoth in more than stature. When we were competing heavily and walked up to vet in, I’d see the eyes go up and down the 16+H, 1200-pound, size 4-hooved creature and I’d just say “he’s half Trakehner.”
He was meant to be the competition dressage horse whose half-Arabian self could condition with my husband.
Ned was naughty. From the day I went to look at him to purchase — he kicked at me twice when I did his flexion tests — to the last time I swung a leg over him, he had a propensity for mischief. His bolting won me a severe concussion and a fractured pelvic rim when he was just five. I learned to sit up and ride him from Moment One, helmet firmly buckled on. Still, I fell off him more times than I’ve come off in my life previous or since. He taught me fear.
Bucking was too pedestrian for Ned, so he perfected the art of leaping. The better he felt, the more he leapt. I learned to keep my reins short, my shoulders behind my seat bones and my heels down. Walter Zettl, with whom I took dressage lessons back then implored me to keep him in dressage for at least a year, “stay off ze trail.”
Back when I was first getting into the sport, there was no Facebook. There was Ridecamp. I recall asking the group, after Ned spooked on a trail and promptly jumped down a steep, treed embankment, if there was hope for a horse that appeared to have little sense of self-preservation. Almost universally, I was told to move on to a safer horse. For some reason, I didn’t.
I know why, in retrospect. It was because when he was on, he was the most amazing ride. Big gaits and full of attitude, smooth and handsome. When he wasn’t misbehaving — and to be clear, he was mostly gentlemanly — I felt like a dressage queen sitting up there on that powerful keg of horseflesh. He could dance like no other horse. And I liked him. Naughty as he was, he wasn’t mean. He was smart and opinionated and had a ridiculous sense of humor, if a horse can have such a thing. He was all about Ned...
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