As we all know, my heart horse, Kahlua is a Morgan and I have been given the opportunity to write an article for The Morgan Dressage Association’s Extensions, and I wanted to share it on here as well!
“To say that my Morgan horse has changed my life is an understatement; he has made my life and without him, I wouldn’t be on the journey that I am on today.
I started riding when I was about 10-years-old and luckily enough, I started riding Morgans right from the start. My love for riding and Morgans grew, and I quit other activities, like dance and gymnastics so I could spend more time at the barn. At the time, I was riding in the hunter and western events at Morgan Shows with my first horse, Keas Fanfield, or as I called him, “Buster.”He showed me the ropes of riding and he took care of me in the show arena, and also at home. I think we mastered every bareback move there was to conquer in the field at home. As Buster got older, my trainer at the time and my parents thought it would be a good idea to get a younger horse so I could learn and grow alongside him.
So the search began. My parents didn’t know a whole lot about horses at the time, but they tried their best and were trying to decide the best way to go about buying a new horse. Soon into our search, my parents showed me a video of a chestnut yearling, with a flaxen mane and tail, running around a paddock. I was 11-years-old at the time so I thought this was the most amazing horse I’d ever seen and was star struck. This future star’s name was Kahlua and was also a half-brother to one of my trainer’s horses I had been riding, so it seemed like a good fit. However, I tried not to get too excited about the amazing chestnut in the video because my parents told me they were unsure if we’d be able to get him.
But, on Jan. 25, 2006 everything changed. I was in the middle of science class, I got a call that I was to leave for the day. At the time I was upset because I really wanted to be in class that day. As we drove home, I was confused about what was going on and my mom kept making excuses as to why she picked me up. When we got back home, my mom handed me a lead rope and said: “Go get Kahlua.” I was upset that my mom would joke with me like that since I thought he wasn’t going to be in my life, but then I saw a horse trailer pull up to the driveway. I was in shock as I walked to the trailer and saw an adorable chestnut head pop out of the door to say “hi.” I couldn’t believe it and started crying immediately. I couldn’t believe that my horse was here, I just wanted to get him off of the trailer so I could start to get to know him. As I walked my new forever friend down the driveway, I was completely oblivious to what our future would hold.
This was the start of my new adventure. With Kahlua being a yearling and me being only 11-years-old, we had a lot of barriers to break but we were up to the challenge. Kahlua came from Cindy and Lyle Dietz of Coulee Bend Morgans in Canada. They did an amazing job breeding Kahlua, and it was easy for me to fall in love with him.
As our journey began, I had to teach him everything. Things like, standing in the crossties, lunging and wearing polo wraps, were all new to him. We still had Buster, so we often used him to set an example for Kahlua. I can still remember Kahlua not liking his legs being wrapped so I would make him watch me wrap Buster’s legs and then I would switch and do it to him. I like to believe that Kahlua was actually watching me work with Buster and was taking notes on how to behave, but who really knows. As he grew, he was figuring out lunging like a champ and I really just couldn’t wait to find out what he would be like to ride.
When he was about 2 and a half years old, I was lunging him one day with his saddle on and wanted to try leaning over him. I was just laying across his back, and he was being really good so I decided to flip my leg over. So there I was in my round pen, with no helmet on, sitting on my young horse – I was so excited! I was riding my horse for the first time! I was so happy, I called my mom to tell her what happened. She came running down to the barn and I used showing her as an opportunity to do it again. Kahlua just stood there for the second time, which was extremely lucky for me since I was definitely testing his patience and didn’t have a helmet on.
I was very lucky to have such an eager and easygoing horse since we grew up together from a young age and I changed my mind about what I wanted to do a lot. At first, we experimented in the Morgan show horse world, where he excelled at road hack and even some western classes. Then we moved into the hunter/jumper world and we even won some highpoint 2’3″ classes. Finally, we found our true calling about 8 years ago when we went to our first dressage clinic taught by my now current trainer, Francesca Nicoletti – we haven’t looked back since. I found the sport of dressage was something that Kahlua and I could fall in love with. There was always room for improvement and ways for us to move up and I loved that aspect of it. We started at first level and slowly started getting more involved in the youth programs that dressage has to offer, like attending young rider clinics with Jeremy Steinberg and other clinicians. Before we knew it, Kahlua was going around in a double bridle and I achieved my bronze medal – I still remember the day like it was yesterday.
We continued up the ranks of dressage and together we achieved our silver medal and half of our gold before I left for college. Kahlua has gone with me everywhere I go, so naturally, he came to college too. He’s so easy going that I have also been able to move him around for job opportunities and big events, like Equine Affaire. I think he’s like this because he is so smart, which has been a blessing while training him. Since he doesn’t move as fancy as some of the warmbloods we often compete against, his heart and brains have made up for that. Competing in dressage is competitive since there is no room for mistakes, so we have to be accurate in our tests since we can’t score as high for gaits.
Kahlua and I continued on the path for our gold medal while I was in school. We earned started off showing in the Intermediate II and then last October, officially became a Grand Prix pair. We had a lot to work on for this to happen; the one time changes and the passage were the most difficult to master, and we’re still perfecting our piaffe. Kahlua often steps on himself in the piaffe, so while I’m in Florida we have been working hard at correcting this. Step by step we are getting closer to our goal, and soon his heart and brain will persevere and we’ll figure it out.
This horse has given me so much and continues to do so, he deserves nothing but the best. I will probably never have a relationship like this with another horse, so I’m soaking up every bit of it that I can. I am pretty certain we are on the same brain wavelength as he works so hard for me. The mentality of the Morgan horses and their work ethic really shines through in my Kahlua. I am forever grateful to have been a part of this incredible journey we are on and hope that everyone gets to have a once in a lifetime horse like Kahlua.”