Fiddle is a 2002 pacing Standardbred mare who "flunked off the track" before she ever raced.
She was adopted from Greener Pastures in early 2006 by a very nice lady from Vancouver Island; less than six months later the lady was diagnosed with a nasty brain tumor. She called GP, and GP called me, knowing that I had recently lost my senior Standardbred mare. The nice lady delivered Fiddle to me on a horrible rainy night in December 2006 with the understanding that if the mare didn't suit me, I could haul her back to GP in the spring. Apparently, we suited each other, because Fiddle and I are still together. The nice lady still comes to visit us sometimes.
Fiddle was a nasty mare in those early years. She was a biter and a kicker. She used her entire body as an arsenal. She hated to be touched south of her shoulder--and she would defend her space from humans, dogs, and other horses with venomous teeth and feet. Her nickname at the boarding barn was "Hellbitch."
A lot of her issues stemmed from inconsistent handling, so that's the first thing we addressed with her. That meant that we had to keep timid people completely away from her--a good trick at a boarding barn. Bringing her home to Haiku Farm in 2009 helped a lot.
Another issue we identified was self-confidence. Fee didn't stop growing until she was past her seventh birthday, and while she was growing, she was incredibly clumsy. She walked like a horse wearing swim fins.
Lessons helped a lot. They still do. (Lessons help both of us.)
Once she stopped growing, she gained better balance and strength, and our communication is tremendously helped by the work we do in the arena. She has much more dressage talent than I will ever have.
She is a fabulous trail mare, very canny and calm. Like most standies, she is hard to rattle. We do a lot of trail work together, building and mending trails locally and in support of endurance rides on the Dry Side of our state. She is absolutely trustworthy as a trail horse, and takes excellent care of herself and her rider.
Fiddle has learned to carry trail tools and chainsaws up to a worksite and then nap for a few hours while our trail crew works around her.
When she was 8 years old, she was physically ready for endurance competitions but mentally she was still too immature for the stress of 50+ mile rides, so we entered a season of LD (Limited Distance) events instead. She completed 5 LD rides in 2010 and learned how to play the endurance game, and started competing in longer rides in 2011.
In 2012, we took time off so that Fiddle could be spayed.
Dr. Delco and the spaying "crew" at Pilchuck Vet Hospital
The changes in my mare since her surgery have been wonderful. Details of the surgery process are documented HERE.
Bare Bones ride 2012, 4 months post-surgery
Home on the Range ride 2013, nearly a year post-surgery
We recognize now that the spay surgery eliminated something that we didn't realize existed: pain.
She was probably not in acute, excruciating pain, but Fee almost certainly experienced low-level chronic pain for several years prior to the spay.
Caribou Gold ride, 2013
The lack of pain is now obvious: my big mare has changed from a Hellbitch to a (tameable) Dragon who is terrifically fun to ride. These days, it's easy to see: