Sandy Porter-Bean and her daughter Audrey have a reputation for taking on hard-luck cases. So when Sandy got a call late in 2012 that a 9-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred mare was going to be euthanized because her owners had lost their patience with the sensitive creature, she was behind the wheel almost before she had hung up the phone.
“They told me to just get her the bleep off the property,” says Sandy.
Once the mare arrived at Sandy’s Pendragon Equestrian Center in Cornville, Maine, her students looked up the mare’s tattoo. They found that Lycius Lydia (Lycius x Whisper Lightly) seemed to have been unraced and had had nearly a year off from being ridden. She could be bossy with other horses. When she was in heat, she was reluctant to go forward, and when she was overwhelmed, she just shut down. But the Beans weren’t discouraged because they had met tough horses before—and they knew that time, patience and finding the right rider match were often the cure for a lifetime of misunderstanding.
Sandy and Audrey decided to completely start over with Lydia, taking time to build both her physical strength and confidence in the rider. They found that with a calm and sensitive approach, Lydia became a joy to ride, and after a few months they offered her to a student for an on-farm lease. But under her new rider, Lydia’s performance became inconsistent, and the partnership fizzled. “It just wasn’t the right match,” says Sandy. “So Audrey and I decided to give Lydia three months off, then started her over again.”
Once back in work, Sandy focused on rebuilding the muscles of Lydia’s topline and showing the mare that she could move freely forward. After Lydia improved, Audrey took over the ride and reintroduced her to jumping. The women were thrilled to watch the mare quickly regain her confidence. But they knew that what Lydia needed long term was one rider, someone with the patience to develop a relationship with her.
Madison Blodgett was just 13 years old but had been competing at the lower levels of eventing in the Pendragon program for several years, and her current mount was showing signs of slowing down. Sandy describes Madison as a “quiet, natural-born rider,” and she knew that the teenager had the talent to move up the levels. But despite trying several horses, they hadn’t found quite the right match for her next partner.
Madison was used to riding sensitive animals. Her most recent mount, Joy, required tactful aids and calm confidence from the rider. Late in 2016, Sandy had a hunch that a match with Lydia might work. The two clicked almost immediately.
“Madison is such a lovely rider, and she doesn’t move around a lot,” says Sandy. “These sensitive mares don’t get scared by her.”
Madison spent the winter getting to know her new partner, and in June 2017 they finished seventh in the Junior Novice division at the GMHA Spring Horse Trials in Vermont, their first recognized competition together. They competed at recognized events twice more that season, finishing in the top five both times. In 2018, they completed several more Novice-level recognized events, often only adding a show-jump rail to their dressage score. Their competitive results validated the belief that Sandy had in the partnership from Day One.
“Lydia’s dressage has come such a long way with Madison,” says Sandy. “We are so proud. Madison has really shown her off well. I feel that it has turned out fantastic.”
But more importantly, the quiet and focused teenager, now 15, has developed newfound confidence and belief in her own skills from her relationship with a chestnut Thoroughbred mare that no one wanted. “Lydia needs you to be there and to tell her it is OK,” says Madison. “Lydia has taught me to be confident and to show her what she needs to do.”
Boosted by their success to date, Madison planned to move up to Training level with Lydia, with hopes to tackle Preliminary in the future. But in the meantime, she is also focusing on enjoying the partnership she has made with this unique mare.
“Lydia just has a really big heart and loves her job,” says Heidi Blodgett, Madison’s mother. “She loves her human.”
This article was published in the November 2018 issue of Practical Horseman.