This is my Trail Horse: Cheli, the Horse I Never Knew I Wanted

By Brittney Hendrickson

Cheli is the horse I never knew I wanted. Growing up showing western pleasure, I dreamt of slow-legged paint horses with splashes of white and perfectly banded manes. Then, about two years ago, Cheli stumbled into my life. My neighbors, who own a stable, mentioned that one of their boarders was looking for a new home for their horse, a 16 hand Thoroughbred/Friesian/Paint cross. Dark bay with a massive stride, this gelding was a bit out of my norm. I was leery, but his owner needed to find a good home for Cheli and she offered him to me for free. I agreed to a test ride.

Our ride started off uneventful. That was until my baseball cap flipped off my head, following a gust of wind, and Cheli jolted into a frantic gallop across the hay field. During our sprint, I quickly realized how powerful he was. It took every muscle in my body to convince him the scary baseball hat wasn’t out to attack and he could stop running.

Despite our bumpy test ride, I agreed to take Cheli. My paint mare needed a buddy (other than her goat) and I wanted a second horse to take family and friends on trail rides. I figured I would put some time on Cheli and eventually he’d settle down. So, a few days later, Cheli’s owner dropped him off.
Cheli’s soon-to-be-previous-owner walked him out into the pasture and this big, bold gelding nearly jumped out of his skin at the sight of one very friendly sheep. Head held high, Cheli paced and snorted, assessing each new curiosity at this foreign farm. My paint mare, who is rattled by nothing,

looked at this new horse with one eye cocked. And, I found myself looking at him the same way, wondering if I had made a very big mistake. 

A few days later I started to work with Cheli. He was hard-mouthed, hard-sided, and confused by my cues, but I fell in love with his “try.” He truly wanted to do what I asked of him. We worked on his ground manners in the arena, and hit the trails. We started to figure each other out.

Within a few months, a bond and trust had formed and I now lovingly refer to Cheli as “my big moose” or “my big teddy bear.” In fact, Cheli and I competed in our first ACTHA event this past fall. We crossed a creek, stepped over logs, pulled a bouquet of flowers out of a mailbox, and ended up with a 5th place ribbon. Not bad for a western pleasure rider and a horse that used to run away from baseball hats. Not to mention, I had a blast riding all day long with my girlfriends. What a fun, friendly organization!

Furthermore, Cheli and ACTHA both served as inspiration for a young adult fiction novel I completed this past year, Red Rock Ranch. I was halfway through the story when I competed in my first ACTHA event. My experience there inspired a twist in the plot– a horse race through the wilderness with multiple obstacles, a bit more extreme than a creek and a bouquet of flowers.

I’m beyond grateful that Cheli found me.

Brittney and Cheli reside in Sherwood, Oregon. Many thanks to Durvet Apple Wormer for sponsoring “This is my Trail Horse”.  Cheli will receive a gift from Durvet.

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