The World of Living with Horses

Training Challenge: Mare On A Mission


By Stephanie von Bidder

Flawless was supposed to be a black-and-white pinto. Genetics dictated a 7/8 chance she would be. Clearly, the other 1/8 was chestnut with a white star.Maddie was born special – the spitting image of a mother appropriately named Flawless. In reality, they were both special.

The filly stood out on a breeding farm that specialized in producing warm-blood pintos. As Flawless matured, her owner found she was unusual in ways other than color; a beautiful mover, athletic and even-tempered, she was an ideal candidate for motherhood.

Eventually, she gave birth to Pizzazz, later nicknamed Maddie. The little ruby princess grew up surrounded by grandparents, aunts and uncles of a very different color.

Fast forward six years to a busy schooling ring in Tryon, NC. Maddie has moved away from her family and is proving herself a capable young show horse.  She is athletic, determined and focused, or so I thought.

We are breezing through a pre-show school when I am suddenly clearing jump after jump on a horse that is staring at something off in the distance. I ignore her behavior, thinking it a temporary distraction.

As I continue, her head and neck are like a periscope twisting and turning in whatever direction she chooses to stare. Frustrated, I stop and see that there are spots approaching: Maddie recognizes them as her Uncle Newsprint.

Never having been in this situation, I let Maddie take a look at Newsprint, then try to get back to business. Work is a fruitless endeavor; no matter where I want her to go her eyes are glued to him. I’m terrified to let her near anticipating she’ll scream and holler for him the whole horse show. I immediately take her back to the barn hoping we won’t run into him again.

The next day we managed to show without sighting Newsprint – until Saturday night. We’re warming up for Maddie’s first big night class under the lights. She feels great and I know she’s ready. Then up strolls the big spotted horse and she is driven to distraction – a mare on a mission, and not my mission.

I cave. There is nothing to do but let her visit him. So, we walk alongside to say hello. She turns her head to lightly touch his neck with her nose.


We stood beside Newsprint for a few minutes while I watched some horses go. She finally felt relaxed and happy. Entering the ring, I had no idea how Maddie would behave. She was perfect– so perfect, she was called back in the top 10.

I was so proud of Maddie that night, realizing that she was growing up; realizing, too, that I still had a lot to learn.

Training Challenge: Trusting Maddie to be the mature show horse that I prepared her to be.


Stephanie von Bidder

Stephanie von Bidder grew up in New York’s Westchester County, where she had the opportunity to learn from Patricia Neff, Jerry Carollo, Joe Fargis and Darren Graziano. She now lives in Aiken, South Carolina at her own Daybreak Farm, a full-service hunter and equitation show stable. She trains riders of all ages and abilities in addition to their four-legged counterparts. Von Bidder holds her SCHJA judge’s card and is applying for her USEF license. In 2010, she completed her USHJA Trainer’s Certification.

Share your horse training stories or ask Stephanie about your horse training challenges by commenting on her articles.

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