The Secret Life of McKenna: When McKenna met Dorito

Our first four-legged best friends always hold a special place in our hearts. Junior blogger McKenna Oxenden looks back on the eight years she’s shared with her superpony, Dorito.

From McKenna:

Eight years ago today, my life changed. My life changed for the better; my life became inspired. Eight years ago today I began the journey. The journey to prove everybody wrong, the journey to the top. Eight years ago today, I officially got the ride on Dorito Cooler Ranch.

I had already been riding Dorito for a year and had been asking to have him ever since the first ride. When December of 2004 rolled around I was of course begging for him! As you may remember, I did indeed receive a “one day per week” lease on the horse of my choice. Little did we know, a mere two months later things would be changing.


I’ll never forget that day. One of my best friends, Sydney, was out of town so we trekked out to the barn so I could work with her horse Bella. My mom hollered to make it quick since it was so cold and we had “things to do, places to go, and people to see!” Being the good kid I was, I hurried through my ground session with Bella and groomed her in record time. Only when I finished, my mom was no where to be found… no biggie, I can just wait it out. Thirty minutes later, I begin to reorganize my spot in the tack room, making everything looked neat and pristine. After what seemed like an eternity, I began to search for my mom again. The car is locked, the barn is empty, nobody to be found. Back to the warm tack room–it’s beginning to get dark and I am starting to freak out. “Is my mom OK?!” I search again, and again. Finally, hours later, my mom comes bursting into the tack room. After recovering from my panic attack as to where my mom had gone, she calmly blurts out:

“Well does my it help my case that I think I just got you a horse?”


“Well Vanessa and I opened a bottle of wine and we started chatting and then it just kind of happened… I mean there are still some things to be worked out but I gave her a dollar and we said we would figure it out.”

Classic Momma Oxenden. February 4, 2005 is the day everything was set in stone. I had just come home from school and my parents sat me down and said, “We just got off the phone with Vanessa. It looks like you have a pony.”

Talk about a dream!

Dorito was my everything–and he still is. When I got him, we were both babies. Together we learned, grew up, conquered new things, failed, succeeded, won some, lost some, injuries, bumps, and bruises and everything in between.



Our eventing career started in 2007 and didn’t start out very promising. Falling off at the first show jump at my first event? But we went on to prove that we were there to fight, and we weren’t giving up until we proved every single person wrong. We started eventing in April, and didn’t finish our first event together until July. We capped off the year by sweeping the elementary division to win the horse trial at Full Moon Farm.

In 2008, we joined the big kids on the recognized eventing scene. We had some thrills and some spills, but finally had success in August, finishing our first recognized event, Olney Horse Trials!

The 2009 event season started out a bit rough again, with my first event of the season resulting in me crashing at fence 8 on XC after finding out that Dorito had turned into mean, lean, XC machine a.k.a. rockstar pony and a rider who didn’t know how to ride a rockstar pony! After some work, we came back to the event scene getting more and more educated every single day and event.


In 2010, Dorito and I really began to shine. We posted six out of seven clean cross country rounds, three double clear show jump rounds, three with one rail and our most accumulation being one round with two rails. In August, we moved up to novice, making it feel like a breeze. We attended the summer O’Connor Event Team camp, and amazed everybody with the super pony powers.

2011 was a year of solidifying the basics, making novice become “easy.” Of seven cross country runs six were double clear, we had two dressage scores in the 30s, and we got tons and tons of education. We capped off the year at Rubicon HT, having one of my best XC rounds and sealed the deal of a working student position. Together we got to experience some clinics with Stephen Bradley, and a few lessons from Hannah Sue Burnett. One of the most special things of all was when the United States Eventing Association’s US Eventing Magazine announced that Dorito was the October Pony of the Month and he was featured in the magazine.

2012 was arguably the best year of all. We came out roaring, ready to show that we were there to fight and ready for training level. When our debut came around, we ultimately had a bad day at the office. We took a step back, analyzed, went back to the drawing board, and worked even harder than before. In June, together, Dorito and I packed up for Somerset, VA to take to our first working student position. We trained hard and completed our first training level event. XC was foot perfect and Dorito gave me his all. The 2012 season was awesome.


All good things must come to an end. Dorito is on the search to find a new little rider, who will love him almost as much as I do, because nobody can ever love him as much as me. He is going to make somebody so happy.

I never expected this pony to become what he is today. I’m not even sure what I expected to come out of this. Before I got him, I was trying to event another horse because Dorito used to be so unpredictable. But we were meant for each other, the peanut to my butter. Dorito is far more than what I could EVER imagine. If you asked me eight years ago today what Dorito would become, “training level event horse” is not what would come out of my mouth. But that’s what he is. Dorito Cooler Ranch is a training level event horse, with the biggest heart imaginable.

Together, Dorito and I won 51 ribbons, two plaques and two prizes. We were truly the dynamic duo. There is no doubt, without this guy, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Dorito has taught me so much. How to not throw my shoulders over fences, how much fun galloping is, what it’s like to fly, how great a feeling it is to cross the finish line, what failure feels like, the sweet taste of success, and maybe most importantly, what it’s like to have a best friend. It’s been a long eight years, with lots of ups and downs, lots of tears, hugs, laughter, and gallops. There was never a day where seeing his beautiful face, didn’t succeed in cheering me up. Happy eight years to my best friend.

“Eight years later, time goes by fast. Got my memories, they will last. I try to keep it simple cause I hate goodbyes, but I will remember you.”

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