Sabrina Stoffregen tells the story of two little girls falling in love with horses and how that love has changed her family’s life.
Be sure and check out Part 1 of Sabrina’s story, detailing how her rescued TWH mare gave birth to surprise twin foals! Photography courtesy of Olivia Schelly, owner of Yah Yah Photography.
What little girl doesn’t grow up dreaming that some day she might own a horse of her very own? For most, this dream is just a bit out of reach. When my eight-year-old daughter, Grace, began riding, I anticipated this ever-so-important question of owning her own horse would come up eventually. Perhaps when she was 11 or 12, I thought. I never dreamed that reality would come true so soon.
Grace started taking horseback riding lessons when she was five years old with Tennessee Walking Horse trainer, Antoinette Mauro, in Sherwood, Oregon. Antoinette was trained in Equitation and has an amazing talent to see the potential of a young rider and match that child with the right horse. When asked why she loves being a horse trainer, Antoinette replied, “Because I love to develop that special relationship between the horse and rider and see that moment in a child’s eyes when a connection is made with the horse.”
When Grace was five, she bonded instantly with Antoinette’s Tennessee Walking Horse, Faith. Grace is a gentle soul—very soft spoken. She has a tender heart and a true love for horses. The first time Antoinette put Grace on Faith there was an undeniable connection. For the first few months, Antoinette taught Grace the basics of horsemanship, grooming, tacking, ground work and barn chores. At the end of each lesson, she spent a few minutes sitting in the saddle on Faith.
Her breakthrough moment came three months later when that formation of trust between Grace and Faith was cemented and together they walked 15 steps in the pasture. After that moment, no one could stop her. She would ride around and around in the pasture all by herself. For Grace, it was all about gaining confidence. Antoinette intuitively knew that Grace needed to work up her confidence before she could have a positive horse experience.
Sofie, our five year old, is the complete opposite of her sister. At four years old, she announced to Antoinette that she was going to start riding too. This feisty filly insisted on riding Antoinette’s miniature Shetland Horse, Gambler, bareback all by herself. Sometimes, she even rides him backwards.
I knew after a year of riding that my girls were horse crazy. One afternoon, I mentioned to Antoinette that if the right horse ever came along, one she felt would really connect with my daughters the way Faith does, that we would love to talk about possibly leasing a horse. I never dreamed that two months later we would rescue Sephira, a Tennessee Walking horse, who would eventually give birth to surprise twins, Annabel and Oliver.
When we first told Grace that Sephira was going to be part of our family, I surprised her with her very own “mock” Young Rider magazine cover. I’ve never seen a little girl’s face light up as bright as Grace’s did that day.
Not unlike Grace and Sofie, Annabel and Oliver have very different personalities. Both foals have gorgeous conformation and are well-mannered. Annabel is a feisty filly who needs to be challenged—a perfect match for our high-spirited Sofie.
Oliver is easy going and very calm, an easy fit with our gentle Grace. It warms my heart to see how these foals have already taught my daughters trust, confidence, patience, being present in the moment, responsibility and love.
This has been such a wonderful learning journey for our whole family. Grace, was so excited to stand up in front of her 2nd grade class and share a video of Oliver after his first bath. She confidently answered her seven-year-old classmates’ creative questions about what horses like, how much they weigh, whether they really sleep standing up, if they wear pony-size horseshoes and whether they can play fetch.
When they are not grooming, training, or cleaning stalls at the barn, our girls are still all about horses.
I hope when my daughters grow up they remember getting dirty, riding horses backwards, falling off and getting back on, learning to listen to their equine companions, barn days, and sharing an unbreakable bond with their horses.
I expect big things from Annabel and Oliver; they have big hooves to fill. The twins’ great grandfather is the 1996 World Grand Champion He’s Putting On The Ritz. But at the end of the day, they are my daughters’ horses, and they will be loved.
The day we took this photo, it felt very cinematic, walking the horses along the lake with expansive views of the Willamette Valley wine country as the sun set on the horizon. I often think of this moment when people ask me what it’s like having twin horses. There is a beautiful serenity that we experience everyday being with our equine companions, and at the same time, an uncertainty of what’s on the horizon. But we’re all on this journey together.