Skip to main content

Team #559 Margaret McLaughlin and Hannah Synnove

Team #559: Margaret McLaughlin and Hannah Synnove
From: Bend, Oregon
Ages: 77 & 24
Combined Age: 101
Test: First Level Freestyle
Date: May 22, 2022

The mystery of a horse’s mind prevailed for the Century Club ride with Hannah and me. Sometimes resistant in parts of the preparation practices, Hannah was present and responsive on Saturday night. Her rise to the occasion has wrapped her around my heart more securely than ever.  Who knows what gave her the sense that this was the time to stay round, be forward, and listen?  

I am grateful for such solid human support and appreciation from my family, friends, the Alliance Equestrian Center, and the Central Oregon Chapter of the Oregon Dressage Society (COCODS). Amazement, joy, and a sense of phenomenal good luck are definitely in the wide mix of emotions too. I hope we inspired others in the upcoming chain of possible Century Club rides to come, just as I was inspired by those who preceded me. 

I had chosen to do a First Level Freestyle, for our Century Club ride.  Timing is essential in the preparation for a freestyle ride as it is necessary to keep the music as well as the ride current in one’s mind.  My ride was scheduled to take place during the COCODS Spring Fling Show on May 22nd.  However, the show was canceled for safety due to two recent Equine Herpes M cases in Deschutes County.  That the dressage community was able to understand how critical the timing was for the Century Club ride, and to then find a way to make it happen safely this weekend, amazes me.  What a team!  

My first adventure with Hannah, a Norwegian Fjord horse, began when I called the OSU Extension Agent, Tim DeBoodt, in Prineville, Oregon, to ask a farming question.  Realizing that he traveled throughout the region, I decided to ask him if he had encountered any Fjord horses.  There was a surprised silence, then he caught his breath and told me that he and his wife were going to Yachats on the coast of Oregon to pick up four Norwegian Fjord Horses, two mares, a foal, and a stallion, that very weekend.  Within a few weeks, I had visited them in Prineville and purchased Hannah. They delivered her to our house in early November of 1998.

My interest in acquiring a Fjord horse began with my dream of working with horses to farm small acreages commercially.  A friend of mine had suggested Fjord horses and Haflingers, both small, easily ridden draft breeds.  After a few years of checking out both breeds, I had settled on Fjords.  That said, I have never done serious farming with Hannah.  Liability and equipment costs made it prohibitive for me. Instead, riding and driving her became my passion.

From 2001 until 2004, I rode Hannah on trail rides and in dressage lessons.  She was calm, willing, somewhat lazy, and incredibly sweet. Then I was introduced to combined driving and started to train Hannah to drive.  She learned quickly.  We participated in several CDEs and did reasonably well, even though Hannah always needed nudging.

In 2009, I was given the care and use of a lovely driving Fjord, Janie, while her owner went to Australia.  With Janie’s eager forward way, she took over Hannah’s role in CDE competitions and Hannah became an occasional riding horse. Janie tragically died in 2012.  Rather than put Hannah back in the traces, I sold her to Mary Cuevas, who gave her roles with her grandchildren and as a companion horse to her Lipizzaner, Dante. Dante subsequently died of cancer and Dooley has become Mary’s dressage horse. Hannah is now his companion and has a job as a lesson horse at Alliance Equestrian Center. She gives confidence to beginner riders who adore her.

Mary and I did a First Level Pas de Deux with Hannah and my Fjord, Sven, in the fall of 2021. The two Fjords were a crowd-pleaser, giving us a harmonious ride with good scores.  That experience coupled with Mary’s encouragement inspired me to do the Century Club ride since Hannah is now 24 and I am 77.  She is remarkably capable.  I am delighted to have worked closely with her again!