Team #629 Jackie Gallant and Donnie
Team #629: Jackie Gallant and Donnie
From: Cambridge, Ontario
Ages: 68 & 32
Combined Age: 100
Test: Introductory Level Test C
Date: April 23, 2023
I was bitten by the horse bug when I was eight years old. My mother loved horses and wanted us to have the experience, so bought a black Shetland pony for my three brothers and me. No formal lessons, no saddle, no hard hat, and sometimes no shoes. Despite his somewhat diabolical pony nature, I fell in love with horses. An example of what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I outgrew him and moved on to a chestnut mare named Holly. I lost her to Navicular and continued with her son, Chuka until I sold him to go to university.
The next years were “horseless” as I earned a BSc in Microbiology and established my career in the veterinary vaccine business. The riding bug bit again and I part-boarded another chestnut mare named Over-the-Moon. Riding was sporadic through this time as I worked on growing my family with my husband Adrien, three children, and a career in science. In 1995 I had the opportunity to start my own vaccine business, following the shutdown of the company I was working for.
Our daughter, Melissa, was now nine and showed an interest in horses. So, I had to get a horse for her to ride (nobody believed that was my real reason). My horse shopping started with a high school friend that had become a horse dealer. He said he had a nice little chestnut Quarter Horse gelding that I could try. This was the first horse I looked at and I was instantly drawn to his muscular physic, rich color, and confident demeanor. So “Danny” became Donnie, and he came home with me. I naively believed that you get on a horse and ride it. Nothing bad can happen. Thankfully, Donnie was a do-anything-and-go-everywhere type of horse. He was strong, opinionated, and very smart, but also very agreeable. In the early years, Melissa learned to ride, but his size and strength were overwhelming (he is only 14.2 hands but has an 18 hands personality) so she was not comfortable with him. Somebody needed to ride him.
I had never had so much fun on a horse, we went everywhere hacking, eventually training to jump as a hunter, and then dressage. He retired from hunters at 19 years and started his dressage career at 20. By the time he reached 23, I decided the rigors of showing in the heat of the summer and traveling in a trailer were too much to ask. We showed up to Level 1 and went to the Ontario Silver Dressage Championships. At 25, I thought he would probably want to retire or slow down, but apparently not. I tried three different horses to take over, but one died and the other two didn’t work out. I continued to ride Donnie throughout and at the age of 32 and am still riding two days a week. In 2021, I got the opportunity to ride a Welsh pony- ADK’s Paddington (Paddy) and now lease him full-time. Back to a pony, so now I don’t ever have to grow up. This pony is a treasure and we showed dressage Training Level in 2022 with unexpected success. I am working on making him do anything, go everywhere pony. He is 13 so he has lots of years left.
My granddaughter Roselyn, 15 months, cheered me on for the Century Club ride and perhaps we can look at the next generation of riders. I have a pony! Many thanks to the patience and support of my husband of 42 years, Adrien. He never complained about my riding adventures or the ridiculous cost of owning a horse. Happy wife, happy life, I guess.
Donnie had not been feeling his usual self in the weeks leading up to the ride, but on the day, he watched all the people come into the arena and a sense of calm descended over him. His fans were there, and he had to show them his best. And he did. Bending is not as easy as it used to be but he scored 70.5 and showed everyone that you can never count a Quarter Horse out. I am blessed to have him in my life (25 years in June) and that he would dig deep and give me a perfect ride for our Century Club membership.