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Team #709 Kristin Miller and Bergen Saundra

Team #709: Kristin Miller and Bergen Saundra
From: Chehalis, Washington
Ages: 75 & 25
Combined Age: 100
Test: Second Level Test 3
Date: October 14, 2023

My first three and a half years of life were spent living in Oslo, Norway. As a city kid who was drawn to animals, I especially liked drives into the countryside where many of the fields had huge animals, which I was told were cattle and horses. I still remember the day I could see the difference and was forever hooked on horses. 

Soon after that, my family emigrated to southwest Washington state, where I grew up on a few acres. My love of all animals continued, with horses being at the top of the list. As post post-World War II immigrants, finances did not allow me to have a horse, so I raised sheep, then a couple of calves, and picked strawberries for money. As the years passed, I spent a lot of time with my friends who had horses, and even better, those who had one that would ride double. I saved every cent I earned or was gifted until I was fifteen when I bought Mecca. She was a three-year-old grade mare who was very green. She taught me a lot, the most memorable being that if you have very little actual experience, a green horse, and no saddle, it’s a really bad idea to race said horse. That lesson brought me new respect, as well as a couple of months in a support collar. Three years, and a lot of fun and life lessons later, I had to sell Mecca to go to college. 

Over the years, I’ve had several horses, of various breeds, during stages of my life that allowed it. Nineteen years ago, my husband Rory and I built our retirement home on a few acres close to where I grew up. He had always wanted to learn how to ride, and I wanted a horse again. At 59, he took his first lessons. Then the search began for a couple of horses. Ultimately, we decided to look at Norwegian Fjord Horses and finally settled on two, six-year-old pregnant mares, Bergen Saundra, and Monarch Lana who lived in southern British Columbia. 

Saundra was standoffish and distrustful of humans, especially men, but she had curiosity, kind eyes, and loved to be groomed. It took a full year to develop a bond with her. With lessons and training help from a local trainer, Pam Kiehn, Saundra gradually came out of her shell, and we started to work as a team. We went to local shows and some not-so-local Fjord shows. We competed in western, English, trail, and gaming, with barrel racing being Saundra’s favorite. She could also sail over 3’ jumps. Later, she was trained to drive both single and pairs by our late friend, Brian Jensen. In 2008, we rode the 15-day, 215-mile, John Wayne Trail across eastern Washington. In 2014, we rode with a group of 13 Fjords in the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, California, which was an amazing experience.

Eleven years ago, I had the good fortune to begin training with Kari McClain, which started our dressage journey. It has been an interesting challenge to learn and progress at the same time as my horse, but we continue to improve with Kari’s expert guidance, and patience. We have earned USDF points through Second Level toward the bronze medal. Saundra has some arthritic issues, so rather than working on moving up to Third Level, we will continue to improve our Second Level skills. No matter what I have asked her to do, Saundra has always done her best. As much as I’ve always loved all my horses, she will forever be my heart horse.