Amateur Showcase: Craigslist Mare Gives Owner The Best Gift Of All

Oct 19, 2021 - 2:56 PM

Nine years ago, Alayna Joseph was on the hunt for her next horse. She knew she wanted a smaller draft cross to fit her 5’4” stature, so when an ad for a mare fitting that description popped up on Craigslist, she jumped at the chance.

“When I went to go get her, the woman said she’d won her in a raffle,” she remembered. “She was kind of hesitant to release any information on that. She later disclosed that she was in a kill pen. It didn’t matter to me. The horse was sound and had impeccable demeanor. She was like a puppy dog. She’d do anything for you. Even today, you can put a kid on her, and she’s perfectly fine and will babysit, but as soon as I get on her, her hair lights on fire, and she’s ready to go.”

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Alayna Joseph and Plane Jane. Photo courtesy of Alayna Joseph.

That mare, dubbed Plane Jane, was meant to be a trail and pleasure riding horse but turned out to be a fun—if not always easy—eventing partner for her adult amateur owner.

“She started jumping jumps in the pasture,” Joseph, 29, said. “I thought, ‘OK, well, we’ll see how this goes.’ We did a couple of schooling shows, and she came home in second place; [we] had a great time.”

They’ve since competed through novice level with help from trainer Mary D’Arcy.

“[“Jane”] is very strong willed and very brave and will almost jump anything, even if she has to jump it backwards at her own demise,” Joseph said. “It’s been very successful, although I can’t just eat my chips and ride! I have to do a lot of work to get her there. My first eventing mount was very timid in a lot of different ways. She’s so much different that I have so much fun because even though I do have to work really hard to keep her rhythm and balance, I know that when we get to a fence, she’s going to take it. There’s no question in my mind if she’s going to stop or panic.”

Joseph had no plans to stop competing, but on Valentine’s Day 2017, a tornado hit her property in Richmond, Texas, just outside of Houston, destroying her home and damaging her barn.

While she’d heard the warnings, Joseph thought she’d done everything she could by locking up the barn and windows. Even so, the tornado caused severe damage. Part of the chaotic post-storm scene included her neighbor’s horse trailer, which had been blown through her fence line and almost into her bedroom.

Local equestrians pitched in to start a fundraiser for Joseph, who works full-time at a local chemical plant.

“So many people who’d never really talked to me at an event before but just kind of knew me through eventing had donated and helped and asked if there was anything they could do,” she said. “People from my work came out to help clean up. It’s a very humbling experience, when everyone can see all of your belongings in the yard.”

She decided, with the stress of rebuilding, that it might be a good time to put competing on hold and try to breed Jane.

As they rebuilt, she and her now-husband Chase Joseph lived for nine months in a recreational vehicle, battling Hurricane Harvey and a rare Houston snow storm. They’ve been living in a mobile home since then and are working on building a house.

According to a DNA test Alayna did on Jane, the mare, now about 11 years old, is Belgian-Criollo, which might explain her unique coloring. Alayna knew she wanted to replicate the mare’s personality but hopefully breed something a bit more talented over fences and slightly taller.

She chose the Holsteiner stallion Lotus T, whose owner was running a promotion for a breeding.

And then came Fly By, or “Ara.”

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Fly By with her dam. Photo courtesy of Alayna Joseph.

“I wasn’t ready for her just yet,” she said with a laugh. “I was taking Jane’s temperature every night, checking for colostrum, doing all the things, and there was no indication that she was going to come that night. When I went out to the pasture to get her at 6 a.m. before work and bring her in and feed her, up runs this little filly: ‘Hi! What’s your name?’ I was so overwhelmed.”

Alayna had been inspired to name her mare Plane Jane because when she jumped, she flew like an airplane. When Ara was born, she decided to keep the theme going and name her Fly By. She said if she gets another horse, she’ll name it Cleared For Takeoff to continue the theme.

Alayna wasn’t quite sure what to expect when breeding her mare, but Fly By has turned out to be something special.

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Photo courtesy of Alayna Joseph.

“One of my friends said, ‘So many people breed mares that don’t have a performance record, or good brains or anything like that. If you make the decision to breed that mare, it’s going to be a good one.’ That really stuck with me,” she said. “Some people just breed to breed, and I had something special on my hands. Even if it didn’t have papers or bring home a blue ribbon every time, it was just Jane. She turned out to be an awesome mommy. I couldn’t have asked for a better mare. She was so good to Ara.”

While Ara isn’t quite 16 hands yet at age 3, she’s got the movement Alayna hoped for—and Alayna said she’s OK if her baby remains a “pocket rocket.”

“I think she’s going to be quite fun,” she said. “Her canter is so balanced; her trot is so floaty. I’ve had multiple people come and tell me they think I’ve bred the perfect hunter horse.”

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Alayna Joseph and Fly By at the USEA Future Event Horse Central Championships. Claire Kelley/USEA Photo

Alayna took Ara to the U.S. Eventing Association Future Event Horse Central Championships, held Oct. 9-10 at Haras Hacienda in Magnolia, Texas. They came out winners, taking home the 3-year-old title.

“It was unexpected; I hadn’t done one of these before,” she said. “I always go in with the mindset of, do the best that you can, learn as much as you can. She was kind of anxious on Friday when we got to the venue, then we did the jump clinic on Saturday, and she settled in. I got some really good riding out of her that day.”

Alayna said Ara was the judges’ favorite that weekend, and she’s excited for the future with her homebred.

“Sometimes you just don’t really know what you have until you get the right pair of eyes on it,” she said.

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