Five years ago, Taylor Dowd was scrolling through Petfinder.com when a chestnut mare caught her eye.
Dowd wasn’t really looking for a horse of her own, but the self-confessed “chestnut mare person” saw something in Clarissa that intrigued her. She filled out the adoption form and was approved.
Once Dowd got Clarissa, who had been started under saddle, she began to learn more about the 7-year-old mare, who had been seized in a neglect case.
“The connection was just immediate,” she said. “I had no idea what she had been through prior to me being interested in her.”
Clarissa and several other starving animals had been taken in by Last Chance Ranch in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Many didn’t survive after being rescued, but Clarissa and another gelding did.
The mare was so weak she wasn’t able to stand on her own.
“They showed me pictures, and it was pretty horrific,” she said. “From what they had told me, it was pretty touch and go. They had the fire department out to lift her up because she just couldn’t stand on her own.”
Clarissa spent a month in an Anderson Sling until she was strong enough to stand independently, and a few months later she was put up for adoption.
At the time, Dowd had experience riding hunters and jumpers, but her barn owner, Meghan Richards, had recently convinced her to try dressage. Clarissa was the first horse she’d ever owned. She decided the mare’s name would be Against All Odds.
Dowd, 24, a nursing school student who hopes to become an ICU nurse, has been enjoying the challenges of dressage, and Clarissa has taken to it as well.
“I wanted to branch out and challenge myself,” she said. “I had been on lesson horses, and I felt I was ready for that next step, to take on something for my own. I thought she would be a good start, and she has been. She’s been amazing.”
The pair trains with Jamie Leuenberger in Pittstown, New Jersey, and will be competing in the adult amateur training level championship this weekend at the U.S. Dressage Finals, a feat Dowd can hardly believe.
“It was definitely unexpected,” she said. “It’s been kind of crazy, but it’s super cool. I’ve never done anything like this before. Even Regionals, going to Virginia, I’ve never done anything like that. She’s never gone to an away show or ever been trailed for six hours. She handled it like she’s been doing it her whole life.”
Dowd got a DNA test on Clarissa a few years ago but isn’t sure how accurate it is. It said the mare was Holsteiner and Quarter Horse, and Dowd said she definitely looks more like a warmblood.
She said Clarissa is practically bombproof in the ring and is calm, cool and collected in every situation. And surprisingly, she’s not a typical chestnut mare.
“She’s so mellow. She’s so sweet,” she said. “She’s a little bit reserved in a way. She likes to do her own thing, and she’s very aware. It’s her world, and we’re just all living in it. She’s not cranky or nasty. She’s got a huge personality.”
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