|Horse Stories: Coro Dana
By Karen Nelson
Last Updated: December 23, 2008
When you look at a rider, and when you see how they ride and handle horses, it is a reflection of their past experiences
and teachers. The best teachers are the horses. This is a story of my first horse, Coro Dana.
I grew up with a love of horses and started taking riding lessons at Whitemud Equine Centre when I was 10 years old, as
that was the youngest they would take students at the time. My much older sister took lessons and worked at Whitemud
and as it was a 7 minute drive from our house and along a bus route, it never occurred to us to look anywhere else for
lessons. The programs were much different then than now, and progress through the levels was slow as lessons had up
to 9 students each, but it was a fun yet structured place to learn to ride.
I used to hang out as much as possible, and offered my help to the older kids; helping them with their Teaching
Assistant (TA) duties, holding their horses for them, and trying to learn as much as possible. Whitemud was a great
place to grow up!
When I turned 12, I got a job there as a Teaching Assistant and worked as many shifts as I could. It was a job I really
enjoyed; in particular I liked sweeping and teaching the theory lessons. As a kid, it was interesting to be in charge of
teaching and helping adults. Usually TAs worked on there own, but if there was a beginner class scheduled, then two
assistants were needed. This was a big learning experience for me, as some of the kids I was paired with really didn’t
want the job, and did their best to avoid work…trying to work with these people and still be their friends around the barn
helped me learn about diplomacy. Fortunately, for the most part I found myself working with someone who liked their job,
and could find fun in the work. This made the evening go by so much faster and made the atmosphere so much more
enjoyable for everyone.
I wanted a horse, but as the youngest of four kids, it didn’t really seem likely to be in the family budget. Still, I asked for a
horse at every occasion! Horses were definitely my passion, and the barn was where I wanted to spend my free time. I
was lucky that the kids at the barn that did have their own horse or pony still included me in the fun at the barn and
never made me feel like an outsider just because I didn’t have a horse of my own.
When I was almost 13, my sister approached my parents with the idea of her picking out a horse for me at an Arabian
Auction she was going to. I had some money saved up, plus some inheritance from my Grandmother so it was financially
doable and I think she knew this. I am not sure why my parents said yes, but for some reason they did on this occasion.
Just my sister went to the sale, but before she left she asked me what I wanted the horse to be.
My sister and I shared a love of horses, but even that common interest didn’t make us close. We had a rocky
relationship, but because she was a much more experienced horse person than I, and had lots of friends at Whitemud, I
wanted to be on her good side, so when she asked me what I wanted the horse to be, I was more concerned with saying
what I thought I SHOULD say, rather than saying what I truly felt. In truth I wanted a horse that could jump, but as I had
just started jumping in lessons, I thought that she would mock me for wanting a jumping horse (for some reason it didn’t
occur to me I would ride my horse in lessons). Instead of telling her I wanted to jump NOW, I said I wanted an older horse
I could ride on the flat and eventually do some low jumping.
I was so excited waiting to see what she would come home with! Turns out she came home with two horses, of which I
could have my pick. One was a very pretty black going grey, 2 year old Arabian gelding, and the other was a 7 year old
pregnant Arabian ex-racehorse with an old hock injury. On the ride home from the sale, the horse trailer was hit, so the
two horses were banged up and scared by the time I met them! She let me have my pick once they were unloaded…the
7 year old was the one who looked least likely to cause me immediate harm, so I choose Coro Dana. Coro was pretty
much what one would expect for an ex-race horse turned broodmare; not much of a kids horse, but a decently behaved
mare deep down.
I only had money to put her in a tie stall, and for the first few months I was terrified to go in beside her to get her out.
One of the staff had told me she tried to kick them, and hearing that made me wary to go in behind her, even though I
had never seen her try to kick. For a while, the only way I would take her out was to go into the stall beside hers, bribe
her with a carrot to put her head up, then clip a lead rope on, untie her and back her up.
By spring Coro was moved to a box stall to foal, and had a big bay colt that we named Ben. He was a lot of horse even
as a baby, and I sold him at weaning so that I wouldn’t have to pay board on two horses. I sometimes wonder what
became of him as he was well bred to be a performance horse. One of the few memories I have of Ben, is of him leaving
his mother and jumping into the arena to visit with a grey pony that was being ridden. For some reason he loved that
grey pony and would jump in to see him until they made the fence higher. Poor Coro would pace and whinny as there
was no way she was jumping in after him. Ben would be in his 20’s now if he is still alive.
My sister helped me with Coro, so that I was able to ride her safely and eventually I grew to be fairly confident with her,
but I couldn’t do all the things the other kids did with their horses as Coro wasn’t that experienced or calm.
I remember a bunch of us were riding bareback in the arena, and the other kids got on backwards and started to ride
that way, and talked me into trying it too…poor Coro didn’t know what to think...I lasted about two bucks. Once I was off,
Coro just stood and stared at me. She wasn’t a mean horse, she just wasn’t suited to all the goofy things kids think they
should try doing.
Another memory etched into my mind was a trail ride with two other kids. The trails ran through Hawrelak Park, and there
was a nice wide straight stretch that made it enticing to go faster than a walk. I was usually pretty responsible and
wouldn’t go faster than a trot, but on this occasion I let my competitiveness get the better of me; one of the girls I was
riding with was always bragging that her gelding was the fastest horse at Whitemud, and would regularly race the other
kids on this stretch. I wouldn’t race her in the past, and she knew my mare was an ex-race horse so she really wanted to
run her gelding against Coro.
So we started by trotting side by side, then her gelding started to canter in anticipation, which made Coro start to pull. I
could have easily pulled her back, but instead I let her go and off we went. Her gelding was no match for my mare! As
soon as we started to get ahead I started to pull Coro up…I knew galloping her was dangerous and I had proved she
was the faster horse. What I didn’t know was that the sound of galloping hooves had intrigued a photographer that was
in the bushes just off the trail; out he came with his tri pod leading the way! If I thought I was going fast before, I was
kidding myself! Coro and I were truly off at a run now! But alas, the straight stretch was nearing an end and we were
going far to fast to make the turn, so Coro chose to make her own path…one that at first looked safe, but the grass
clearing soon became heavy with trees. My old style helmet flew off, and I had to concentrate on staying on as we
dodged trees and cliffs along the river bank. My face and body were whipped by branches and that little grey mare was
not slowing down. I still remember making the decision to just give up and let myself fall. I still remember getting to my
feet only to find I no longer had my glasses and had no idea which way the trail was. I still remember calling out until a
jogger waded through the bushes to find me and take me to the trail to wait for my friends.
I had cuts on both eyelids and across my chest, but nothing was broken thank goodness, as this was back before cell
phones. My other friend led me back on her calm Quarter Horse mare, and it seemed like it took forever to get back to
Whitemud. Fortunately Coro was able to safely navigate Keillor Road and made it back to the barn complete with tree
branches sticking out of her bridle and saddle.
When I finally caught up to Coro I spent a long time cooling her and cold hosing her legs before making the call to my
mom. She really didn’t like hearing about me falling off, and wasn’t all that impressed about my loosing my glasses!.
Interestingly, years later my sister was walking her dog on those trails, and saw some old broken glasses hanging on a
sign…sure enough, they were my glasses!
Since that experience, I have never had an interest in racing or galloping on the trails. That was a lesson that stuck with
Coro may not have been a stellar trail horse or kids horse, but she was a decent mare in other ways and did help me
learn to ride. She was a forward mare who needed contact, with a giving hand, unlike the lesson horses who mostly
wanted their heads. She made me learn about connection between hand and leg, and about feeling the horse’s jaw.
Coro however, wasn’t a jumping horse; not sure if she just didn’t like it, or if it hurt her hocks to jump, but she was not
suited to what I wanted to do. Our only attempt at a jumping show did not go so well, with Coro running out and trying to
I eventually came to the decision to sell her. Without the benefit of the internet, I decided a breed sale like the one she
was purchased at was the way to go. My non-horsey mom and I rented a truck and trailer and took Coro to an Arabian
horse sale in Red Deer and sold her to a rancher who used her on his farm. I cried the whole way home.
Looking back at this experience reminds me of some good times, and some frustrating times. Coro was not the right
horse for me, but she still taught me some valuable lessons, and was a kind mare in many respects.
Looking back at this, reminds me that kids often tell you what they think you want to hear, rather than what they really
want. Kids can be afraid to put their dreams in words for fear of ridicule, or in fear of disappointing those around them. I
wonder what would have happened if I had been more honest with my sister that I wanted a horse that could jump?
|Coro and baby Ben in the paddock
that used to be behind the indoor
arena at Whitemud.
|Coro and I at our first "away" show. This was
taken back in 1986, and I was 13 years old.
Note the old velvet helmet with an elastic
strap to hold it on, and the rubber riding