We love our lesson horses.
Recently, one of our legends experienced some changes in his spine that make it necessary for him to retire from the arena. Sundance, officially known as Bonnie Novel Santoro has joined Brinkley in blissful lesson horse retirement at Knollwood.
We tried to keep him in for a couple of nights, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He told us loud and clear in a way that only a horse can, that he belonged outside with his herd. He’ll continue to live the life of a spoiled lesson horse, just without the lessons.
Born in Iowa on April 24, 1991, the ‘Master of the Pasture’ came to Knollwood as a three-year old and quickly became a mainstay of our lesson program. In addition, he immediately established himself in the pasture as the guy who kept order and was not to be messed with.
With his appointed lieutenants over the years, from Dakota to Skipper to Tony, Sundance has maintained a quiet yet firm control over his herd. He’s not been afraid to send his ‘enforcers’ out after his workers exhibiting poor behavior, however.
He has also presided over the initiation of a giant number of lesson horses in our program. Under his benevolent dictatorship, horses have integrated into the Knollwood herd while always knowing never to mess with Sundance.
As valuable as he is in the pasture, Sundance has been even more important in the arenas and show rings for Knollwood kids of all ages.
Often the first Saddlebred kids ride, Sundance always offered that square trot and smooth canter for which our favorite breed is famous. He sure offered a different experience than our beginner quarter horses and grade starter models.
Sundance taught countless riders to keep their horses head up to avoid the sudden halt or the shy, taught kids to stay ahead of a horse that was always thinking, and how to enjoy a victory pass on a horse that just loved being a horse.
He raised thinking, compassionate riders.
Pictured from top to bottom in the blog are a saddle seat equitation Triple Crown Wnner, a 10 and under academy star who loves horses more than life itself, especially Sundance, a group of kids who have gone on to become champion riders, an Engineering student at the University of Louisville, a World Champion rider who now owns her own business in Lexington, and another world champion rider who is now a student at the University of Wisconsin.
And, oh, he was the perfect bareback horse.
While we will all miss riding him, we’ll take pride and comfort in knowing that he’ll live out his life at the place he’s known since he came in as a green three-year old. And we’ll get to give back to the great horse who taught us so many lessons. He retires as a master professor for generations of riders.
Let the spoiling commence!