Thursday, March 3, 2016

Meet Sebastian

Sebastian is a Connemara/Irish Draught cross that started his life journey in Ireland. He was owned by a dentist in Ireland and Sebastian served as his foxhunter. Sebastian and another horse, Trevor, caught the eye of a  very wealthy American couple when they were visiting Ireland. The couple purchased both Sebastian and Trevor and imported them to the United States to be their riding horses. After spending his first 8 years in Ireland Sebastian moved to a new country.

Sebastian and his mom showing at the Hampton Classic

In 1994, when Sebastian was 8 years old, he and Trevor made the journey from Ireland to the United States and found themselves living at a barn in the Hamptons on the East End of Long Island.  Trevor and Sebastian were not good matches for their new owners. They were used to being ridden at a gallop towards big fences in the foxhunting field in Ireland.  Their new owners wanted them to be extremely amateur friendly weekend horses that didn't get ridden much. The husband liked to get on Sebastian and gallop him around the giant grass field at the barn. He was a novice rider and fell off Sebastian and was injured. The wife was supposed to ride Trevor but she was scared to do anything other than a very slow trot on him while he was a lunge line.

A young Sebastian with his very dark mane (that is now completely white)

Sebastian showing off some horse show swag that he won

Sebastian and his mom showing off at a horse show

With their owners not comfortable riding them, Sebastian and Trevor found themselves hanging out at their new home in the Hamptons with nothing to do. As it so happened, Sebastian's future mom was boarding her horse Wexford at this same barn. Sebastian's mom was very much a barn rat. She spent every free moment when she wasn't in school at the barn and was happy to ride any horse that someone would let her sit on. Since Sebastian was hanging out with nothing to do she began to ride him.

Sebastian and his mom hanging out at a horse show

Sebastian and his mom

For his mom it was love at first ride. Sebastian has an interesting build thanks to being a cross between an Irish Draught and a Connemara pony. As his mom said, Sebastian has a solid, somewhat long body supported by stumpy little legs. He only measures 15.1 hands, but he seems bigger, and very solid, when you are standing next to him.  Sebastian wasn't a huge fan of flatwork but he loved to jump. When you pointed him at a jump he would lift his head, prick his ears, bound towards the jump and spring over it. He naturally had very good self carriage and impulsion so it was very easy to see a distance on him. Jumping Sebastian was nothing but fun, and he also loved trail riding as well. Sebastian quickly became one of his mom's favorite horses to ride, and since his owners were rarely around she unofficially adopted him.

Sebastian and his mom

After about a year of Sebastian being unofficially adopted by his mom, his owners decided to move Trevor and Sebastian to an estate they owned in Bedford, New York. It would be two years before his mom would see him again. In the meantime his mom had moved up from the Children's hunters to the 3'6" Junior Hunters and Equitation. After a few months his mom had what she describes as a mental breakdown when it came to riding. She had always been a confident and capable rider, and suddenly every jump looked like a Puissance wall.  Her horse Wexford put up with her fear and panic in the show ring, but it wasn't fun or pleasant for either of them.

Sebastian enjoying retirement

After a year of being miserable and scared at horse shows Sebastian's mom and her trainer decided it was time to take a step back and re-evaluate things. Her confidence and love of riding was gone and she felt like her entire identity was gone as well. But a little voice in the back of her mind kept saying "Sebastian, Sebastian."


Sebastian and  Murphy

She hadn't seen Sebastian in two years at that point. Her trainer, her parents and everyone at the barn thought she was crazy. Sebastian had been hanging out at his owners' estate in Bedford essentially doing nothing but a rare trail ride. No one knew how he would come back. Would he be totally wild, or lame, or . . . ?  However his mom was adamant so Sebastian's owners were contacted. They agreed to lease Sebastian and he returned to the barn in the Hamptons.

Sebastian grooming with  Johnny

Sebastian galloping through the pasture followed by Blu


Sebastian came back exactly the same horse that he was when he left. At his first show he walked into the ring like a seasoned pro. Since Sebastian had never shown before they showed the entire season in the pre-greens and did very well on their local circuit, winning the year end championship. They then moved up to the Children's Hunters and even showed in the jumpers from time to time. Sebastian brought back his mom's confidence and love of riding again.


Sebastian and Johnny

Sebastian and Murphy

In addition to horse shows Sebastian and his mom would ride on the beach or gallop the trails. Instead of using a bit and bridle his mom would ride in her saddle but just have a halter on his head with two leadropes for reins. When they got to the beach or to the beginning of a big farm field his mom would stand up in her stirrups and Sebastian would take off at a gallop. When it was time to stop she would sit back and say "ho" and he would come down to a walk.

Sebastian and Johnny

Sam, Sebastian and Johnny

Lighty and Sebastian

In the fall of 1997 Sebastian's mom went off to college and her lease ended.  His mom was devastated. She knew that other people at the barn were interested in leasing or purchasing him and she was terrified he would be sold. As it turned out the right match didn't come along for Sebastian and he went back to his owner's estate in Bedford. The estate in Bedford was about a 2.5 hour drive from his mom's college, and every weekend she would make the drive to see Sebastian and ride him.

Sebastian leading the way

Johnny and Sebastian

Sebastian showing off his big stride

His mom still remembers one memorable ride during that time. She was home for Thanksgiving weekend and drove to Bedford to ride Sebastian before Thanksgiving dinner. Sebastian's owners let a friend of theirs, described by his mom as the "crazy Frenchman," keep a horse on their estate. Bedford has a huge trail system with natural jumps that are maintained by the residents. The crazy Frenchman came out to ride on Thanksgiving day as well and asked Sebastian's mom if she wanted to go on a trail ride with him. She said yes, and before she knew what was happening the crazy Frenchman took off at a full gallop on the trails and never slowed down. Sebastian wasn't going to be left behind so he galloped along while his mom ducked low tree branches, and all his mom could see as they galloped along was the rump of the crazy Frenchman's gray horse. She said it was one of those moments where in the back of your mind you're thinking this probably isn't safe, but you're having so much fun you do it anyway. They spent Thanksgiving morning galloping through the woods, jumping logs and stone walls as they galloped behind the crazy Frenchman.

Sebastian and Renny

Sebastian and Renny

Sebastian and Johnny

After watching her faithfully make the drive every weekend to see Sebastian, her parents realized just how much she missed and loved him. Her Christmas present from them that year, 1997, was Sebastian.  He and his mom were finally a permanent team. After Christmas, when his mom returned to college, Sebastian went with her.

The year Sebastian was his mom's Christmas present. Her mom put this picture in a box and wrapped it up.

Sebastian's mom placed him at a self care barn near her university. She enjoyed the change from a fully staffed show barn environment to doing all of Sebastian's care herself. She took care of him, arranged all of his vet and farrier appointments, and spent a lot of time simply hanging out with Sebastian. She wasn't showing or even riding as much with the demands of college, but in many ways she and Sebastian grew even closer as she was his only caretaker. If he was in his stall he would put his head out his window and look for her as she drove up, If he was outside Sebastian would come running when she called his name.

Sebastian on the go

Sebastian with Chili and Dutch


After his mom graduated from college she moved Sebastian back to the Hamptons while she lived and worked in New York City. She spent every weekend riding and hanging out with Sebastian. After about a year his mom wanted horses in her life more often than on the weekends. She took a job at a barn in the Hamptoms as an exercise rider for a hunter/jumper trainer. She also taught pony camp for this trainer.


Sebastian and Chili

Sebastian became a part of the pony camp and the kids would fight over who got to ride him. He was a nice change from the typical bratty pony. If the kids asked him to canter, and were somewhere within the realm of the correct aids, he would canter. Sebastian would canter slowly around the arena with his head and neck stretched out, while a little 8 year old kid perched in his saddle. He would rhythmically canter to the little crossrail jumps and, instead of jumping with the enthusiastic leap he would do with experienced riders, he would gently jump the jump and keep cantering quietly.

Sebastian likes to eat

Sebastian and B-Rad

Sebastian and Johnny

In the summer of 2007 his mom could tell that Sebastian was starting to slow down. He was very healthy and completely sound, but the enthusiasm he once had for everything was no longer there. When she would point him at a jump the pricked ears, lifted head, and bounding stride were gone. She didn't want to make him spend another winter in New York going around and around in an indoor arena, so she began searching for a place to send him for the winter. Ideally she wanted to find a place with a temperate climate so he could be outside as he preferred, and she thought she might bring him back to New York in the spring.

Sebastian and Lighty

Lighty and Sebastian having play time

When his mom was searching for a place with a more temperate winter climate than  New York, she found us, and in the fall of 2007 we met Sebastian. Sebastian was as self confident during his move to our farm as he was with everything else in life. He walked off the trailer and put his head down to graze before all four feet were off the ramp. That was our first impression of Sebastian. I don't think he's ever really stopped eating since that day.

Sebastian right after he got off the trailer at our farm

Sebastian surveying his kingdom after he had been with us a couple of months

Sebastian was also very popular with the horses in his group from the start. He has never been the type to be clingy or overly attached to one horse. Since he doesn't invade personal space or get needy, other horses gravitate to his quiet confidence. When his mom came to visit that fall after he had been with us a couple of months, I remember all of his friends came running up to the pasture gate to meet him when we put him back outside. Then they all galloped off together out into the pasture. When his mom saw how quickly Sebastian had become a core part of his family group, she decided not to bring him back to New York but to let him have his retirement that he had more than earned, and so clearly enjoyed.

Sebastian and Sam

Sebastian (standing, right) and friends having a lazy day


Sebastian has been as important in our lives as he has been to his mom. He is so confident in any situation we have often called upon him to help a new horse transition into life at Paradigm Farms. He leads by example instead of being pushy and bossy.  Horses that have never been turned out, and definitely haven't been turned out with other horses, learn from Sebastian how to have a friend and how to interact with another horse. He has taught several horses how to relax, have a horse friend and enjoy life.

Sam and Sebastian

life is good

Sebastian and Johnny hanging out in the woods

We don't know exactly how old Sebastian is, except that he is between 30 and 32 years old. At this point Sebastian and his mom have been in each other's lives for 22 years. I told Sebastian's mom that he is one of those rare, truly perfect horses. Since life is fluid the definition of perfection is always changing, and Sebastian is one of those horses that always seems to know exactly what is needed to be perfect at any given moment. He has a truly special gift. . He's seen his mom through high school, college, her first jobs after college, and the death of her mom. Through all of those life changes Sebastian was there, spreading his quite confidence. For the last almost 9 years he has been with us, still giving off his quiet confidence. For his mom he has truly been a horse of a lifetime, and her final gift to him has been a long and well-earned retirement.

Sebastian and friends

Johnny, Sebastian and Lighty running through the pasture on a rainy day

B-Rad and Sebastian

Taco, Johnny, Sebastian and Nemo

We hope you have enjoyed getting to know Sebastian as much as we have!


Anonymous said...

I love these stories - it's so nice to understand the background of the horses (and their people).

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

☝ What Kate said! :D

RuckusButt said...

This is another great story of your residents previous lives and how they came to live with you. I love reading these so much. My dog Hazel is the canine equivalent to Sebastien. She knows just how to change her behaviour to the situation or, more likely, the behaviour of others. She has helped rehabilitate so many dogs that were not properly socialized. It does make me sad that there are so many horses that live their lives without other horses...they are herd animals! They are saints for doing what they do for us under such circumstances.

Vivian S. Vetere said...

so nice to hear Sebastian's story as I have bee seeing his pics for years. I wonder who those people were in Bedford, NY. when I was married to my first husband, we lived in Bedford and our property included the BRLA trails crossing it. We lived near a big horse farm - I took in 2 cats from there- and the Bedford trails were all through that area.

An American in Tokyo said...

How wonderful! I really enjoy this series!
Sebastian is one very smart and lucky horse! =)
I hope his retirement is long and happy!