Twenty eight year-old war horse, My Dreaming Prince (Stitch), and her owner, 21 year-old Ali Dulmes of Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin are still going at it. This past weekend at a show in Jefferson, Wisconsin; Ali showed Stitch in western pleasure, horsemanship, and showmanship, earning wins and points in all three events.
"Stitch was in his glory at the horse show. He was the happiest horse in the show pen loping around with horses not even half his age," says Becky Schwab, Ali's trainer. "Ali and Stitch are more than horse and owner, Stitch is a part of Ali. Stitch has been a part of Ali's life for ten years, and will have a forever home at Becki Schwab Performance Horses."
Stitch is a 1984 brown gelding, with an extensive performance record. Stitch has superiors in western pleasure, horsemanship, hunter under saddle, showmanship, western riding, and trail. He has multiple World and Congress placings, along with a Reserve Congress Championship in the Western Riding. He has also been High Point in the Nation for western riding, showmanship, and hunter under saddle.
Stitch is so special to Ali that she wanted to share her story about her old war horse with GoHorseShow. Check out their story below!
In Ali Dulmes' own words:
Horses have been a huge part of my life since I was three years-old. My mom had horses her entire life, my sister loved horses from an early age, and it was fate that I would have the same love for these creatures in my heart. It seemed like it was destined that Stitch would come into my life, and looking back on it; it seems almost unbelievable. The day after having my sister's beloved horse, Vegas, pass away, we got a phone call from trainers, Ed and Sandy Anderson. They had found an 18 year-old war horse, My Dreaming Prince, in Arizona that they somehow knew would be perfect for me.
It was a huge debate in our household to even consider buying such an old horse, but even with our saddened hearts, it somehow felt so right. After buying this horse sight unseen, there were still many doubts that he wouldn't be nice, would be too old or that I wouldn't like him. When I met him, I knew I couldn't have been more wrong. He was stunning.
It wasn't love at first sight, but our relationship has grown into a once-in-a-lifetime love over the past ten years. As a child I struggled to even get him to lope for me (as he wanted to do flying lead changes every stride). Once he got used to my short legs, and I learned how to ride him, we became a perfect pair.
Over the years I did a handful of quarter horse shows with him, but focused on 4H shows and State Expo. Stitch rarely failed to come through for me in the ring when it really mattered, and over the years we won many classes and championships in equitation, horsemanship, showmanship, pleasure, western riding, hunter under saddle and trail. He was a do-it-all horse for me, and taught me how to compete successfully in every event.
Not only is Stitch a great horse in the show ring, but also one of the most friendly horses I've ever met. He never misses an opportunity to snuggle or be close to me and the other people in his life. His sweet disposition has rewarded him with many friends who spoil him with treats. One of his favorite things to do, other than flying lead changes, is bowing. He bows almost every time I walk into the stall or buckle his blankets. Anyone who looks him in the eye can see that he has an old and gentle soul.
In the past ten years, he has become my best friend and I know I'll never find another horse that will hold the spot in my heart that he has captured. Since moving to college in Madison, I am especially thankful for his health because I haven't been able to be there for him as much as I would want. Thankfully, my family understands and shares the love I have for him. My mom has put in hours of time to make sure he is treated like the king he is when I am away.
Despite the attention and care he was receiving, this spring Stitch finally started to show his age. For about a month, he was so sore and stiff that walking out to pasture was painfully hard work. His suspensory muscles were worn out, and riding was out of the question. I was tormented at the thought of not riding or showing him again--that's when we decided that Stitch would need a lot of extra care in order for him to continue a happy life.
Upon seeing the pain he was enduring, my mom and I chose to have some major changes made for him. He now has elevated egg bar shoes to take the weight off his suspensory muscles, and takes Previcox and Adequan to reduce his pain and inflammation. I also began to poultice him at night and taught him how to stretch his legs to reduce his stiffness. I prayed every day that he wasn't going to continue in a downward spiral, and that these changes would be sufficient to rid him of his sore stiff legs.
My prayers were answered after a few weeks of the new treatment. He was back in action and ready to ride. It warmed my heart when he was gladly flipping leads on me and even being a little "naughty". Over the course of the summer he continued to perform better and better. The twinkle was back in his eye. With encouragement from my trainer and family, I decided to take him to Jefferson to show at the AQHA show. He hadn't been to any four day shows in a few years, so I was hesitant that this would be too much for him. Even so, I wasn't about to miss any opportunities with him. Time with him is precious to me.
Going into the show, I had no expectations. I wasn't sure how this old boy would compare to the young competition. All I hoped for was the opportunity to enjoy five days doing nothing but spend time riding, showing and working with Stitch. It turned out that he still had quite a bit of spunk and show ability left in him. He was second and fourth in the Novice Amateur Western Pleasure, and first and second in Novice Amateur Showmanship. I am more than thrilled that he did so well and showed absolutely no signs of old age that he had shown in April.
If anything, he was feeling better than he has in years. It was almost like he knew he was back on the circuit and knew he came to do a job. Every time I rode his ears were perked up; I haven't seen him happier. And if I wasn't sure he was feeling 100%, he proved it to me in showmanship practice, where he was snaking his neck and taking off at a lope during trot corners. We couldn't help but laugh at his antics. I plan to continue to show and ride him as long he still loves it.
I've never loved a horse more, and never will. He has taught me so much over the years and has helped me to become a better rider. At 18 years of age, when we bought him, he was a finished show horse, but I was green. Ten years later, we understand each other perfectly making the time spent learning who he was entirely worth it. Today nothing brings me more joy than to lope him around bareback knowing that he is living a fabulous life, being loved by everyone that meets him. The memories we have made are irreplaceable. I couldn't ask for a more perfect companion.
I am thrilled to read about the horse I loved so much. When I bought him his barn name was Prince. I didn't like that name and when I saw the small scar on his hind quarter, I knew we had to call him Stitch. He has so much personality and always gave me 100%. I taught him to bow and he would bow anytime he thought he would get a treat. Please give him a big hug for me and tell him I am so glad to hear that he is still healthy and has such a loving and caring owner to take care of him in his senior years. He will always be remembered by me as a great horse not to be forgotten.