Joanne & Brandy | Forest Edge Farm | The Senior Horse Project

Joanne with Brandy at Forest Edge Farm

Joanne and Brandy are the next pair in The Senior Horse Project. I photographed Joanne with her two mares, Brandy and Splash, at Forest Edge Farm in Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ. While Joanne and Brandy were not originally participants in the project, when Joanne asked to be included, I was so happy to oblige. Hers and Brandy’s story fit in perfectly with all of the other participants!

Joanne originally contacted me to set up a session to commemorate the life of her mare, Brandy. She planned to include her entire family and her other mare, Splash. Brandy had suffered from health problems for a while, and Joanne wasn’t sure how much time they had left together. While putting together the shot list for their shoot, I joked that it was like more like a wedding than a horse & rider session! Joanne’s family received me so warmly; I felt like a member of the family by the time the shoot was over. Thankfully, Brandy is still with us and spending quality time with Joanne and her sons; unfortunately, her other mare, Splash, has passed away since this shoot.

My most sincere condolences to Joanne, Brandy, and her entire family on the passing of Splash.

Joanne & Brandy | Forest Edge Farm, Little Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Horse: Brandy (Registered Name: Bittersweet Sonny Dee), 24 years old, AQHA/APHA/PtHA – triple registered, photographed at Forest Edge Farm in Little Egg Harbor, NJ

How it all started…

I bought Brandy as a yearling in 1999, it will be 23 years we’ve been together. After losing my first horse, a paint [named] Crystal in 1998, I was looking for another paint mare to join my other horse, Jake. In 1998, friends of mine knew of a mare paint yearling for sale that I may be interested in. Given Brandy was boarded locally, I was able to visit and spend time with her several times before ensuring she was the one [and] buying her. [She was purchased to be a western horse, not just a pleasure horse.]

Brandy was the name I chose for her, as her APHA paper name was “Bittersweet Sonny Dee”. Her great-grandfather is the famous “Sonny Dee Bar”, on her sire’s side. After Brandy, we purchased Splash in 2017, another paint mare. Brandy loved her horse siblings, Jake and Splash, it was if she knew she was part of the same family.

We have done so much and been many places. Reining, cutting, trail riding, beach riding, team penning and sorting, driving, gymkhana. One of her favorite jobs, I think, is babysitter. Seeing how willing and quiet she is when playing red light-green light many times, as my kids learned to control a horse on lead line, is my favorite [memory].

Brandy was not my first horse; however she was my first baby green horse that I was able to train and raise. I was blessed and fortunate to have close friends who were very experienced with babies and with training them…. It was a learning process for both of us. When she was ready to be broke to ride, I visited and trained with her at least weekly, up near High Point, NJ. I knew, like my other horses, she is with me for life…. [H]er needs come first, this has not changed.

[I am] blessed to have family and friends to help support our journey together, still to this day. I was able to find [Brandy’s] original breeder from Iowa, and I keep in contact with her, sharing Brandy’s ongoing journey with her. Knowing Brandy’s back story, as she was born on a working cattle ranch, speaks to her love of working with cows, like her parents did.

[She is my] lifelong companion, she is part of my soul. My mind can totally relax [when I am with her], even when I am just grooming her. She is my relaxation coping skill. [I have never considered selling her.] Over my dead body lol, never! She is like my child; I have 2 boys (8 and 14 years old), but she is my girl.

Highs and Lows…

The highest [point with Brandy] was when we first introduced her to my kids, as babies. She smelled them with such depth and intensity…. [T]hen she put her nose next to my neck, which she often does, and then back to them. Almost, as if she knew, they were part of me, so now they were part of her. Her bond with them, and her care of them through the years continues to have me in tears at times.

The lowest [point] is knowing there will be a time when she won’t be in my life. This fear has always been with me, as age and death are not always on the same path. Until then, I have always been mindful whenever I say good-bye to her…. [I let] her know how much she is loved and how much she has impacted my life with lots of hugs and kisses, including her scent. You never know when a moment will be a last memory.

Where we are now…

[My plans for her retirement are to] take things as they come and let her tell me what she can handle…. At this point her her life, [there are] no expectations. [I am] just blessed for every day I have with her and any time with her.

Joanne, thank you again for the opportunity to work with you, your family, and your amazing mares. And thank you to Forest Edge Farm for having me!

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