The Memorable Black Beauties of Jean and Ann Bridges
The Memorable Black Beauties
of Jean and Ann Bridges
by Afiena Kamminga
Spotlight on a remarkable mother-daughter team of New Brunswick equestrians, and on Mo and Tina, their well-known and well-rounded black Morgan horses.
MUHAMMUD 1979 - 1997
At age four the black Morgan colt, Muhammud, foaled in 1979, bred by Lynn Pierce of Welsford, NB, captured the heart of a teenager in search of a new horse, Ann Bridges of Woodstock, N.B. Ann’s mother, Jean, helped her to start the young horse under saddle and in the following years they attended clinics in many equestrian disciplines from jumping to driving to dressage, adding yet one more sport to their activities in 1989 when the horse was ten years old; the new pursuit, competitive trail riding, quickly turned into another full blown success.
In 1991 Ann and Mo competed in the Atlantic Coast Games as members of the gold medal New Brunswick Distance Riding Team, and in the same year they qualified for the New Brunswick Driving Team. In 1992, Muhammud was the first Morgan in Canada to receive the Silver Medaillon Versatile Morgan Award from the Canadian Morgan Horse Association.
Carolyn Wanamaker, well-known N.B. equestrian, attributes the horse’s successful performance in so many disciplines to his ability to change his appearance and way of moving, depending on the type of competition, one moment showing in trail horse class, the next in saddle seat classes and then again putting in a polished performance in English hunter.
Small wonder Mo was not to remain the only black Morgan horse in the Bridges’ barn.
SPRINGHILLS JUSTINA 1981-2007
In 1990, Jean searched for a new horse to be her equine partner in distance riding, by then her favorite equestrian discipline. A family in Maine had a black Morgan mare bred in Minnesota for sale, Spring Hills Justina, and Jean went to look at her. On that occasion the 10yr old mare, tall, elegant and animated, turned out to be a beautiful handful, but Jean saw in her an abundance of the qualities she was looking for – soundness and heart -- and she decided to bring the mare home.
Like her stable mate Mo, the new Bridges’ Morgan received an all-round equine education. She and her owner-rider attended clinics in flatwork and over fences and spent even more hours schooling and conditioning on nearby woods trails; it takes an enormous amount of ongoing effort to create and maintain a well-honed competitive distance horse.
Jean, Ann and the Morgans had fun doing other things too; they even performed in a Musical Ride show together, and in 1995 Tina was the second Morgan, after Muhammud, to receive the CMHA’s Silver Medaillon Versatile Morgan Award. The year after that, she won the Gold Medaillon Award, followed by Platinum in the next year. In 1998 Jean and Tina competed on the national level taking part in the Canadian Trail Riding Championships and winning the Individual Silver Medal, just short of the Gold by only 1 point.
Mo passed away in 1997, leaving a huge empty gap in the barn and in the lives of his owners and many other friends. Tina and Jean carried on, achieving many more highlights in an uncommonly long and brilliant equestrian career which saw them placing consistently at the top in every type of distance competition they entered -- in a sport where everyone knows, ‘to complete the ride is to win.’ And in 2002, Tina was the first ACTRA horse to complete 5000 competitive miles.
Over the years Tina and Jean have raked up a total of 5500 competitive miles -- insiders know that in this sport a horse and rider need to go at least three conditioning miles for each competitive mile completed.
Not only were Jean and Tina a winning team on the trail, they also helped others on the rides to successfully complete the distance, offering to share their experience and company.
Long term ACTRA competitor, Sylvia Gillies, and her horse, Tristan, saw a lot of Tina’s backside -- close up. ‘Tina’s butt,’ Sylvia wrote, ‘was our saving grace. If you had a kooky horse you got behind Tina and your fears were eased. If you needed brakes going down a steep hill, you ran your horse up against Tina’s behind and she gave them [brakes/AK] to you. If your horse pooped out going uphill you just grabbed her tail.’
Sadly, inescapably, Tina’s long, happy and very successful life came to an end in 2007 at age 26. She left behind a huge empty space as well as a stash of cherished memories to treasure for Jean and her family -- and countless other friends; it’s now up to another black Morgan mare, Skye ‘Bridges’, to try fill the tracks left by Tina’s footfalls, which never seemed to falter and, on some other plane, may never fade away.