Featured on our cover this month are Rebecca Vella and her ten-year-old, Clydie-Percheron-Paint mare Taylor’s Legacy, also known as ‘Snow’, and photographed by the talented Olya Tutova from 42beats Photography.
Although she missed out on a childhood filled with horses, Rebecca made up by moving to the country as soon as she was old enough and diving straight into horse-ownership. She now keeps her horses at her and her partner Shaun Gatt’s property, where he trains harness racing horses as a hobby.
“Growing up we always wanted horses but couldn’t afford them so, as soon as I moved out of home into a farm, I got my first horse, a Clydie-Percheron mare called Taylor. I was 21 and had never ridden before, and Tay was very patient with me” says Rebecca. “With the help of my first coach, Justine Greer, she took me from a complete adult beginner rider to going out to my first dressage competition and winning the Level 5 Jackpot at Elmore Equestrian Centre. I’ve had a love for dressage ever since that fantastic day.
“I really had no confidence and I didn’t know anything” says Rebecca. “I rolled up to my first lesson in a synthetic western saddle and pink gear! Then I started learning and soon found out what I wanted to do. Still, it took me a while to learn to balance and keep my hands steady. I was really lucky to have Snow’s mum, she was so forgiving of me bouncing around.”
Unfortunately, as the years went by, Tay became unsound due to arthritis and Rebecca had to make the difficult decision to have her euthanised. She then contacted Tay’s breeders who gave her details of where to find some of her progeny, and Rebecca bought six-year-old Snow, sight unseen.
“She arrived in a float with limited handling, so I sent her to trainers Brendan and Nicole at Mellizo Park in Bolinda” recalls Rebecca. “They did a wonderful job, started her beautifully although after a short time we realised that she was actually in foal!
“So that’s how I ended up with her son, Taylor Tao. Snow’s previous owners were as surprised as I was. They had kept Snow in with their beautiful imported Friesian stallion Shepherds Hill Tao, but they really didn’t think he had taken any interest in her.
“I am so lucky, as I’ve ended up with two beautiful horses to ride. They are both so gentle and quiet, and easy to train. Just lovely horses in every way, calm and confident under saddle.”
“When I first started riding Snow I had some challenges with canter leads but it was more of a balance issue - my own balance combined with hers. I’ve had really good coaching from Nicole Mcown and Kylie Calderwood, and I have learned a lot about young horses.
“Snow is very laid back but she is also quite sensitive. She has one blue (wall) eye and she seems to see things differently on that side. With shadows I have to reassure her that everything is okay. She’s not a ‘smoochy’ kind of horse but she’ll do anything for a carrot! She’s definitely the boss in the paddock.
“Her son Tay is not bothered by much and he’s a little more forward, happy to go. I ride him as well and he has the same solid temperament as his mum.”
Although Rebecca had been working as a groom and stable hand at South Serenity Arabians, she is currently on ‘mummy duties’ to her gorgeous first baby Leo, who is now three months old. Nevertheless, after almost 12 months out of the saddle, she’s back riding Snow and Taylor whenever she can, because horses keep her “nice and happy”.
“I just love horses’ kind natures and how much you can learn from them” says Rebecca. “Everyday I learn something new. And I find them so peaceful to be around. If I’m having a bad day I just go out to the paddock and just being with them makes me feel at ease again. I don’t know what it is but I become calm and can go back inside feeling so much happier.”
“I am truly blessed to have the horses I have, with the temperaments they have and how much they have taught me.”