Andante, a fast and loose mare, has spent a lifetime living down her name—a project in which she has had uncommon success. When she was a 3-year-old filly she refused to be broken. After she became a mother, it was felt that she had mellowed, and a saddle and bridle were put on her. The first time she was hunted she took off like a blind deer and ran straight into a tree, breaking both of her rider's arms and collecting 11 stitches in her own skull plus, soon after, a new owner.
This hopeful decided to jump Andante, and his experiment did prove two things: Andante was still no lady, but she was a real jumper. She would come right into the ring and right out again, leaping merrily over gate, rail and anything else in her way. It wasn't long before she had jumped herself out of that owner too.
A fortnight ago at the Devon, Pa. Horse Show, Andante, now 15 years old and more disciplined, though no less spirited than before, was still leaping, but only over approved barriers, and she was winning. For the fifth time in six years she took the Eastern Area U.S.E.T. Challenge Trophy, giving her owner, Trainer Dave Kelley, permanent possession of the bowl. Despite her past record at Devon, Andante's performance came as a surprise. Last year in the same show she wrenched a shoulder, and at this year's event she hadn't done much but rub or refuse fences. As Kelley said, "She wasn't jumping happy."
She never had, of course. In the 10 years Kelley has trained her, Andante, unlike other horses who prick their ears in the ring, has always laid hers flat against her head and has looked at fences as though she would just as soon bite them as jump them. In her first days with Kelley, she kicked between fences and developed a unique, twisty quick-changing stride when approaching them that made her extremely rough to ride. But Kelley coaxed a grudging cooperation out of her, and Andante became a remarkable jumper, winning three national high-score awards for open jumping, the Professional Horsemen's Association championship and many individual show tricolors and ribbons.
Through the years Andante has never ceased to be temperamental about making her entrance into the ring. Lunging and kicking, she still scatters the horses and riders that throng near the in gate. Although the mare is now almost a lady at home in Armonk, N.Y., when she arrives on a show grounds she tenses up and forgets completely her carefully acquired good manners.
At the end of the season, long past the age other horses are put out to pasture, Andante will be bred. Like all prima donnas, she showed with her triumph at Devon that she knows how to make an exit.