'We love Norman': Yellowknife's equestrian community celebrates horse's retirement - petsitterbank

‘We love Norman’: Yellowknife’s equestrian community celebrates horse’s retirement

Dozens gathered at North Country Stables in Yellowknife on Saturday to celebrate the career of Norman, a beloved horse ridden by people of all ages over his 28 years.

Patricia Dartnell, who runs the horse barn, said Norman could do it all.

Along with being ridden, he guided buggy’s alongside his brother Mack for parades, and was even used for equestrian vaulting — gymnastics on horseback.

“We love Norman,” Dartnell said.

Norman officially retired on Feb. 23, Dartnell said, but the event on Saturday was a way to celebrate his years of service to Yellowknife’s equestrian community.

“When adults were riding him, you would notice that his back end was kind of giving out a little bit,” she said.

A cake for Norman, left, and a cake for the humans celebrating Norman’s retirement, right. (Submitted by Patricia Dartnell)

He now walks with a bit of a limp. Dartnell and his staff recognized that as a sign it was time for him to hang up the saddle and enjoy some rest and relaxation.

Saturday’s retirement party included cake — for both humans and horses — a barbecue, pony rides, a card signed by all the guests, photos of young Norman and balloons.

“I think we ran out of cake, though, and there were two cakes and probably another 50 cupcakes brought,” Dartnell said.

A bit of rain didn’t deter the guests from the festivities, and Dartnell credited the much needed precipitation, due to the wildfire risk, as a miracle provided by Norman.

“I can’t believe we needed rain so bad,” said Dartnell. “This is wonderful.”

Kate Reynolds, 10, has been riding at the barn for about two years.

Photos at the retirement party show a young Norman, top, and a present-day Norman, bottom. His breed of horse is known for changing colors over time. (Luke Carroll/CBC)

“He’s a really sweet horse to ride,” she said of Norman.

She attended the party to celebrate his career and reminisced about past times riding him.

“It was a really fun time,” she said.

Another guest who attended was 12-year-old Nora Swan, who wrote Norman a letter.

“Norman has been a key part of many Yellowknife kids’ riding journey. When I was first scared to ride a big horse, Norman immediately made me feel secure and safe,” she wrote.

“I remember looking up at this big horse and feeling worried about riding him, but after that ride, I look forward to riding him every single time. He has been a first for many, a first jump, first canter, even a first ride .”

Mack, left, and his brother Norman, right, geared up to drive a buggy. (Submitted by Patricia Dartnell)

Norman is named after his breed, a Spanish-Norman, which is a cross between an Andalusian of Spain and a Percheron of France.

This particular breed can change color over time. Old photos of Norman show a dark horse compared to his current white coat.

In a few years, Norman will likely be joined in retirement by his brother Mack.

On Saturday, the two were inseparable, grazing together, enjoying carrots provided by party attendees.

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