It was a glorious day in the summer of 2003 when Joanne Patterson first laid eyes on a scraggly, near-black colt with a twinkle in his eye on a farm outside Trenton, Ontario. She was immediately drawn to him and slipped into the field to say ‘hi’ to him. He was equally drawn to her and decided to taste her arm.

She must have been delicious, as they have been together ever since.

Hollywood, as he was first named, was part of a herd abandoned to fend for themselves. A few horses were in such dreadful physical condition that unfortunately they couldn’t be saved. Sadly that included Hollywood’s dam. After assessment, the herd was sent to various farms to recuperate and find new homes.

Little “Woody” was so weak and fragile no one was sure he’d survive the journey to his foster farm. Survive he did, and he started to quickly thrive, too. Sally, the farm owner fostering him, called him the “fastest horse in Ontario” as he built up his strength zooming up and down the idyllic Northumberland hills.

A passionate rider, Joanne was ready to commit to a horse of her own. When she decided that Woody’s forever home needed to be with her, she kept it quiet until it was a done deal. She knew people might not understand the connection they had and try to talk her out of adding that kind of responsibility to her life. She also knew her trainer would want to see her with a started, more suitable mount.

She began considering what his name should be and settled on Cerin, which means “little dark one” in Gaelic. With Joanne’s Irish roots and his looks and history, it is the perfect name for him. He stands about 15 hh and is part Arabian part Quarter Horse. He has the best of both breeds running through him ‒ observant, loving, stoic, action-loving.

When it was time to start him under saddle everyone went slowly, and in fact the process was delayed because he was still quite underdeveloped. His early months of poor nutrition had a life-long impact on him, stunting his growth.

Joanne still remembers the first time she lay across his back. “It was so thrilling, thinking about it today still makes me smile.” Joanne became a much better rider thanks to Cerin, too. He was not an easy ride, especially in his ‘bolting phase’. Joanne was often “discouraged and frustrated, but sticking with him is one of the most rewarding things I ever have done.”

His early experiences also left him with a little baggage. To this day he is head-shy and suspicious of veterinarians and can be quite clear about his distrust. Those early dark memories are hard to overcome, but Cerin enjoys Joanne draping herself over him when she has time, loves his polo mints and mooches some at any opportunity.

Joanne and Cerin.

It took a few years of being boarded out while Joanne built her own equestrian facility in Warkworth, but in 2011 she was able to bring Cerin and a couple of his friends home for the summer. Now the horses are home permanently with lots of lovely turnout, trails, a riding ring and the most perfect little barn. Being able to look out at Cerin from the house has increased Joanne’s appreciation of her little dark horse. “He has so much character. I don’t think I could love him more.”

Through training Cerin, Joanne discovered a love of dressage she has continued to explore to this day. To take a horse with his history and not particularly built for dressage to a show and get compliments from judges was very special. At his first show, spectators who had known him previously couldn’t believe it ‒ “that’s Cerin?” ‒ remembering the ugly duckling colt they first saw. Joanne is very proud of the partnership they have forged.

“This horse is not the prettiest, not the most talented, but he’s my equine soulmate,” Joanne reflected on the rewards of living with this particular horse. They’ve spent nearly 18 years together and intend to keep enjoying each other. Now largely retired, Cerin still does some light hacking and loves being spoiled.

That little ‘taste’ of Joanne that Cerin took the day they met? She still has a little scar, a physical reminder of the deep love and respect they have for each other. Joanne’s arm, and heart, are forever marked by Cerin and his special brand of magic.