July 18, 2013

Five Horses

Idea from L. Williams at Viva Carlos and Liz at In Omnia Paratus

1. The Intro Horse.
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one.

I have no photo of this horse or even a name, but riding the plucky little pony bare back is one of the few wonderful childhood memories that I can recall and will likely hold dear for the rest of my life.

Unlike most of my horse friends, I did not grow up riding and showing. I was nevertheless obsessed with horses, and managed to learn to ride during the 6th grade. A friend of mine at the time, who's name I can no longer remember, owned a couple ponies. We bonded over our love for horses, and often spent our lunch hour in the library drawing pictures of every type of horse breed we could find in the encyclopedias.

That October for my birthday she took me out to her barn to ride. We were just a couple of lower-middle class kids, from the wrong side of the river, and as such her family didn't own any tack other than bridles. Yes, the first time I really rode a horse was bareback. We didn't take it easy either. I can still remember my elation, as I asked my pony for a canter and flew up a big green hill. Nothing I had ever done in my 11-years even compared to the feeling. The adrenaline rush was amazing, the wind blowing past my hair on my non-helmeted head was refreshing and when we rode into the woods down a trail and jumped some downed logs I was in heaven. It would be six long years before horses finally became a mainstream aspect of my life.

2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he probably didn't benefit from the encounter as much as you did.

IHSA Nationals, riding JB. 1997

I don't think there was one particular horse that falls under this category for me, but the entire 30-horse school string at Mount Holyoke College. I don't think there is anything more experimental than hopping on a 4-year old horse, green broke out of a dealer's lot, and "popping" over a 3' course. Those horses taught me to ride, eat dirt, and subsequently grow Velcro on my hind end.

3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise.

The first horse I really ever bonded with was Danny, and then Revelry. These were both school horses at Mount Holyoke, but the also came to camp with me in the summers at Forest Acres camp in Fryeburg, ME where I would spend my college year summers teaching riding and getting an education from my coach CJ.
Danny 1998

Danny was an "ugly" appaloosa thing, with a pig nose and no tail. He taught me to jump my behind off, ride out a buck cross country, and not give a hoot about a horses' looks if it gave me it's all. Danny was my first "love" when it came to horses. I trusted him and would spend hours in the barn with him and defend his pig nose to anyone that made a sideways comment.
Revy - 1998

Revelry was my second "love". He as a small (to me) bay Morgan. He was just stinking cute, and not necessarily easy to ride. Many people struggled with him, but I was able to figure him out. He need a rider with a soft hand who could ride from the seat. Not a good combination for a school horse, and my senior year he was put up for sale. I was heart broken that I couldn't buy him (not that CJ would have let me, he was way too small for me). He moved on to be a hunter pony for a local girl, and I hope he's had a wonderful life with her.

 4. The Challenger
Into each horse person’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisle way on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life.

Rose at the ISR/Oldenburg NA inspection, August 2010.
This is what a premium double barrel kick-out looks like...

This horse is hands down Rose. What challenge hasn't she thrown at me? So far we've overcome them all, but it has been one heck of a learning experience. My blog I think speaks for itself in this regard.

5. Your Deepest Heart
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires.

Zorra - 2000
I think this horse might someday be Rose, but I'm not sure. There are moments when I feel this way about her, but then I think back to my old mare Zorra and can't help but compare the two. I think she was my Deepest Heart horse, but at the wrong time. I was 22 years old, working as an assistant trainer and I bought her for pennies out of a field. She was a ribby, 16.3hh chestnut OTTB, sound and had lovely conformation and movement. She was supposed to be 15 and her teeth agreed with the statement. I thought I'd put fat on her bones, get her going under saddle again, and then breed her. She vetted breeding sound, again given the age of 15 by the vet. I thought all was good until I discovered a very faded racing tattoo on her lip. Bronze Gal it turned out shared the same birth year as me, 1977. She was 22 years old (23 by jockey club standards) at the time and maiden. I didn't have the heart to breed her at that age or to continue showing her in the 3'6" hunters, and as an assistant trainer I couldn't afford to just keep her around. I through a random occurrence that summer I ran into a friend of a previous owner of her's at a local open show and ended up selling her back to the old owner. At 35, I'm sure she's not still around anymore, but I always think of her and what an amazing horse she was. I could honestly have slept in her stall under her and felt completely safe. She would go on trail rides and jump the moon if I asked. That horse did anything for me and I loved her to pieces. I hope that someday Rose and I have the same connection.

Rose & I, June 2013.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. I love reading about people's past horse experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Love the premium double barrel kick out! :)

  3. Aww reading about Zorra brought tears to my eyes. I wish you hadn't had to sell her, but I'm glad she went to her old owner and I hope she lived a happy life. :) Stick with Rose. She will get better and better with time and experience. And don't worry, someday you'll have another heart horse even if it isn't Rose. :)



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