I don't write about my horses that much. I'm gun shy. Well - not as much anymore, though I figure my audience isn't completely horse oriented so I try to ramble on about lots of other things too.
I was horse CRAZY growing up. Read all horse stories in my grade school library over and over and over. I drew horses, dreamed horses. Any time I could ride a horse I was head over heels with happiness. I lived in suburbia. No one I knew had horses or rode horses or even liked horses all that much. It was a very, very rare treat to be near horses, see horses or touch horses.
When I was 13, my Mom bought me a small horse for $250. This probably sent my Dad thru the roof since they were divorced and I constantly heard, "Your mother buys your love."
The pony was named Pal and he was a palomino paint. He was a GREAT first horse. Dad would grudgingly drive me out to this boarding facility 40 minutes away and leave me there for the day. I brought food I think and drank out of the hose and just hung out there all day.
No one taught me how to ride. I just did. It was enough to climb on and go! I learned how to saddle him and some basics from a group horse class with other kids Mom sent me thru when I went to visit her in the summer.
None of my friends understood why all I could talk about was this horse. They made fun of me for it in grade school and complained how boring I was because that was all I ever talked about....and it was this way until I went to college. I'd bring friends out to ride with me every once and awhile - it didn't always go so well. Horses are big and scary to other people - no one ever seemed to have as much fun as me. Quite the opposite in more than a couple cases!
I guarded my horse habit like a little jewel in my heart. Or maybe like gollum with his ring.... yessssss my precious!
By college, the habit of hiding my horse love was sorta ingrained. I would bring some college friends who were more horse oriented out to see or ride my gelding occasionally. (He's the gelding I still have who is now 30+ yrs old.) Mostly I listened to all their stories of pony club and all the horses they rode and how well they rode them.
Each person told me how I should be riding. Then they'd get up on my horse and ride him the way they thought he should be ridden and it wasn't always right.... but I wanted people to like me and I came from a home where you did NOT voice your opinion, you were NOT contrary and you simply did NOT EVER rock the boat. shrug.
I had a lot of fun sometimes, and sometimes I wished I hadn't brought anyone out to see my horse. I didn't know as much as a lot of my friends who'd been through pony club or who showed regularly or who had a bunch of instruction...
I'd done some hunter/jumper stuff and a teensy bit of cross country jumping. It was against the norm and I had a lot of older men who rode Western give me a hard time about riding English. I had a few lessons from this woman named Nancy who was from WV and studied under Danny Emerson. I'm not sure what she was doing in NE or how I found her? She didn't stick around that long and moved back East.
While she was around, I got along really well with her and my riding improved. She was of the school that you shouldn't use artificial means to make your horse be correct - it was you, the saddle and the bridle and you worked it out that way - no artificial training devices or severe bits or anything.
I went to a few local shows with Nancy. I did o.k. Got some ribbons, some compliments...
I broke my leg in a bad car accident just before going to a cross country event with Nancy so I never really did officially get to experience it. It was a Sunday when I broke my leg. The cross country event was the following weekend.
I was sitting in my hospital bed with oxygen tubes in my nostrils, a neck brace on and a cast from my left foot to the middle of my upper thigh trying to figure out just how to ride in my cast and maybe go anyway? See? Horse crazy!
I met a woman I'd heard was a good trainer when I came to college. She taught Dressage. I sort of knew was Dressage was ... the more I learned the more I really enjoyed it. It was increased communication between me and my horse and it worked naturally - no artificial training tools - increasing the natural ability of each particular horse. Never mind what type of horse you rode... you didn't need an expensive horse or a fancy horse. You worked with what you had.
It was always more of a private goal for me. I was competing against myself - it was me doing better and me trying to improve and me trying to learn. I wasn't about trying to best anyone else or be the best rider known or collecting blue ribbons... I was trying to be the best I could be for ME and for my horse.
I still feel that way. Dressage to me is a personal journey of discovery, joy and communication with these incredible animals that are big and powerful and could do me a whole lot o' harm. Yet they let me sit on their backs and they willingly (well, most times! ha!) do what I ask of them. It brings me joy. When I have a bad day, it soothes my soul. I don't know what I would do without horses. Even now, I worry about a day when I am too old to ride. What will I do when I'm in my 70s?!
I have two young horses now, both Thoroughbreds from the racetrack. I brought home my mare, Sera, when she was 3 in 2003. I brought home my young gelding, Rosso, a couple years ago when he was 4.
I've never had young horses that I had to re-train. Let alone more sensitive, hotter horses like Thoroughbreds. I'm unfamiliar with the things they throw out at you. Sera is now 9 and we will show 2nd level Dressage this summer. (Dressage has levels - training, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th.... etc) I learned a ton from teaching her about her new job as a riding horse. I'm still learning!
Rosso is also learning his new job but he is way different than Sera. His reactions are different, he thinks differently. He's at the stage right now where he is testing me as his rider... seeing what he can get away with. Bullying me a bit. He is 6 - still young.
It's really scary to me! I'm still working with my trainer - not the original Dressage trainer I began with, but her daughter. She is helping me to recognize the naughtiness and how to correct it.
I know I'll get through it. I have to!
I got through it with Sera and I remember feeling this same exact scared feeling. It will give me such a sense of accomplishment to get Rosso through this ... tho' I'm not sure I want to bring home any more young horses. The mature 9-12 yr olds are looking pretty good to me now that I'm pushing 40 and fully realize I'm not at all bullet-proof!
I'll keep you posted...