You might be tired or reading all of these, because it seems like lots of our fellow bloggers are filling this questionnaire out, like Viva Carlos. She Moved To Texas and Adventures in Colt (Filly) Starting, but seeing as I don’t have much else to write about, I thought a blast from my past might amuse you.
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.
Royal & Delilah were my introduction to horses. They were my mother’s plastic horses, well, I’m honestly not sure they were actually made out of plastic, but the point is they were toys. Before I ever even saw my first real horse, I played with plastic ones. I made a shelf in my closet into a barn and I collected Grand Champions (cheap Breyers) like other kids collected crazy bones or baseball cards.
My best friend in elementary school and I had well over 100 of these awesome horses, all with names and story lines. We stole her brother’s Star Wars figurines to be our riders and Darth Vader always cheated to get to the Olympics, but Luke Skywalker always beat him for the gold.
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.
After a few years of taking “lessons,” I decided to join 4-H. The first pony I took was a little buckskin named Jazz, who was an absolute saint, except for our very first show together. The barn owner decided not to turn him out the night before to make sure he had enough energy for the show, which was a horrible idea, but 10-year-old Tracy had no clue. When we got to the show, Jazz was all sorts of nuts so we walked him to a back field (away from all the other horses — again, I repeat, NO CLUE) and to my shock he RAN AWAY and I fell head first onto concrete.
When I looked up, he was gone and all I could think was OMG, I lost H’s horses. She is going to kill me. Luckily a bystander caught the pony and we went into our first class (English Showmanship) and got third. That ribbon is still hanging in my house to this day, and is one of my favorites.
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.
When I outgrew Jazz, I started riding an ancient ex-barrel racer, Chuck. He was the first horse that I really worked hard with to accomplish showing goals. We did everything, from jumping to contesting, and he was great. He was the first horse I tried to qualify for State Fair on. While we didn’t make it, he did teach me that hard work pays off, placing 8th out in an over fences class at county fair. Still have that ribbon and the picture to go along with it…although my form leaves something a lot to be desired (hence why it is not pictured here).
Chuck was also my first lesson in loss: he got sick and passed away unexpectedly and I never got to say goodbye. I cried and cried and it was horrible, but I moved on and found The Challenger.
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.
Why I started riding Charlie, I will never know. Better yet, why my mother put up with this horse, I REALLY don’t know. He was a Morgan-cross that the barn owner adopted. He was blind in one eye, hated men and was crazy mean. Like lunge back, open his mouth and take a big ole chunk out of you at any moment mean.
I rode him for three years, the final of which I thought we would place better if I rode Saddleseat. In hindsight, this plan absolutely worked, but thank god this horse was tolerant under tack. I bought a saddle on eBay, stuck two bits in that pony’s mouth, read a book and off we went.
Wow, I’m starting to realize a great theme in my equestrian life: I was a fucking moron.
Anyways, Charlie The One-Eyed Wonder Pony (honest to god, that’s the name I showed him under) was definitely my challenge: not only was he horrid on the ground, but we really worked hard to be able to do Saddleseat. I ended up qualifying for State Fair for the first time and showed against all the fancy Saddlebreds… and won 4th in Saddle Type Showmanship. And they were pissed, but I thought it was the best thing ever.
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.
Visa. Without a doubt this horse will always and forever have a piece of my heart. He did anything, was capable beyond my wildest imagination and was quite simply the best horse ever. He was a 4-H rockstar, winning grand champion year-end awards all three years I was eligible, held his own at local hunter/jumper shows against the much larger and fancier Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds and tolerated anybody and everybody.
What else is there to say? There will never be another one like him and I miss him every day.