I have had some great riding these last few weeks and some solid thinking on training our horses. I'm finding out just how much I can still get done even at a slower, mellower pace.
Consistency and common sense seem to be the key. Having a good-minded horse to ride doesn't hurt either.
I know there are some training questions out there, from leaning on the bit to lead changes and I'll try to address those this week also.
And then there's the Sonita deal. You have to believe me, I don't leave you hanging on purpose. I think about where I was with Sonita after each post. I weed through what's relevant and what isn't and eventually come up with what I think is an interesting slice of my years with her. Then I write it. Then I start thinking again. It's kind of how the Mort stories come too. Except I usually find pieces of my life with Mort that correlate with where I was as a trainer or person in the Sonita stories.
Anyway, it's time for Mouthy Monday. I don't have a blog address on this one from Kay either. Sigh.
I wasn’t from a horse family, and I didn’t have much money. I don’t know if it was because of this or my embarrassment over my lack of lessons and horse lingo, but I didn't have very many riding friends either.
I bought my first horse from a barn that was a 20 minute bike ride from my parents house, they wouldn't take me to look so I had to find my own way. I was 14 and after 2 years of saving my part time job money I was the proud owner of a small, green, off the track, chestnut thoroughbred mare - at a barn primarily made up of warmbloods.
Now that I owned her, I realized I didn't have a penny to my name for tack. Luckily some of the older ladies at the barn took pity on me and lent me enough pieces to put together a saddle and bridle.
Over the next year I poured myself over books learning about the things lessons and camp never teach you, trying be a better owner and desperate to fit in. I was still pretty much ignored. I heard it all “green + green = black and blue”, you’re too tall for her, she’ll never made a nice hunter, she’s too small, but I didn’t care.
My parents never did come meet her, my high school friends weren’t interested and I was an outcast among the girls where I rode.
But onward we stumbled, learning as we went about basic care and the importance of patience. After about a year I decided I would try my hand at showing and we went to a hunter show down the road.
My mare stood out with her lumpy braids (my first time using yarn), mismatched tack (but I finally owned it), and me wearing rubber boots and a blazer from Zellers. As the trailer dropped us off I suddenly felt overwhelmed. I sat alone all day holding my mare, listening to kids snapping at their parents/coaches and trainers as their nerves started to get to them. I ate my sandwich and groomed my horse far away from the show rings, as others my age dropped their horse with their parents and went to watch the competition.
That day I learnt what "in the shoot" meant, and that you had to count your striding in between fences, and that it probably would have been nice if someone other then an irritated stranger could have held my horse for me while I took a rushed bathroom break. Our rounds weren’t amazing, we were fast, unbalanced and didn't get our leads. When we were in the line up waiting for the placings to be called, the girl next to me informed me that I was only supposed to use a white saddle pad at shows, not blue and she clearly didn’t think much of my outfit.
I tried to keep positive as I waited for the trailer to come pick us up at the end of the day, I cuddled with my little mare and quietly pulled out her braids. I rubbed her body and legs down as she quietly munched her hay.
As I waited, I started to feel self-conscious of one of the nearby coaches watching me. I knew who she was but I knew she wouldn't know me. Eventually she came over and put her hand on my horse’s side. I expected her to tell me I had put my wraps on wrong or some other correction but instead she quietly said "I knew this horse years ago and she's been waiting her whole life for someone to love her like you do, you’re doing a good job – don’t give up" and then she went back to her group of people.
Ten years later, I still remember that sentence over all of the snags me and my mare ever hit, or the negativity I received from other riders and their coaches as I bumbled around the hunter circuit.
I never got bitter, took my horse for granted or got angry at the people who offered me “pointers” at shows. I also never “traded up” to a bigger, flashier horse. My connection with riding boils down to the love I have for my horse, not the labels on my clothes, the name of my trainer or the number of ribbons hanging on my wall.
Still today, I love that now retired mare, and I think it’s appropriate to say that I had been waiting my whole life for a horse to love me like that, to take good care of me as I made mistakes and to never notice that her tack still doesn’t match.
For that I’ll be forever grateful.