Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wordy Wednesday

This story came from "Bambi". I don't have a title or a blog address, but I love the story just the same. This is a horse nut after my own heart. She has found a solution that I think is fantastic. My other suggestion would be to build a resume from what she's doing and start hitting up trainers who ride the discipline Bambi is interested in. I would have killed to get a rider like her to exchange lessons for riding. She's have been loping colts for me within a week.

Tomorrow will be a question day, I swear. I've got a couple good ones on this last post. This should be interesting.

She I started riding when I was eight. Or nine.
Somewhere in there.
It was twice month, for half an hour, on a great old welsh cross named Peanut. He was a total of 13 hands, and the quietest school pony I've ever seen. I was terrified of him.
I have no idea why I did it. Maybe it was because my older sister did it, and I wanted to be just like her. Or maybe horses are in my blood. My grandmother learned to ride bareback on a beach in Scotland before the war, and my mother did pony club when she was a teenager.

But my parents are artists, a mask maker and an actor. We don't have the money for horses.
They should, as I was once told by a trainer, have never let my sister and I get on a horse. Riding is infectious, horses crawl under your skin and become part of your life, and you never have any choice in the matter.

I switched barns a few times as I grew up, and I still stayed on the lesson string, with cheap instructors, twice a month. My sister was resourceful, fearless to a fault and most importantly, charming. When we moved to a show Arab barn that had a small lesson program, she started exercising the show horses. Then a hell-on-wheels OTTB moved to the barn, and when he managed to break his owner’s leg, she stepped up. My parents were terrified, I was dead jealous.
While I was plodding around the arena on a plain TB hunter mare with a bad attitude, she was whirling past me as the OTTB foamed and bucked and reared.

Then my sister got her hands on a two year old half Arab who needed someone to start him.
It was too much to bear. I quit.

Two years later, she was off to university, and I was suddenly confronted by the fact that I had been infected by The Horse Bug.
I suppressed it, failed, and then begged my parents again for lessons. I wanted to ride. But this time, I wanted to really ride. Not plod around an arena, but ride the horses my sister had. 'Bad' horses, that bucked and bolted and pranced.

I found a new barn, a small hunter jumper place with a trainer who actually knew what she was doing.
She sure whipped my but into shape. I wasn't allowed to be scared anymore. I was pushed. She made me deal with issues, take charge, and stay on. I stopped taking falls, dropping my reins and trying to go into the fetal position in the saddle.

I wasn't afraid, but I still wasn't confident. It took a spoiled, fugly, mutt of a horse to teach me to trust my ability.
He was practically dumped at our barn by his owner, who wanted him trained. No one wanted him. All the other girls had their made hunters, and the trainer had her hands full with fancy jumpers. The only one willing to deal with his drama was me.
And so I was given the job. Looking back, I see he was dumped on me with little regard to my safety, but then I thought I was privileged to be singled out like that. I was going to be a trainer.
The first time I got on him, he bolted before I got my leg over his back.
The next month went much the same.

But I was determined. He scared me half to death, but I was allowed to ride him as much as I wanted without paying. So I refused to succumb, gritted my teeth and learned how to keep my butt glued to the saddle. At the end of a ride, both of us would be sweating, frustrated, and burnt out. More than once I took off my gloves to see my hands coated in my own blood.
My trainer spent a lot of her time screaming at me to get after him for his explosive spooks. Instead, I trusted my gut and let him be scared. I knew that whaling on him for spooking would only make him more neurotic, so I adopted a different policy.
If he spooked, I brought him to a walk as fast as possible, then turned him around and we investigated whatever little thing had scared him. He learned to trust me. I never put him in a situation that hurt him.
In two months, I had him going without any spooking or bolting, and with minimal fussing. I thought I was on top of the world.

His owner came back for him, ruined all the work I’d done, and I moved on to other horses. My instructor trusted me now.

I rode others, babies and abused ponies. I was sure I was great.

I worked all summer mucking stalls so I could ride.
Then things went pear-shaped, as they tend to do. My instructor went a little batty; she started demanding I spend more money to ride horses of lesser quality. She sold my favourite, who was the only horse there at my level.
Again, I quit.

And I started to read. I found Fugly Horse of the Day, Mugwump and others. I realized how bad I was. I could sit a buck and a rear, I knew how to sink into my heels and send a terrified horse face-first into the wall because had no idea how to halt.
I couldn’t jump, ask for a flying lead change, collect, or keep a horse in a frame. My steering was bad.
So I read, and read, and read.
And I put an ad on craigslist, asking to ride.

Now I’m exercising a four year old National Show Horse while his owner is ill. He is silly and sweet, the best quality horse I’ve ever ridden.
And I’m better. I notice things. That when he prances at first, it is not because he is afraid or dangerous, but because he is young, fit, and excited to be working.
How now, at his new barn, he has become herd bound, spooky and has forgotten everything I taught him about my personal bubble.
I see he isn’t happy.
I talked to his owner, she’ll move him.

Still I read.
I know that I can’t own my own horses; I know that I cannot pay for lessons. Instead, I read, and then create plans. I video-tape myself, and study what I see.

I’m moving up.
Even more importantly, I’m finally happy where I am.


  1. Wow - GREAT story and so glad you are happy where you are now! That's the important thing!

  2. I.Love.This.Story. :) Good for you!!!! I relate very much to this. :) Here's to being happy where you are!

  3. I know exactly that feeling! True story in more peoples' lives than one. Love it, love it. *clap clap clap*

  4. Bambi, what a great story! I'm proud of you for continuing to educate yourself about horses. There is always something new to learn and every ride can be an adventure. Well written, too. Thanks!

  5. Cool story. The learning is a lifetime journey. Keep writing too.

  6. That's lovely - I'm so glad you persevered!

  7. Good for you! I wish more people would strive to learn and be flexible in their thinking and willing to change for the better. All the best to you and may you continue to enjoy each day!

  8. That was a very nice story, Bambi. Learning more is a reward in itself, but it also makes it possible to get to ride better horses.
    Who again can teach you more.
    I wish you many happy horse moments to come!

  9. Great story. =D

    Once you are bitten with the horse bug it never goes away completely.

  10. I think this is a really great beginning to what is going to be a great life story with horses. Please keep us updated!!

  11. nodding my head in time to the song Bambi is singing, oh YEAH, I'm joining in on the chorus.

    I have been there, done that, and you say it really well. Nice story!

  12. Awesome story! Way to follow your heart and find a way to be able to ride. There is always more to learn, more to read, more rides... Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing your story!

  13. What a great read; thanks for sharing! I can really empathize with Bambi, being in something of the same position now and having had the same yearning to ride the 'bad' horses when I was younger (I chalk that up to having a poor sense of self-preservation, but then again, what teenager does?).
    Love it!

  14. I love this story. What a sensible, thoughtful rider - the best kind.

    You'd be welcome to come ride my horses any day of the week!

  15. Hey, this is off-topic, but I really need some advice. I am the new owner of a green-broke 8 year old Morgan mare. She doesn't really know much other than "walk" and "whoa" and sometimes "trot." She's sweet and willing, but I am not sure that I am good enough to finish her myself. I've been riding all my life, but I know that there is always more that I need to learn. She doesn't know how to canter, let alone her leads. She doesn't know anything about moving in frame. She was a halter horse in her younger years, so she parks out, can trot high, and is beautiful to look at. Despite that, I've never finished a horse by myself, and I have a lot of doubts. I've always had a trainer looking over my shoulder and giving me advice. I guess my question is, what would you suggest I do? I thought I ought to start on walk/trot and circles/serpentines/etc while riding and walk/trot/canter on the lunge line with side reins to help her start working in frame. But I don't really know. If you want to, you can email me, because I'm sure there isn't an easy answer.
    Thanks, Laura

  16. Where's she located? She'll have more horses to ride than she can handle.

  17. I enjoyed reading your story - I have had to improve my riding/ horse knowledge in similar ways - websites and riding other people's horses. I think it makes you more aware of what a privilege it is to be able to ride and own a horse.