Monday, November 23, 2009

A story for your blog:

I have been riding since I was eight and quickly got a reputation for my Velcro seat and, (like many of us as children) my fearlessness.

The barn I rode at was a Thoroughbred breeding barn. The owner/trainer bred her mares and trained the stock as race horses. The ones that did not make it to the track were sold on or kept as lesson horses.

She used her more advanced students as the colt starters, trainers, and exercise riders. I am pretty sure anyone now-a-days would have a fit with what she let us do, but I learned a lot in my early days.

It was a very run down barn- held together with barb wire and hay string. Lessons were always group and 10 dollars a day.

She was not a very good teacher; she taught large lessons of ten or more children with all of us circling around her lawn chair. Our lessons were the same everyday; walk trot canter-change of direction-walk trot canter. She would yell a few canned responses at us as we trotted around-heals down! arch your back! and of course my favorite; Don't fall off. Sometimes she fell asleep.

I often infuriated her with my enthusiasm and my constant questions that she would refuse to answer. When I was good enough I would breeze the horses in training for her before my lesson.

I did not learn much about correct equitation, horsemanship, technique or training, but I did get to ride a bunch of crazy thoroughbreds. She had about 50 horses at a time and they were all the colors of the rainbow of green, sour, buckers, rearers, even a horse who liked to sit down! Her horses were also amazing horses that had talent and vices in equal shares and some just had hearts of pure gold.

As a teenager I rode anything. My favorite mount Velour was deemed an unpredictable runaway and was hardly ever used at the time. Velour was a 16.1 flea bitten gray Thoroughbred who could jump the moon and also run away with you like 'Pepé Le Pew '. He was the first horse I ever saw dump someone-it was at my 2nd lesson ever. Anytime he was frightened he would take off at a dead run with his head up in the air like a giant goofy Arabian. He was very dangerous.

When I moved up to the status of "pick out your own darn mount" I always picked him. I had the winning combination of traits to ride him. I could stay on, I was not afraid, and I was sensitive enough to know when he was going to bolt.

He was also perfect for me. He was sensitive, and responded to reassurance and encouragement. He only needed support and kindness. Under this regime he blossomed. I never did take a fall off of him (as long as you don't count a horrendous crash we had on a cross country course one time, he fell first!).

When ever I went on vacation I would come home to stories of the other children who had tried to ride him. In addition to bolting he would also buck but only on two conditions: If you hit his mouth over a fence, or if you hit him with a crop.

He had a real elephant memory in general, I never knew a horse that could hold a grudge like he could. He kicked a girl in the face for seemingly no reason. She had spit coke in his face though and I always suspected that he had been biding his time for a good opportunity to get her back.

More likely she had scared him of course. He was a real spook.

Velour was my first love. We did everything together- hunter shows, jumper shows, trail riding, fox hunting, cross country, and hunter paces. For a horse that was so spooky he made an excellent cross country horse. He never refused a jump! He would spin and bounce and jig and snort waiting for his turn to enter the time box.

People around us would be calling up to me "So you want us to hold him? Are you ok? What is he doing!!??" I would answer he just wants-to-go. As soon as we entered the box he stood stone still and would launch into a forward but controlled canter at the cue. Ears pointed forward bounding as eager as a hound.We won everything we got our little grubby under-bred hands on.

At the age of 15 I left. I was offered some rides and some money at a new barn. A barn with cross ties and clean stalls and fancy ponies so I moved on. I asked the owner if I could buy Velor. He was the same age as me so no longer a spring chicken. She gave me a price that I would never be able to save up for.

4 years later she gives me a call and offers me Velour for 800 dollars so of course I come running. We are both 19 and had both seen better days. He had grown melanomas and was on the ground with colic when I came to get him. The woman's reason for selling him was that he was old as dirt and still would not stop throwing people.

I got him home and retired him. We would go on walks together in the woods with just a halter. He still had the best canter though no jumping anymore! I am so happy to have gotten to pay him back for all of those wonderful rides.

Thinking back on it he truly was a "problem" horse. I know I would label him one now. Despite all of his troubles and misgiving with people though he still gave me a chance. I think I can fairly say that I never let him down, nor did he ever let me down. He always looked out for me when my parents were too busy and my trainer was neglectful. He saved my butt on many a trail ride that got out of hand and many a crowded charged hunt field.

I know I saved him from making many stupid decisions as well :)

He passed away Last February. He was diagnosed with Cushings and immediately went on medication. He just got worse so I found a ride for him to the local equine hospital. Ultrasounds showed congestive heart failure and tumors all over his body internally. When I got the bill from them they took off all of the in house fees. The vet wrote me a card that read something like "We were really touched by a girl and her pony we do not get to many of your type in here." The hospital is in Ocala.

He got off the trailer that day running and bucking. He passed away 2 weeks later and I buried him under his favorite tree. He got to have 5 years with me though and I would not trade them for the world. My happy childhood is all thanks to him without it I would have been another lonely girl. I count myself as lucky to get own the horse of my dreams even if it was only in the twilight of his life. Thinking back on it though he was always mine.


autumnblaze said...

In tears at work. Again.

I know exactly what you mean. Luckily at 15, I hope my boy and I (hopefully) have a lot more rides ahead of us. It's been a blessing to have him become mine and I plan on giving him the same consideration your boy received for the rest of his days. :*)

TBDancer said...

A wonderful story about a girl and her pony. Sometimes the "seat of your pants" school of riding is the most effective, back in the days before lawsuits and kids afraid to get their clothes dirty.

rockymouse said...

Awwww. Lovely and bittersweet.

nagonmom said...

You both were blessed to have one another! I love happy endings, I was braced for a sad one since he was so difficult and you so young (under-financed more of an issue than youth really).

Fyyahchild said...

Loved this story. Tears at work too! Thank you.

Sorry, I have a couple of things to share today...

Mugs - Have you heard of Skeet Gould? A local place is offerring a cow working clinic with him and since he's NRCH I thought I'd check.

Also, I had my first cow experience this weekend. I'm writing a story about it for my blog which should be up tonight. Seriously, the best day of my life outside of my wedding and the birth of my kids. I'm in love with the whole idea of ranching.

AareneX said...

Sweet story. Thanks for sharing!

DarcC said...

That was a fantastic story. I'm glad you got to "officially" own him for his retirement years!

Amy said...

What a great story, I'm very glad you got to take care of him. Sounds like he was an awesome horse and like you guys did a lot together.

Londoner said...

hi - its been a while since I commented on here, but always look forward to the posts and intelligent conversations that follow. I liked the story about you and Mort getting horribly lost - it made me laugh (and reminisce)
sorry to be cranky, but did anyone else find that infuriatingly smug? please, I don't need to hear an extended monologue about how good at riding someone is.

Golden the Pony Girl said...

Thanks for posting my story. Velour was the best horse ever for me- and I really do miss him. Thanks for all the kind words about him!
Londoner-I guess you are talking about my story? I definitely did not mean for it to be smug. I was trying to illustrate the recklessness of youth, and how well matched my horse and I were together not how good a rider is. I was always hanging on by the seat of my pants back then. Having a velcro seat and a lack of fear is not good riding it is called youth right mugs?

rheather said...

I didn't find it smug-just stating the facts.

I'm glad you had your pony to the end-I could see his heads-up, freaked-out bolt in my mind!

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed the story - reminds me of my own childhood, both in terms of how I learned to ride, and also my penchant for the "crazy" horses! That's so wonderful that you were able to finally buy him and take good care of him to the end.

Michelle said...

What a great story. I'm so glad you found each other again and that he got to spend his last years with someone that truly understood and appreciated him. That's such a rare gift! Thanks for the post, I will definitely be visiting your blog!

lopinon4 said...

A partnership created by fate...those are the best kind. What a tear-jerker of a story, but also very heartwarming.

Fyyahchild said...

Whew...okay so I finally have my post about the cows up. With pics even. Sorry if anyone went to look at it yesterday.

I think I'm going to be a cow horse addict.

mugwump said...

Unsupervised young riders who love horses tend to gravitate to the crazy ones.
They either learn to ride with velcro butt or get seriously hurt.
Some stick with it, some smarten up, some quit, but almost all learn to hang on.
I see what Londoner said, but I understood what Golden the Pony Girl was trying to say.
Believe me, I have written things on this blog (and off it) which truly infuriated people.
I've been called arrogant, righteous, wrong, you name it.
It's incredibly hurtful.
It has also made me more aware of what and how I write.
I would hate for you guys to quit writing these wonderful stories because you're afraid of getting slammed.
Please go with the positive feedback.
I also hope posters like Londoner will keep posting their thoughts and opinions.
If we don't get to mix it up once in a while it will get really boring around here!

Fyyahchild said...

Thanks Mugs! Have you put any thought into what makes chasing cows so fun? I haven't figured it out yet, but there's something to it...

Fyyahchild said...

"I see what Londoner said, but I understood what Golden the Pony Girl was trying to say." And that's what makes her a Mugwhump. :)

I'm working on a piece right now about the difference between teaching my step-sister to ride when we were 15 and 19 and teaching my 14 year old niece to ride now. I hope it will contrast some of the differences between youth and age/wisdom. I never thought about my sister getting hurt not because I didn't care but because I never worried about getting hurt myself. We were invincible, right? However, I see things so much clearer as an adult. I can see my niece developing into horsaii and I love every minute of it.

Golden the Pony Girl said...

trying and failed I guess? Well I guess I am happy that most got my drift. Oh well. :)

phaedra96 said...

I think, if I were Golden and I could ride them; it woulda kinda make my day, too. Never could. Got dumped at eight by a nasty snot of a pony, dragged, thrown off against the side of a barn by same nasty snot of a pony. Turned a timid rider into a non-rider for years. Thanks to my stepmother who told me I could not ride and should not try. Nuff said.

Londoner said...

if you can reply like that to what was (looking back) actually quite a bitchy critcism, then I am definitely an admirer :)
and Mugs is right, it would be boring if we didn't mix it up every once in a while.

stilllearning said...

No one is as confident as the teflon-seated youngster--and that was who was telling the tale...

And yes, even tho I appreciate the supportive atmosphere here, too much sugar is boring :)

Once Upon an Equine said...

That's beautiful and sweet and brought tears to my eyes.

Shanster said...

Fun to read but I'm glad he was yours and not mine cuz I'm Super Weenie! :) And I'm glad you had him to the very end... truly special...

Horseartist said...

That was a good one. Thanks for sharing your story about Velour

Golden the Pony Girl said...

I don't think I could own a horse like Velour now, that is why I have a haflinger now. Also- I am thinking about submitting the rest of the story if Mugs continues to post readers essays. If this is my smug pre teen self I should also post about what happened when I bought my first green broke TB and how I found out I was not nearly the rider I thought I was. What comes up must come down right?

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