I’ve been fortunate to have met some really incredible horses in my day. Every horse I’ve sat on has taught me something, but there are those that have taught me a little something extra. I just love each of them so much and wish they could be with me forever. But all good things must come to an end, right? So did my time with each of these guys, for one reason or another.
First was India. She was my summer camp horse two summers in a row. I don’t know why I was so obsessed with her, but India was my baby. And almost none of the instructors liked using her, so I was the only one that rode her, which meant I got to call her my own for the twelve days of camp! India made me feel like I could fly when I was still pretty new to English riding. My instructor let us jump almost every day, and boy did she teach me well. It was Sunday when this happened. I was riding too far forward, a problem I still struggle with to this day. My instructor DW told me, “If you don’t sit back, you will fall off!” Sure enough, the very next jump I did, I rode the pommel of my saddle and came off on the downhill side. It was my first fall ever. My confidence was shaken more than I let on, but by the end of the ride I felt okay to jump again.
India’s lesson: don’t be afraid to get back in the saddle.
Next in my life was Summer. My first ride on her was disastrous, so I went back to riding my usual lesson horse. But I had a bad fall off him and asked to be put back on Summer. She frightened me because she liked to canter fast. Probably pretty fast for a “first canter” type of horse, but honestly that’s so long ago I barely remember a time when I was scared of Summer. After a couple rides, I went from fearing the canter to craving that canter. Summer was when I really started considering show jumping to be my sport. I wanted the tight turns and rollbacks, the pace, the time. But my trainer insisted that Summer was too old to show, which she probably was. To this day, I have no idea what her exact age is. Kindra, my trainer, said at that time she was 18. My barn friends said she was 25. Eventually, I moved up from Summer to other horses to challenge me more. But from time to time, I got to ride my old girl and grin from ear to ear. She’s retired now, with her own little girl to love and teach to ride. I’m so happy she doesn’t have to cart around hundreds of little kids. Only one, who loves her and spoils her rotten.
Summer’s lesson: this is supposed to be fun, remember?
Next came Trigger. Picture the ugliest varnish Appaloosa you can. To me, he’s absolutely adorable. But all my friends say he’s ugly. And any time you approach him, those ears go straight back and he bares his teeth. Trigger came to my summer camp as an abused rescue. I rode him on a volunteer weekend on a whim and it turns out we were a great match. Trigger also taught me a lot about natural horsemanship, which I am not necessarily saying I like or dislike, but I’ve done it and seen how it can help a horse. It gave me a way to communicate with a horse who was otherwise terrified of me. And I think he appreciated my efforts. We cuddled often, which no one else understood. He was my private best friend. Jumping the logs around the fire pit is a right of passage amongst the old staff at camp, and Trigger was my “jump the log” horse. He refused, I pony kicked to try again, and Trigger instead rocketed over it. And thank goodness we caught it on film. In recent years, I haven’t had the time to go to camp due to work and school and just plain old growing up. Trigger has a new best friend, and I’m okay with that. I still love that ugly Appy with my whole heart.
Trigger’s lesson: if at first you don’t succeed, try again.
After that was Toby. He was my first real green horse. Our first ride, he reared on me. Needless to say, he was my love after that. This paint pony made me smile like no other, and I actually made a great friend out of him. Ainsley was Toby’s other primary rider and we are still great friends years later. She’s a great mentor, too, and I treasure her advice. Toby was 4 when I started on him. He was for sale, unbeknownst to me. If a rider as un-subtle as I was could ride him, surely he was a great horse. That’s how he got marketed. Meanwhile, I followed Kindra’s knowledge to train this pony to be something great. He had the squarest knees over every jump. I did my first 2’6″ jump on him. He ended up sold while I was at summer camp, and I was heartbroken beyond words.
Toby’s lesson: as the lesson kid, you will face heartbreak.
Along came Navigo. Navi was an old boarder’s horse donated to the lesson program because she couldn’t feed him anymore. My trainer threw me on him because I had ridden every horse in the barn hundreds of times and needed a new ride to stay sharp for IEA season. He lived in Toby’s old stall. I hated his guts. Riding him was something extraordinary, if you didn’t trot. He was 17.2 hands, so it felt like you walked a mile each step. His trot was so bouncy, but it was a great equitation challenge. His canter was incredible. His jump was even more so. By the end of the lesson, I had forgotten how much I hated him for living in Toby’s stall. It’s not like he chose that stall… He’s a horse, after all. I ended up half leasing him for a while. Navi and I grew close. He was my monster.
Navi’s lesson: you will move on.
Lastly, there’s Dallas. Dallas belonged to Beth, who I worked for for about eight months. Dallas took me through a deep depression and the onset of my schizophrenia. This halflinger-quarter horse could make me smile on my worst day. He taught me so much about persevering, even when the lesson got hard. Dallas took me to my first local show. Dallas chilled quietly while I sobbed in his stall about having worked twelve hours and still having more work to do. Dallas tolerated me re-learning how to ride Beth’s way. Dallas was my everything. When Beth severed our relationship, the hardest part was leaving behind my Burrito pony. I still miss him, almost two years later.
Dallas’s lesson: be brave and try something new.
These horses have all taught me so much; it cannot be contained within a single blog post. But it is within my soul, where it will remain always. My heart has been shattered by so many horses leaving me, but it is always open to love the next one. Thank you, ponies.