The road that brought me to where I am right now with my two beloved Thoroughbreds has been an interesting one. If you told me when I moved to Texas six years ago that I’d eventually own two hunter/jumper Thoroughbreds at a show barn, I would have laughed in your face. Though my background has always been in (struggle bus) hunter/jumper, I wanted to do AQHA when I first moved here.
I figured that Texas was a Quarter Horse state if there ever was one, and moving here would be my chance to do some all around AQHA classes. Glitter shirts and shiny halters? Sign me up! I was still recovering from my fear issues with jumping when we moved to Austin, so I immediately set out to find a AQHA barn where I could do rail classes for days and days.
Trouble is, that’s not really a popular discipline around here. I ended up driving almost an hour and a half outside of Austin for rail type lessons, and only made it out a few times. The trainer was nice, but I couldn’t understand why we had to go so so so slow and she tried to sell me a very lame horse. That plus the drive was enough for me, so I moved on to the next thing.
After I dabbled in AQHA, I decided to peruse Craigslist for some half lease options. That led me to a spotted mare in North Austin with a super reasonable lease fee in a small, no frills type barn.
For the grand total of $250 a month I had spotted moo mare (I honestly don’t remember her name!) to ride almost as much as I wanted. At first this arrangement was perfect for me. She was a bit sour and a bit uneducated, but softened nicely when I asked her to and knew a little about bending. I would ride in the rocky pen by myself and work on flatwork in my hybrid english-rider-in-a-western-saddle way.
Then one day she stood in the middle of the ring and absolutely refused to move. If I got after her, she kicked out or threatened to rear. I immediately thought pain, so contacted the owner who kind of blew the incident under the rug. The next time I was out, an older cowboy neighbor walked over while I was riding (mare was moving that day). He was super nice, and told me just how great I made the mare look. “Before you started riding her, I saw her dump so many people! Keep up the great work!” While I appreciated his compliments, I did not appreciate a dangerous animal lurking below the surface. I made the decision to end my lease at the end of the second month.
Back on Craigslist, I found a cute looking Draft cross that caught my eye. Going out to try him, I was promised a bombproof trail horse who was a super quiet solid citizen in every way. He was rough around the edges, but I liked him. The owners agreed on a lease to own price, so I felt like I could become a horse owner again without diving headfirst into ownership. Thus began my almost year with Teaspoon.
I moved him to a trail riding facility in South Austin, and quickly realized that I did not enjoy trail riding this horse. He hated water crossings, and bucked me off on the trail on more than one occasion. While Teaspoon proved himself to be less than bombproof, I realized that I thought trail riding was extremely boring and decided to start legging him up as a sport horse instead. I’d been in Austin less than a year, and was already itching back to my hunter/jumper roots. I moved Teaspoon to a hunter/jumper lesson barn and started riding him English instead of Western. We did a weekly lesson, and started to improve by leaps and bounds.
I really did love this horse, even though I knew his potential as a sport horse was going to be fairly limited. He was cuddly, adorable and just plain fun to be around.
In late summer Teaspoon started showing strange symptoms all of a sudden. His chestnuts fell off to bloody skin, and his hooves got a strange band of keratin growth around the coronet band. The longer this went on, the more his hooves started to deteriorate at the frog. I had skin autoposies done and steroid treatments tried, but nothing helped. It seemed a lot like coronary band dystrophy which is an extremely frustrating, hard to cure auto immune disorder. I didn’t feel like it was fair to ask Teaspoon to jump and flat on feet on four feet that were possibly hurting, so with a heavy heart I sent him back to his owners. I still miss that horse.
After Spoon left, I was pretty depressed about horses. My trainer at the barn helped set me up with a lease on a nice Thoroughbred, Gatsby. At this point in my life, I was still pretty “Ew Thoroughbreds… bad!” and thought I needed something calmer. Gatsby showed me that I could handle a “hotter” horse, and we spent several months doing flatwork and jumping in lessons.
Though I enjoyed riding him, I eventually decided that I wanted to save up enough money to buy my own Gatsby versus riding someone else’s horse. I ended my lease and vowed to save up in order to buy again.
During this brief “saving money” phase, I rode whatever I could at the barn. My trainer at the time was a huge OTTB supporter, and almost every horse we had was on the track at least once in their life. Riding all these different Thoroughbred school horses helped me fall in love with the breed, and I realized that there was no reason to strike Thoroughbreds off my list of potential horses to own.
Plus the more different horses I rode, the more confident I became.
When I did end up falling in love with a little bay nerdy Thoroughbred, I had a gaggle of random horses before him to thank. If I had met Simon when I first moved here in 2010, I would have never considered him.