There have been some great Transformation Tuesday stories submitted so far. When looking through some old photo albums, I realized I had my own transformation story to share about the horse I never talk about. The horse that kind of haunts me a little. This is the story of Beckett, my third horse.
My former trainer has a knack for finding a diamond in the rough, and when she talked to an AQHA trainer friend of her’s I got super excited. He had a 16.2hh 5 year old Quarter horse gelding by Chocolua. 10+ mover, but had been sitting for a few years after a failed start as a hunter under saddle horse. We could pick him up, try him some, and the purchase price would be cheap.
We picked him up on Saint Patrick’s day, and I named him Beckett after the Irish playwright. He may have been a 10 mover, but that was about it. When the trainer said “sitting in the pasture”… he meant it. He hadn’t been stalled or grained or really cared for in about three years.
We let him settle, and of course… fed him. My trainer decided to treat him like he had never been broken, so that’s what we did. I lead her around on him for about a week, and then I sat on him for the first time.
It was exciting training a baby horse, and seeing her patience with him. I loved observing her with him and seeing when to push and when not to push.
He was mostly a good boy, but tended to go from totally to chill to totally explosive in .01 seconds. The second time I sat on him, we were lead over a pole on the ground. His hoof hit the pole, it scared him and he took of bronco bucking. I bruised some ribs, and from that moment forward was fairly terrified of him.
Still, he progressed with my trainer with every ride. I tried to tell myself that he was so fancy and he wasn’t a bad boy. I didn’t need to be afraid.
I rode him some, but it was always with kid gloves. I always expected him to explode again, and therefore spent more time worrying than I did progressing or riding. Pretty much from day one, any improvement that happened with Beckett was 100% due to my trainer’s expertise.
The nicer of a horse he turned into, the more I thought I should love him and make it work. When the time came to decide to purchase or walk away, I purchased at the encouragement of my trainer. I don’t hold it against her for instructing me to buy him. After all, I wanted a 2’6″ – 3′ A capable hunter and he could easily do that eventually… and even win! But deep down I knew that this wasn’t going to work out.
Even with these reservations, he blossomed under her farm care and training.
I still rode a few times a week, but I was always extremely defensive. I fell off multiple times… because he would spook like any baby horse can and my seat wasn’t very sticky at the time. I knew it wasn’t his fault, but I became less and less confident.
I preferred to watch my trainer ride him, where he continued to look better and better.
Sometime in the fall/winter he came up lame, and after several failed diagnosis attempts we finally got a vet to tell us he tore a lower branch of his suspensory. Around the same time, I officially decided I needed to sell him and that I would never get over my fear issues with him. Trouble is you can’t sell a lame horse. My trainer (who was in vet school at the time) came up with a rehab plan, and we stuck to it religiously. I hand walked and took care of him, but he would rear and act out from the stall rest. Every day I held it against him. I had a horse I was afraid to ride and couldn’t sell, and I pretty much hated him for it.
Luckily with her knowledge and guidance, he came back sound towards the end of winter. I rode even less. By now, the goal was just to get him to the point that we could put him on the market.
She adored him and thought he was the greatest. He hardly ever put a foot wrong with her, and she would ride with floopy reins and tell me my horse was so easy to ride and why can’t I ride him? I couldn’t because I was scared of him, and I kind of hated him.
In the spring he started jumping.
Started getting his changes and doing courses. Here was this horse that was literally everything I ever asked for… and I wanted to sell him. I think I started to hate myself a little too.
Wen he was starting to show, I had a horse I owned in the biggest AA show in North Carolina. I never thought I’d get to play in that ring… and I may never get to play in that ring again.
But it wasn’t me riding. I could barely canter Beckett one lap around the ring, where my trainer was doing the baby greens with him.
He didn’t win any ribbons at that show, but he certainly performed really well for the baby horse that he was. The over fences classes were great, but the flat class was a total disaster.
I remember getting into an argument with my trainer after that class. I made a comment like, “How are we ever going to sell this horse if he behaves like that?” and it rightfully upset her. The reason that this conversation stands out to me so much, is that it was a very defining moment in my equestrian career. She basically handed my ass to me and told me that I don’t work hard when I rode and I expected the horse to be perfect when I’m not putting any work in. It was all true. She was upset because I was being the demanding client who was failing to see just how far she brought the horse along, and I don’t think she understood how much mental anxiety I had tied up with that chestnut creature.
Beckett sold shortly after the show right before the major recession in 2008. I’m extremely fortunate of the timing, because I was about to move to MA to work at SmartPak and don’t know what I would have done if I still was responsible for him.
He’s probably the nicest horse I may ever own. The transformation in him from skinny, immature creature to nice hunter is striking, and I owe all of that to my trainer at the time. Furthermore, he taught me an extremely important lesson – having the nice show horse does not create a winner. It takes hard work to get anywhere.
Also, I told myself that I would never spend my time and money on a horse I didn’t feel a connection with. I trust my gut on all horse acquiring/purchasing decisions. I may not end up with an AA hunter again, but I have to be happy.