Transformation Tuesday – Beckett

Transformation Tuesday – Beckett

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I preferred to watch my trainer ride him, where he continued to look better and better.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In the spring he started jumping.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

25 thoughts on “Transformation Tuesday – Beckett

  1. I think Simon looks just as fancy as him though. Yall are going to get there. I’m not a huge chestnut fan though, so that might be why I can’t see the fancy as much as you do.

    1. Simon is a lovely horse and has a great jump, but as my friend says in the comments Beckett had his butt whooped in the movement department. He really was a 10+ mover/hack winner. Lovely creature!

  2. My mom has been-there-done-that with this type of story, definitely not easy but at least you helped give him a second chance and now, you have Simon-Pants!

  3. I too have had a pretty nice horse that I just didn’t like, so I know where you’re coming from. I wasn’t scared of mine but I just didn’t really get along with him. At the end of the day, we spend way too much money and devote way too much time/energy to be unhappy… you have to love the horse. I have had much less fancy horses that I have loved a whole lot more.

  4. That is an absolutely gorgeous transformation. Fear of a horse can be so crippling, but it sounds like you learned plenty from the experience and things ended for the better.

  5. He was a beauty. I went through something similar with my second baby. He had to have surgery and during handwalking he kicked me so hard I couldn’t get up. He continued to act up (almost killed me in his stall double-barrel kicking) and be crazy because he was a 2 yr old stuck on stall rest – but he terrified me. Luckily we weren’t riding at that point and I spent another half a year on just ground work with him (with a helmet on!) and I got over my fears. Still, when you know in your heart that it isn’t going to work, then the best decision you can make is to move on and find something that does work for you. You and Simon look amazing together and I think he looks just as fancy as some of the AA horses out there! The best part is that you are comfortable enough to push yourself and him – that is all that it takes! 🙂

  6. Oh, Beckett, such a sweet lovely nice horse. With the same confidence issues that you had (note I said HAD) :-P. Incredibly fancy hunter, perhaps you have some sort of video of him? I don’t think it can be fully appreciated just in pictures, he def. has Simon whooped in the movement department (their jumps are actually incredibly similar!).

  7. Whew. What a rough story! It’s really brave of you to be able to look back and see all the places you and your trainer pushed too hard or made inexperienced decisions.

    It’s tough to learn that you need to truly care for the horse you own in order to do well and want to ride it. My hat is always off to professionals who have to put in a good ride on a client horse with a bad attitude or that they don’t like, and can put that behind them and pull it off. I can’t, and I don’t think many people can. Good for you for selling this guy, and for ending up with a horse like Simon. He’s a good fit for you, and certainly a lovely horse in his own way. 🙂

    As Jimmy Wofford says,”But probably, if I had to pick one thing that I had to hang my hat on, I would want the horse that I was going to buy to have a face that I would enjoy seeing poked over the stall webbing every morning, waiting for breakfast.”

  8. I love Chocolua!! I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him in person, a friend of mine boarded at the barn he was at. I really like some of his babies, and if he hadn’t died I would be seriously considering breeding my mare to him.

  9. Woah he was gorgeous!! And that neck gives me hope for Wiz ;P

    That being said, I agree- you can’t force yourself to be into a horse that you’re uncomfortable with… unfortunately a lot of people end up buying more horse than they can handle often. I feel like the rider you are today may have been more prepared, but it wasn’t the right horse then and that’s not your fault. You’ve continued to progress and that’s what matters!!

    When I took Wiz, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to deal with him. And I admit, there have been a few times where I’ve been scared to death thinking “what the hell am I doing on this green horse I can’t handle this!?” But then somehow every time I’ve fallen off I’ve just jumped back up and hopped back on and it’s been fine- somehow I’ve come to expect and get over his pretty predictable one buck a ride thing. When he does get too much, I try to back off and either let me trainer ride or do ground work, because I definitely don’t want to get myself in a situation where I get hurt or scare myself (or him).

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your story. Don’t be so hard on yourself- he is a lovely horse but it wasn’t a match and you are both better off. You helped him become a nice horse and he probably ended up in a nice home, and you learned some good lessons and moved on and continued to improve your riding with a horse you have a real connection with.

    (Also- sometimes trainers don’t get it because it comes SO natural to them that it’s just like, hey this is easy. They can’t even explain it. There have been a few times where my trainer has asked me to do things and I’ve had to tell her no, I don’t feel comfortable. Actually -she chastised me for not telling her because I went and did it, got scared when Wiz started bucking around crazy, and finally told her I thought we just needed to walk that outing. She was like- “seriously, that’s fine, you have to let me know when you’re not comfortable” haha- oops! I was trying so hard to not let her down!)

  10. I have a very similar story – being scared of my horse that everyone adored. I also learned the lesson of owning a horse you can really enjoy. Every ride – even when I fall off 🙂

  11. I rode an amazing mare, one of my current trainer’s horses, and she was AMAZING. So, so talented… I just couldn’t jump her to save my life. Could she have gone to big, big shows and won? Yeah. But I couldn’t ride her, and definitely couldn’t handle her at shows.

    So even though Miles is less fancy, I love him so much more because I trust him. And I can ride him.

    I’m glad you learned something from your experience with Beckett, just like I did with that mare. But I also 100% know you made the right decision. <3 Simon!

  12. Jimmy Wofford says that your horse has to be one you fall in love with again each morning when he hangs his head over the stall door looking for breakfast. If not, you won’t make the necessary excuses for him during the training process. That right there is my religion.

  13. I still need to do the huey transformation Tuesday! Need to stop being so lazy.

    Atleast you learned from the experience! 🙂

  14. I think if you ride enough, and own enough horses, unless you have oodles of money to be picky, or unlimited self confidence, you end up with a story similar to this. My current mare is a little like this. She easily rocks my confidence if I’m not mentally prepared but everyone always talks up how good she is, what a great ride she is. When your not confident it can end up making you feel all the more bad, like why can’t I just enjoy her like everyone else. I’m glad you have a horse that works better with you. Like others have said, its too expensive to be miserable.

  15. Thanks for sharing your story! It sounds quite similar to mine- darn these Chestnut AQHAs. I’m glad your trainer was able to bring him along enough (and he was able to rehab enough) to be sellable! Sometimes horses and people aren’t good fits and it’s best to move on and find something that is!

  16. It is definitely not worth having a horse you are afraid of or just simply don’t want to ride no matter how nice they are. #1 it is too expensive and #2 life is just too short!

  17. I think many of us can identify with this. I had a gorgeous, talented horse I didn’t click with and ended up afraid of. Although it ended badly (you know the story), sometimes the universe works in mysterious ways, because I now have another heart horse.

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