It feels like it’s been a really busy year for me, but in some ways it’s the quietest year we’ve had in a looooooooong time.
- We did not move out of the state this year
- We did not move at all this year
- We did not buy a house this year
- I did not change jobs this year
- I did not get married or engaged this year
I haven’t been able to make all of those above statements since 2006 I think! What did I do instead of any of the above? I worked hard at my job, made and developed friendships in Austin, and of course… concentrated on ponies.
I start the new year off horseless and back from my lazy half ass weekly lesson months the year before. I was really ready to find a horse and ready to get serious again. At this point I was dead set on lease only, and everything at my barn was taken up. I took some confidence building lessons on our school horses, like amazing Gio to the right here and even tried a free 1/2 Draft Thoroughbred/ClydeX that needed a home. He was too giant and hot for me, and I was damn near hopeless until Kathy mentioned an opening for a Thoroughbred gelding owned by another adult in the barn.
Despite knowing that he had a “previous” bucking problem, I started leasing Gatsby. He was a talented 10 y/o OTTB with a nice jump, lots of buttons to push, and auto changes. I absolutely loved hacking him, because he was so easy to get ‘long and low’ and I had a fun time having pretend hunter under saddle classes. During the day if I kept him slow and did the adds (or even the double adds sometimes), he was a doll.
Half of me is having a fun time riding this horse who I know can go show and have the potential to do well, but the other half of me is having confidence issues. When Gatsby is behaving himself, I feel great and am ready to go show. However, when I started doing the strides with him and asking for more… he started bucking in the corners. They weren’t huge bucks, but they un-nerved me. I never came off, but would turn into a pile of mush and began to wonder what to do.
Not knowing what to do about Gatsby, I went to visit my friend, Rebecca, in Wellington. She is a groom at a barn in Grand Prix Village, and I go visit her every year during WEF. I watched the Hunter Derby Finals, took pictures, and surrounded myself with all things horsey. We talked and decided my best bet was just saving my money and buying a horse I could bring up exactly how I wanted, and the decision to end Gatsby’s lease was made very easy for me when his owner decided she needed to sell him ASAP.
Back to riding school horses during my weekly lesson, my trainer asks if would like to school one of her greener Thoroughbreds. He had a great disposition, but needed more miles before he would be ready for summer camp. Enter Simon. He was skinny and green as grass, but she had recently been trying to put more weight on him and give him some attention. After a handful of rides, I was in love and inquired more about him.
I find out Simon’s situation: he was being ridden some by a busy teenager who loved him and put good rides on him, but didn’t have the funds to lease or own. If I wanted to lease him or possibly take ownership of him, it was possible. I immediately started a school horse lease (our barn’s version of a 1/2 lease) on Simon and with each ride was more and more convinced that he was a good match for me. My only concerns were getting him vetted to clear an old hock defect that I wanted to make sure wouldn’t severely limit his future, and warming up my husband to the idea (aka asking him if it’s OK for me to own a horse again). I shouldn’t have worried – Tim and Simon became fast friends.
Simon passes the vet, and my trainer gives him to me! I become luckiest Austinite horse person ever. I spend a lot of time “trot trotting” and trying to build up Simon’s strength. We work a lot on corners, and learning not to drop our shoulder and “motorcycle” around everything. We also start dressage lessons, where my dressage trainer teaches me to get him to listen to my seat and not rely on my hands. I pull Simon from 24/7 pasture board, into a stall for 1/2 the day. He starts to beef up from lots of grain and his coat loses the sun bleached look from being dried out in the heat.
It’s hot as balls, and we start a lunging in side reins program to condition him and to build up muscles under my dressage trainer’s guidance. In our weekly jumping lessons, we move from ground poles to cross rails to small verticals. I quickly learn that Simon loves to jump, and I need to channel my inner mojo to not be scared of fences. When I trust him and display confidence with my leg and seat, he happily goes over everything. I realize I do have what it takes to bring up this green bean properly.
People at the barn begin to comment about Simon saying how good he looks. The kids who always thought he was a throwaway horse that wouldn’t be sound begin to think ‘hey, maybe he’s not so bad.’ We switch bits a few times and end up taking a break from the lunge work when he started to try and rear against them a few times. I realize that my “hot OTTB” is not hot at all, and doesn’t need lunging to behave. Confidence continues to grow, and instead of maybe showing this year we start to make plans to compete in November.
This was a big month. We were successfully getting around 2’0″ courses with simple changes, and occasionally schooling larger fences. I really started to trust him. My friend, Rebecca, visited for ACL and (even though she is not a TB fan at all) said she really liked Simon. One of the trainers at the barn makes a last minute decision to go to a one day local show, and we decide to go. We did three 2’0″ over fences rounds and two under saddle classes, almost ran over a small pony in the flat class, and made it over every fence with no refusals. I finally had gotten to show for the first time in almost 4 years, and managed to stay on course with no refusals! I was so, so so proud of my boy. Oh yeah… I also dressed him up like a Hawaiian creature.
My whole November was spent getting ready for Waco, which was a huge deal to us. My first real hunter/jumper overnight show and Simon’s first time trailering any real distance and staying in temporary stalls. He was an absolute superstar, and even though he looked real hard at all the fences in his warm-up round – he didn’t try to stop once. We also did a better job at carrying a real pace for the courses, doing the adds instead of trying to squish in the double ads (I love to go slow!). I braided him for shits and giggles, and he looked gorgeous. We had some flub ups, but it was a great learning experience for both of us!
After the November show, we’ve been taking it really easy in December. I gave him about a week off which turned into two weeks when he cut his heel, but I needed some husband and friend time so it was OK. Simon doesn’t believe in time off, and is ready to get back to work! I’ve been formulating a game plan for what I like to call January Pony Bootcamp 2013. The biggest change in our riding I’m happy to report, is that when I see a new challenge in a jumping lesson – whether it’s height or course related – I get excited instead of scared. I trust this horse. He loves his job, and I’m so glad we became a team this year.