I am breaking a cardinal rule of running here – “what happens on the run stays on the run”. While running with a fellow horse owner this weekend, we discussed how much we are affected by our relationship with our horse. Not realizing that I was playing the part of a prophet, I said that I would take physical setbacks over mental issues with a horse. I still stand by that statement, but after seeing Ries’ slightly puffy left pastern after free jumping him yesterday, I wish I had knocked on wood. More on that in a moment.
I have had several horses over the last two plus decades (gulp) of my horse owning life. No two have been alike and I have learned a tremendous amount from each. Cal, my first horse, was nineteen when we bought him and plagued with foot problems and a stupid teenage owner and was never completely sound. Fred has been the most complicated and physically plagued horse I have ever known. Ries ,in one year, has been beset by multiple physical problems. Needless to say, I have gotten really used to having interrupted or non existent show seasons.
Two of my other competition horses were physically sound but mentally challenging. Tweed is a gorgeous draft cross that I bought as a yearling and sold as a nine year old when I was pregnant with Liam. I brought him along on my own and we got through second level dressage without problems and training level eventing with problems. Tweed can jump four feet without seeming to work at it and has incredible scope over fences. Tweed also was a very difficult horse to ride. When he was younger, he reared. I don’t mean he occasionally got a little light up front. Tweed stood up and leapt around on his hind legs and thrashed like a fish on the end of a line. At one point, I tried sending him to a “yes, um, I can fix this horse for your little self” cowboy trainer who acted like I was a little girl who was backed off by her big horse. The next day he called my father, very badly shaken, and told him to come pick the horse up. Tweed had leapt out of the round pen with Mr. Cowboy on his back and then managed to whack him off on a tree. Thanks to some seriously well timed help from Mac, we got Tweed over rearing, but he remained very challenging. Some of it was physical and between training and chiropractic/message Tweed became a much steadier horse. By the time I sold him, I really did not want to, but there are several years of blood, sweat, and certainly tears behind him.
Then there is Lazlo. Laz is an imported Dutch Warmblood who has never gotten over his contempt for Yankees. I do not regret buying Lazlo, but I cannot believe how hard that horse was on my ego. Laz had been trained through PSG and then thoroughly ruined somewhere along the way. I was able to buy him because the owners were in a bit of a situation and he had to go immediately. The horse had a buck that no “pure” dressage rider was ever going to buy at the time. Having never had a warmblood or a FEI trained horse as well as a desperate desire to finish off the scores for my Bronze medal, Lazlo came home with me. My internal optimist was convinced that I could fix this horse. Some things got much better and I learned an insane amount about “real” dressage, huge trots, training, and horsemanship in general. I also got my bronze medal, but trashed my enjoyment of showing. Lazlo became a very quiet, but still was great at home but did not like the show ring. He was sold to a women who wanted a school master and also had a fit male trainer to squeeze Lazlo around the show ring while she did changes and spoiled him rotten. It sounds like Lazlo is far happier and more successful in his current situation, and I appreciate the occasional update letting me know that he is still going strong and can school PSG with his trainer. I would have liked to have been the one to get him there, but lacked the resources. Lazlo and Tweed are both indestructibly sound, but it often seemed that the price was too high. Someday I hope to get Tweed back, but it sounds like his new owners don’t plan on giving him up. I check his competition results online every now and then and it looks like he is doing okay.
After selling Lazlo, a great opportunity fell into my lap. I was not looking for a horse since Whitman was a year plus and I figured I could bide my time. I had a great little Morgan that I bought and sold in short order to a good friend and didn’t really want to be selling horses. A good friend and trainer was pregnant and asked me to take the ride on a nice sales mare she had, so I got Roulette. “Roo” is a 17.1 + warmblood/TB/draft cross mare. I adore her. She was always well behaved and had a great work ethic despite her “ginormous” size. After about four months, she decided she adored me as well and just poured her heart into her work. I got to take her to two recognized shows and we rocked. We had great scores, wonderful comments from the judges and I will be forever grateful to her for making showing fun again and patching my ego back together. She pretty much clicked her heels together as we entered the arena and was even better in the show ring. What was so awesome about her, it that it was hard work for her with her very long back and she really responded to the training methods that we used with her and it just came together seamlessly. Of course, once the flying changes were getting decent enough to contemplate our third level debut she sold to a wonderful owner that sends me updates. (If you are not picking up on it – third level has been a real stumbling block for me. I got Lazlo to a fourth level schooling show, but the dressage gods like to throw a few curve balls anytime I get near third)
So, fingers are crossed for the OTTB with a heart of gold, the patience of a saint, the heart of a lion, and the physical soundness of an old man.