But another worry still plagued the corners of my mind - would I be able to maintain a healthy partnership/relationship with each horse? How would my mind categorize them? Would a distinct "favorite" rise above the others? Would I end up spending more time with one vs. the others? Would three prove too much for me in terms of maintaining fitness and an individual relationship?
When I had just two horses, it was easy because of the dichotomy that existed between Q and Griffin. It was easy to think of them and work with them wholly and independently of one another.
I knew adding a third horse to the mix would be more complicated. And for awhile, it was. My mind struggled to categorize and find balance between not only each horse's workload, but the manner in which they fulfilled a certain riding need/niche for me. But as time went on, I found that my relationship with each horse settled very nicely into rather cliché categories...
HeadSince Q entered my life in 2012, she has been - and continues to be - my biggest challenge. While she is a great work partner, she is also a very sensitive soul who fusses over the tiniest things.
Q doesn't give things freely or easily. She makes me work for everything. But that work isn't physical, oh no, it's something much more difficult. She makes me THINK.
Q challenges me mentally. For years, I've categorized her as a "mental challenge" in my mind. She's a headcase and has drug me along with her for a wild mental trip more times than I care to count. I know that the issues Q has aren't so much her own as mine. She has baggage, certainly, but the trouble we continually run into comes from my inability to help her work through her baggage due to my own troubles.
She challenges me and pushes me to the end of my limits, flushing raw emotions from me despite my every attempt to keep them in. I hate it, and I love it, and I recognize that it makes me a better person every time.
This little mare has caused me more grief and anxiety than any horse I've ever ridden or worked with. She has made me dig deeper as a horseperson - and as a human - than any animal or human has ever done. Because of her, I've learned to read nonverbal communications of both horses and humans at an acute level. Because of her, I've learned to check my baggage at the proverbial door when I enter new situations. Because of her, I've learned - and am learning - to quell my emotions, especially my frustration, to a very zen level. Because of her, I'm much more self-aware and emotionally intelligent than I ever could have been without her.
|Jump demo for elementary school kids on the playground I grew up playing on |
and fantasizing about running and jumping my own horse. Talk about childhood dream come true.
For as many lows as I have experienced because of my troubles with this horse, I have experienced an equal number of highs. She's opened doors for me that I'd only ever dreamed of. The biggest accomplishment we've had together is the Old Dominion 100 - and it was no "gimme"! Reflecting on the final mile of that ride still makes me tear up. That horse made me work right along with her (mentally) for that ride, but she gave me her all.
While I've threatened her with a new zip code numerous times (and promised myself I'd follow through if things didn't look up before the end of this year), I've never followed through. Despite every challenge she's presented me, Q fulfills my head unlike any other horse. And for that, I will be forever grateful.
Heart"Heart horse" is a term that is commonly heard among horse people. Many have, or have had, a heart horse. Some are still waiting. And others still are lucky to have had more than one heart horse in their lifetime.
I've known for over a decade, that Stan was my heart horse. The hours upon days upon weeks upon years I spent with that horse during my teens bonded us more than anything else could have. My rides with Stan rarely included spoken words. We simply flowed with one another. He was intimately attuned to my every thought, wish, and desire.
|We'll ignore that I didn't wear a helmet for several years and |
instead focus on those extremely loose reins and his happy ears...
The level of trust I had in this horse was insane.
My riding aids back then were largely what felt right more than what "should be". I didn't have enough riding instruction to know how to "properly" ask for a transition, a half halt, etc. I just did whatever felt right in the moment and Stan responded in like.
I imagine it's like how many Native Americans learn to ride. It's not so much about the minutia of riding as the overall mindset and relationship that develops between rider and horse. The connection is unlike anything else.
Stan and I had, and have, a great relationship. We're both independent of one another, yet totally in tune with each other. He isn't as "up" as Q or Griffin, but he's still "with" me on our rides. The unadulterated joy I felt while riding him at RBTR 2017 is a testament to that! Q's gifted me with many amazing endurance rides during our years together, but the happiness I felt while riding Stan last year was on another level from the enjoyment I've garnered from my rides with Q.
Stan is my heart. He has helped pull me out of more "funks" than I can count. Of special note, he's helped me regain faith in my abilities as a rider this past year as I struggled with baggage from Q's spooking habit. He's retaught me that it is fun to go fast and that I can put all of my faith in my equine partner to not drop or toss me when the going gets tough.
No matter how many horses come into my life, Stan will always hold a place near and dear to my heart.
SoulHeart horse is a "thing", certainly. But what about a horse that goes beyond your heart? One that you not only connect with so well that the majority of your rides are incredible, but that also makes some deeper part of you feel home?
That's what Griffin is for me. Every time I see him in the field, a part of me just clicks into place and the world seems right. It's hard to explain beyond saying I just feel home when I'm with him.
His temperament is unlike any other horse I've spent time with. I'm sure a lot of that stems from the fact that I've raised him from the ground up and literally taught him everything he knows. Regardless of that, he has an absolutely insatiable need to please. He wants to be with me no matter what. It doesn't matter if I worked the snot out of him the day prior, he's always the first to come to me in the field and, more often than not, he will walk halterless to the barn from the field with me and Stan or Q.
Griffin is [almost] always on board with what I want to do. Endurance, jumping, dressage, games, bareback, trail riding, driving. You name it, he's up for it and will give me his best effort. He's got his preferences, certainly, but despite those he gives me his all with each thing we try.
Of the disciplines we have dabbled in so far, Griffin comes most alive for jumping. Since he was a little tyke he's gravitated toward jumps. I've taken my dear sweet time honing our skills within jumping and otherwise, but jumping is still the thing that makes his ears go up more than anything else!
Griffin has taken me places I never thought I'd go (dressage lessons, cross country schooling, dressage schooling shows, and unrecognized HTs) and has superseded all of my dreams as a rider outside of endurance. I didn't set the bar too high to begin with, but that's because I never dreamed I'd have an option to set the bar higher! But now I do, and now I am setting my sights on slightly more lofty goals.
We may take awhile to reach those goals, but every step of the journey will be enjoyable. Every step of my 6 years so far with this horse has been incredible.
|That expression is still the same, everything else is vastly improved. Oh Grif, you were so hideous.|
I never dreamed that the ugly "free project" yearling would take me to these places, or that I would evolve and grow so much as a person and equestrian because of him, but here we are. Griffin has exceeded everyone's imaginations.
I'm so grateful for this gelding and all we've accomplished together. He is truly a gift and I'm so excited for all of the adventures to come.
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How about you? Have you had/do you have different horses that fulfill different niches for you? Did it take you awhile to realize they filled those positions, or maybe you knew right away the kind of relationship you could expect? Maybe you haven't thought about this at all before, but your mind is turning now - how would you classify your relationship with your current equine partner?