Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Demo

Demo (dee-mOH)

Demo was the first horse I spent longer than a few lessons getting to know. He was an Arab X of some sort; he initiated my love of the Arabian breed.

I began my adventures with Demo when I was in 3rd grade. My mother somehow got wind of a girl in a neighboring county who was offering lessons. Phoebe and her family lived on a beautiful piece of land about 45 minutes from my home. It was very rural with plenty of room for trail riding on abandoned strip mines and through the forest. They also had a ring, which in my memory is huge, but likely isn't as large as I remember.

Phoebe's family was very large and they always had several exchange students living with them. They had 3 horses, a multitude of dogs and cats, some reptiles, a pond with fish and amphibians, a huge garden, and a pottery studio where her mom worked. Needless to say, my weekly visits to their home were full of more than just horses. My mom was even able to include my little brother in our visits, as he took pottery lessons while Phoebe and I would ride.

My first forays with Demo began in the way of a 3-day mini-camp with two other girls who lived a few miles away from Phoebe.

We were all introduced to the horses, introduced to the proper etiquette of how you should behave around large animals, and then took turns receiving a lessons on Demo. (I can distinctly remember having to take my index finger and waggle it at Demo's nose while saying - with emphasis - "I'm the boss, buster!") We all helped to give Demo a bath (the big grey gelding standing blissfully ground tied in the hot summer weather as the four of us lathered him up and rinsed him down) and then, the highlight of those three days, we went on a "trail ride" up Phoebe's long driveway (at least a mile one-way) riding bareback and double on Demo and their other horse Ebony.

Superior concentration. Turtles on my shirt. Classy.
Also? I still own those boots somewhere. Yes, my foot has not  grown since I was in 4th grade.

Phoebe's rapport with me over this brief period, coupled with my ecstatic joy of riding, led to my mom setting up continued riding days for the fall.

Phoebe went to school in my county instead of hers. The high school was across the street from my elementary school. Once a week, mom would pick Phoebe up, give her a snack, and they would wait for my brother and I to be released from school (a 45 minute delay). Once released, we'd all head to Phoebe's.

In the beginning, I would receive a lesson in the ring. However, within a few visits Phoebe and I were heading out on trail rides together.

That big grey gelding was always a sweetheart with me. I imagine I must have been dreadful with my beginners hands and seat, but my small frame couldn't do too much harm to him, so he put up with me - the over-large fly perched upon his back for hours at a time.

Phoebe, and Demo, taught me to fend for myself and make my own decisions while riding. Phoebe loved to run. Her favorite ride, Ebony, was as stubborn as they come. He would buck and rear and bite and throw an ever-loving fit almost every single time we were out. She always rode him bareback, too, despite all of this!

Phoebe and Ebony would always lead our rides. Demo followed along behind them with me. Phoebe would always ask or - at a minimum - warn me when she planned to set off at a canter or gallop - girl loved to run. As a then 4th grader, I was still intimidated by anything faster than a trot! It was up to me to keep Demo to a trot as Ebony and Phoebe shot away down the trail for a hundred yards or so.

Demo always listened.

A sweetheart of a horse.

Hours and hours on the trail with Demo, always following the fearless Phoebe, really taught me to ride. I learned to dodge branches while in the saddle, to direct Demo around sticky places, and to pick my speed as I desired. I learned to make decisions and take control of what was going on.

Nothing can replace these lessons. Nothing. The time I spent with Demo and Phoebe built the huge foundation upon which all of my riding is built upon. Practical experience outside of a controlled environment is like nothing else.

I will forever be grateful to that big grey gelding and his gentle nature with me no matter what we got ourselves into (and we did get lost a time or two!). Phoebe, as well. The time she spent with me was integral to the horseperson I have become.

And now have a myriad of pictures from my phone that I took of pictures from the past:

Phoebe on the ever-challenging Ebony
Phoebe's mom making sure we're all ready to go. Don't ask what the hell I'm doing with my heels...I don't even know.
Off we go! On one of our many trail ride adventures. Note the many dogs.
Phoebe and I. This photo meant SO much to me as a kid. I looked up to her
more than just about anyone.
The trail ride during the mini-day camp. We rode double and traded who got to "steer" the horse.
Demo was blissed out.
Happy girls; happy horse.
On the forehand much? Haha. It was all I could do to ride that trot at the time!

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