1. The Intro Horse.
We each came into horses in our own way, but it was always with a horse leading us. This might have been a friend’s first pony, or perhaps it was a draft horse on a farm you once visited It might have been a real-life meeting, or an imaginary one.
Rocky. One of our local farriers (let me take a moment to point out that in a very rural area we have not one, not two, but SIX farriers and one barefoot trimmer) has daughters around my age. My earliest real memories of riding were of this farrier leading me up the mountain and back on his little Rocky pony. When we got back to the field he'd let me tool around on my own some. I have fleeting memories of trying to get Rocky to trot and thinking we were going SO FAST. In reality, we may only have been walking faster. Its hard to say. Perhaps my love of bays is because of this guy.
2. The Experimental Horse
Once you had crossed the line between “Darn, they’re big!” and “Wow! Can I try that?” you found yourself face-to-face with the horse that would suffer through your early attempts at figuring out the whole horse experience … wherever this horse came from, he probably didn’t benefit from the encounter as much as you did.
|Was I focused or what?!|
Deemo. This Arab (cross?) started my lasting love for Arabs. His owner was a high schooler in an adjacent county that I first met when she had a 3-day horse "camp" for me and her two neighbor girls. I continued riding with her about once a week for the next year or two. Almost always on the trails. She'd lead and I was expected to follow. She knew I knew how to stop the horse, so I was expected to rate my own speed when she walked, trotted, and cantered. I had a lot to figure out following her around the WV woods. Deemo was a great babysitter.
3. The Connected Horse
The first horses we meet don’t really connect with us, nor do we with them. Those are experiences in survival and tests of endurance. The Connected Horse is the first horse you truly bond with. This is the horse that sounds a chord that lives so deep in you that you might never have heard it otherwise.
Stan. He was tasked to me because I'd gone through all the other horses in the barn without issue. Little did I know he'd evolve into a completely different horse around me versus everyone else.
4. The Challenger
Into each horseperson’s life, a little challenge must fall. You’ll have read that one final training book, bought yourself a clicker and heading rope, and there you’ll stand, arms crossed, assessing the situation as if you actually knew what the situation was. It might be difficult to believe, as you are flying down the aisleway on the losing end of a braided cotton line, but you actually need this horse in your life.
Q. I've never dealt with a mare so much before. For as much as she is a saint, she is also equally a fussbucket. Learning her personality took years and I still sometimes don't think I've figured her out completely. She's been slow to share everything with me. I know she's very talented and capable of many things, but she's reactive due to a rocky start before she came to me. She's taught me more than any other horse how to keep my cool at all times and look at situations completely objectively. Am I always successful in this endeavor? No. I'm human. But her teachings have brought me a long way with horses and even moreso with human interactions. She continues to be my biggest challenge, but her lessons are steeped with rewards.
5. Your Deepest Heart
There will come a time when you will look at yourself with a cold, appraising eye, and you’ll have to be honest about your continued ability to deal with The Challenger and other difficult horses. At that point, you’ll seek out the horse that will be your soul mate forever… You’ll have bought him the most comfortable, best fitting equipment… Maybe you’ll still go to shows and ride – brilliantly or barely – in the Alzheimer’s class. Maybe you’ll just stay home. Whatever you do, one day you’ll realize that after all the money you spent on animal communicators and trainers, you only had to stop and listen and you would have clearly heard your horse’s thoughts and desires.
From day one, Griffin has been vying for the position of being my deepest heart. Try as I might to be equal with my affections between horses, he is worming his way deeper than the others in his own unique way. He's exceptionally special to me as the first horse I have raised from the ground up. Through midyear of 2017, all of his training has been done by me. He's never been "sent to a trainer". His insatiable need-to-please is something I've never experienced before. He's opening doors into disciplines I never dreamed I'd get to enjoy, too. Our journey is just beginning and I'm so excited to see where we go.
Other memorable horses who have been featured on this blog:
Orion was the first horse I formally owned. He was bred as a 4-H project and was a "free" horse. I'd hoped he would be my endurance prospect. Alas, while I knew how to take care of a horse and how to condition a horse at that time, I was woefully behind on my understanding of conformation. This guy just didn't have it. We got along well enough, but there was never a *spark* there. After a ligament injury from routine work following months of conditioning and a month of rehab, I passed him along to a friend who was a better fit for him. He's fat, sassy, and happy living with her at the original barn I kept him at.
For even more history on my life with horses...click here to navigate to a very old entry I wrote with photos of them all.