Thursday, February 23, 2012

A History Lesson - Part I

I recently read SprinklerBandit's blog entry about coming to the realization that her current mare may not be the right horse for her right now.  And how she's rediscovered how much fun riding is with her current mount, Cuna.  I absolutely understand what she's going through and have a lot of respect for her - it's not easy to come to that realization, never mind voice it out loud.  So here's a little insight into me...

In a land far, far away and a time long past, I had another horse named Fuzzy.  He was beautiful and fancy and an amazing jumper.  He was supposed to be the horse that I did my first prelim on, my first 3-day, my first intermediate, well you get the picture.

Fuzzy at Ledyard in 1994
When I got Fuzzy, I had completed one training level event with my old horse, Cowboy (more on him in another History Lesson).  The thought was we would do one or two novices and move back up to training.  Well, I should have figured that plan was no good after our first cross country school where he proceeded to try and leap the whole water jump.  Keep in mind, said water jump was about 4 strides across - I think he jumped 3 out of the four strides in his leap.  Lets, just say I got a little wet.  Our first event was the fall UNH at novice - we got eliminated at the water.  Go figure.

I spent the winter getting to know him better and that spring we once again made an attempt at novice.  I had ridden the novice there several times and was quite familiar with the track.  It was straightforward and relatively easy.  Or so I thought.  Fuzzy ran away with me and flipped over a table - the same table the fence judge told me was the easiest fence on the course...

I think this was the first time I ever remember not wanting to get back on.  I was knocked out and can still remember coming to and going through the checklist - am I breathing? can I still feel my hands? do my fingers still move? what about my legs? can I move my toes?  Not a fun experience at 14.  Fuzzy apparently had dirt from the tip of his ear to the tip of his tail.  I was covered in dirt and relatively unharmed - concussion, dislocated thumb, and sore but that's it.  Not bad in the grand scheme of things.  But what took the worst beating was my confidence.  I still struggle with it to this day.

I continued to ride Fuzzy and we continued to compete, eventually cantering around prelim.  If I'm brave, I may even post a video in a different history lesson.  My point to this particular history lesson is I rode for the next 2 years after the fall scared.  And it wasn't fun.  I couldn't eat for about 3 days before cross country and wanted to throw-up every time I left the start box.  In Fuzzy's defense, he never did anything that naughty again.  In fact, he was a pretty genuine guy.  Sometimes I wish he'd slammed on the brakes more often and maybe I would have realized it wasn't fun a bit more quickly.  Fuzzy was a great horse, a phenomenal horse even but I hated going cross country.  I was terrified I was going to make a mistake that would end up with him being hurt or me so I rode backwards.  I think I was secretly hoping he'd make the right decision for us.  But he just kept on trucking despite me.

I wish I'd realized sooner that we were not an eventing match made in heaven.  We could have spent some quality time in the jumper ring and had a total blast.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.  He wasn't the easiest horse to deal with on the ground and dressage was tough to say the least but he saved my butt more times then I like to remember and for that I will always be grateful (and that's the reason he had a home for life - we had to put him down in Jan 2009).

King Oak Training - Spring 1995
The story does have a bit of a happy ending but that's another lesson as well.  This is why I appreciate Charlie so much.  I always leave the barn smiling.  I love going to the barn because I not only get to see Charlie but I get to ride him.  He is such a joy to be around both under saddle and on the ground.  He's never been stupid - excited, yes but stupid, no.  He rarely spooks and when he does it's legitimate and small.  I feel like one of those parents everyone hates because their kid is always the best.  But I can't help it - Charlie just makes me so happy.  I wish this type of horse for everyone - the one that makes them happy always.  That makes you excited to get to the barn to ride them because they are everything you wish for.  For me, that's Charlie.  Maybe it's fate that put me in Cherie's barn that Dec...

Onto more practical matters - I had a jumping lesson on Wed.  As usual, Charlie was great.  We spent the first half of the lesson working on the flat, applying what we'd learned from Carolyn.  In talking with Janna, she described Carolyn perfectly - she's very, very subtle.  We had some great flatwork - once again, Janna had to remind to keep my upper body back.  As soon as I stretch up, his balance improves significantly.  Especially in the canter.  I practiced that today and could feel a real difference when we went down the hill.  Then we did some grid work starting with a placing rail and a cross rail and ending with a double bounce, one stride to a 3 foot oxer - eek!  Charlie was great and I really worked on trying to keep my upper body quiet, letting him jump up to me.  I had so much fun!  I think Charlie did too as his ears were forward the whole time.  

It was beautiful out yesterday and today - Charlie got to spend both days without a blanket!  Yay!  I always feel bad for their skin in the winter - always covered with a blanket, it never gets to breathe.

Charlie and Sadie enjoying the sunshine and 70 degree weather.
Fence judging at Pine Top tomorrow!  Should be fun!


  1. It's amazing what we learn about our riding and horses NOW, when looking back isn't it?

    I always say, "if I had of known then, what I know now..." lol

  2. Ain't that the truth?!?! Hindsight is always 20/20.

  3. love the little bit of History :) I think we are the riders we are today because of what we go through :)

  4. On my. Fuzzy is like Izzy--so gorgeous that you think it will work.

    You sound really happy on Charlie. :-) Glad you found him and I hope you post the story sometime.

  5. @The Fullers - Absolutely. I have been lucky to have some pretty amazing equine partners - Fuzzy included. I just wish I had appreciated them more in the moment instead of in memory. I think that's why I cherish Charlie so much.

    @SprinklerBandit - In all honesty, I think you've probably had to deal with more antics. Fuzzy did a whopper but after that he is quite possibly the most honest horse I've ever had the privilege to ride. I did enjoy him - just not cross country! :-)