Tia turned 8 last week – which means that I have now been her proud owner for over 4 years!
Tia and myself the first day that I tried her out before buying her.
Tia a few weeks after owning her.
Tia two months after owning her (getting shiny and fat!)
Tia 4 years later, different tack and muscled up!
4, sometimes difficult, mostly enjoyable and always interesting years. It’s amazing to think how quickly time has passed. I used to think we had all the time in the world – we could take things slow and by the time Tia was old enough to really start showing I would have the funds to support it.
Well that’s all somewhat true. But I’ve learned a lot in the past four years with my (sometimes) faithful steed.
1. I could have pushed a little more, a little earlier. Tia is now 8 doing training level. I mean sure that’s ok but could we have gotten further had I started with regular lessons earlier? Probably. Now I have (what every trainer and judge has noted along the way) a talented horse whose age may eventually become a barrier to the upper levels. It all just depends on how sound she will stay. Fingers crossed. My thought was always, slow meant less damage to the joints – but the natural aging process takes a toll as well. We shall see.
2. Just because you take it slow doesn’t mean it’s any easier. Tia and I have had some serious ups and downs. I have seriously debated selling her twice. Both times because I couldn’t keep her sound (abscesses galore) and I was tired of spending money on a horse I couldn’t ride. And since starting regular lessons our lesson have been…well entertaining. I feel confident I could hang onto a bull for 8 seconds.
After about 6 really poor lessons with Tia being extremely defiant to my aids, I admitted to my trainer that I wasn’t looking forward to lessons anymore. I could still have a decent ride at home if I wasn’t asking for anything new, and I held onto those rides, they were the only enjoyable time I was able to spend on my horses back.
I also admitted that I was afraid to become afraid. Fear is the greatest enemy and I knew that with the way my horse was behaving, if I couldn’t ride her through it, I was going to have a heck of a time finding someone else to do it. I knew I was her best option – I knew I was my best option, I mean I was ultimately the one who would continue riding her and having someone handle her strongly wasn’t ideal – yet who would be crazy enough to get on her? She just needed someone to stick on and keep asking her to bend, move off the inside leg, yield to the aids, be a team player and not a bull. I knew it was my responsibility and still is. Every now and again my trainer tells me to get after her with the whip when she’s ignoring my aids and about a third of the time I admit to not wanting to get after her because I know she’s got a mean buck coming. I know my horse so well I feel the tension, the ball of energy coming my way, and it’s scary and I pretend (most of the time) that I’m not afraid. I go so far as to get after her and ride the buck. And only rarely do I get off and lunge her to get her going forward again (but never in a lesson, I’m always more confident when there’s someone on the ground to help if I fall). It’s slightly effective but it takes time for lunging to really change her behavior so I have my inner battles about fixing the problem as effectively as possible – and self-preservation. I mean I really don’t have a death wish. I don’t get on the crazy horses and try to prove myself to others anymore. I know I can get hurt, I’ve had my share of close calls, of small accidents and medium accidents. I’ve been lucky to not have a serious accident. The fact is I’ve been most lucky in not getting scared after the ride. Sure in the moment I’m hanging on with all I’ve got, but when it’s over I’ve always moved on just as quickly as the buck or rear has happened. And I’ve always been excited to get back on, to try again another day. I’ve always felt positive about our next ride, I mean come on - the possibilities!
3. In the end it’s worth it. The possibilities with her are exhilarating – she’s impressive, athletic and a great partner when she feels confident. I use a lot of voice to reassure her that even when it’s hard and she’s shaking her head and kicking out that she’s on the right track. And when I tell her she’s doing it right, my god, if you could feel her response – it’s like she’s giving me a beaming smile with her body. She throws everything she’s got into what she’s doing. It’s incredible. And that’s the reason I get on my crazy redheaded mare 6 days a week, knowing there will be bucks and head shaking and complete defiance, because when she’s confident with the movement it’s a complete pleasure to ride her. I’ve never felt anything like it before.
We now have far more good days than bad. We’re showing and I can sort of afford to do that a little bit. My hope is to do a rated show this fall. Our sights are set on doing one day of the USDF region 1 finals in Williamston, NC. It will give us a chance to be in front of 3 judges, stiff competition and the atmosphere that goes along with a show of that caliber. I finally have white breeches to show in. I’ll need to upgrade my show wardrobe a bit for a rated show (most importantly to get a jacket that fits!) but I think it’s the right step for us. In the meantime we have another schooling show coming up the weekend after the 4th that I’m looking forward to.
My 8 year old Tia monster and I will keep on plugging away in the meantime, with lots of rides, surrounded by treats, hand grazing and all the other fun stuff that I get to do with my horse. I’m a lucky one.