We’ve all been there... Maybe gone the horse that didn’t quite suit... But I am no quitter! *insert hand up emoji* but also beggars can't be choosers so to speak. My parents were never rich but they gave me everything they could. It just meant that perhaps I didn’t get to pick and choose from a hundred different horses, we made it work. And I totally appreciate if you are completely unsuitable to the point that someone may get hurt... But I am more thinking of the relationships you can build regardless of the differences and how you can learn something from all horses that come into your life.
Two come to mind for me, that fit this category... My mum will still refer to them as mistakes at the time but I absolutely adored both and had some amazing experiences with both.
The first was a 12.2hh Riding Pony called Mouse. Looking back now I thought I made the transition from a tubby Welsh Mountain pony called Muffy extremely well. Apparently, this was not the case.
Muffy was your typical first pony. As wide as she was high. Would duck off out the gate at shows and forever dumped me at the last fence of Mini E cross country courses. But also tolerated my love of fancy dress and the blue ribbon to come from the Quietest Pony class.
Mouse was almost the complete opposite. Only had one rider prior to 8yr old me. A lady who educated him through. Then he came to me. A few falls later on this revvy little pony meant I either had to throw I the towel or step up. And, as my mother would say, do you want to stay at the same level forever?!
I took the deep breath and off to pony club camp we went. The love of speed and bounce exploded and you couldn’t get me off this little pocket rocket! He was awesome! We had so much fun but it took time, many bumps in the road until one day, we just clicked.
Mouse retired early after tearing his suspensory ligament I his hind leg (of all places!?)- if you haven’t heard of suspensory ligaments, look them up... and how uncommon in the hind leg, in 10yr old ponies, are.
Any who, Mouse lived a long and happy life with us.
An amazing Galloway, Yeoman, was next before I decided I wanted to get serious in show jumping. I therefore needed the next step again.
11-12yr old me with my parents travelled down to Shepperton in Victoria to try a C-Grade EFA (the old grading system) Thoroughbred called BJ aka King Of The Castle at Jump Club.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I see BJ now as being quiet a nervous horse who would shoot off if he even touched a rail, get on his toes when the bell rang and could really fire up.. But at Jump Club I felt invincible. He would rush into his fences, get his head super high and at times look ugly and messy as, but on him I felt like he would run through a brick wall (out of nervousness he probably would have).
Mum and dad were understandably hesitant. He was a handful. But I was certain. BJ was coming home.
We loaded him up and so been our journey together. He was big and powerful but turned into the gentlest soul and would do anything to look after me. Perhaps a little too well and would stop if I got it wrong, you know, to be on the safe side, he thought. *rolling eyes*
He was a huge change but gave me some pretty awesome experiences. As I said, I was invincible. I took on courses based solely on height because he gave me that confidence. He provided me with some of the best moments even though he wasn’t perfect.
I was lucky enough to get taken with my coach on a show run up through Kiama World Cup to Tempo Showjumping Classic as it was known. The first day of Kiama had 12yr old me kick BJ around 1.15m course in my multicolour velcro chaps with my legs reaching just below the saddle cloth. As we left the arena with a rail down, Chris Chugg (a showjumping equivalent to A- list celebrity status) patted him on the bum and said ‘Good Job’. Cloud 9 could only just be viewed from how high I was soaring then. And it was all because of BJ.
That night, all the horses I was travelling with were involved in all awful accident. The fireworks went off early, scared one of the horses who broke through there tape fencing and took off. Down the Main Street of Kiama galloped 6 horses with me chasing behind in a towel fresh from the shower. My heart absolute sank. They went through roundabouts, hit signs, cars... The nightmare was real. One was found stuck in a fence, a few others picked up at various locations and BJ was found about 9kms from the show ground. He has slipped and fell on the turn for the highway.
With wounds all over him, he returned to the show ground very sore and sorry. All plans ended there.
We stayed up for the next few days and attended Tempo as the strappers and cheer squad for everyone else.
After coming home, we took BJ to Goulburn Valley Equine Hospital in Shepperton where they found he had fractured his pelvis, stifle and hock. Thousands of dollars in shock wave therapy got him sound enough but from there he semi-retired and lived out his days with us.
Both of these horses may not have been what I need at the time, maybe not the perfect horses but they made me into a rider. They gave me the confidence to step up, to take a breath, get out of my comfort zone and they showed me that the next step is always worth it. And for those amazing experiences, I will be forever grateful.