It’s a special thing to feel that “eureka!” moment when you’re in the saddle.
You know, when your trainer has tried a million different ways to get you to perform one simple movement, but for some reason, it just isn’t clicking. Then all of a sudden, despite all of your trainer’s incessant pleas, you get it. It clicks, and your horse settles down, then you ride off into the sunset, proud of yourself, your horse and your efforts.
A lot of my personal “eureka” moments have come after trainers take the time to climb into the saddle and actually show me how a certain task should be performed. I can watch as her leg and hands stay steady even though I know she’s applying the necessary pressure to bend him or push him over. But what I learn from most is watching my horse respond, how his ears flicker back and forth, and how he stays supple and moves forward when clear directions are given to him.
That said, it still feels foreign to me seeing my horse go from the ground. With Reggie, my young and wild-eyed Hanoverian, I was the only one riding him for the several months he spent under my care and training. After weeks of hard work, some successful horse shows and a few bumps in the road, it came time to share him with other people – strangers, no less – and keep up my end of the bargain. Reggie was here with me because he needed to be sold. I was to train him and help him find his “person,” ideally a buyer who would continue with his education and flourish along with him.
When the sale ads went up, there were many calls and e-mails. People always wanted to know more, more, more. But only few came out to see him. And when they did, I did my best to remain calm, even if I was having a panic attack inside for more reasons than one.
Buyer 1: The first potential buyer came in the form of a pair of young girls, teenage sisters who were new to the hunter/jumper world and wanted a horse that could be a competitor for both of them. I was hesitant at first, seeing as though Reggie is still quite green and requires a rider with a good amount of experience, but the girls’ mother convinced me they were capable.
I held my breathe the entire time they went around in the ring, muscles tight in my back and shoulders every time I saw Reggie pin his ears and hollow his back. If nothing else, this was a learning experience for the both of us. He was well behaved for two very inexperienced riders and for that I was proud of him.
In the end, we decided that Reggie was still too much horse for them. I tried to educate them on what a “green” horse is and just how dangerous that could be for a young and inexperienced rider. I suggested they look for something more made and hope they eventually found what they were looking for.
Buyer 2: A competitive rider in her late 20s came to see Reggie with her trainer after speaking with me extensively over the span of several weeks.The rider was looking to retire her older hanoverian after a successful career as a jumper and bring along a new younger, prospect. She was local to our area and ended up coming out to ride him more than once. Immediately I felt more at ease in her company and could tell both the rider and her trainer knew what they were talking about from the ground. The fact that they were adults helped a bit, too.
As both the trainer and the buyer navigated Reggie around the ring and over a few small fences my heart fluttered. Maybe this was it. If I couldn’t be Reggie’s lifelong person, maybe this young woman could be.
I was torn as the negotiations became more serious. My time with Reggie was running out and I was heartbroken. I had decided early on that I was not an appropriate mother for him at this point in my life, despite how desperately I wanted to be. He deserves to be with someone who can show him and invest more into his training to bring him to his full potential. I told myself I should feel lucky for the time I did spend with him and feel proud of all we accomplished together. My little brown horse was hardly the same one I met a year ago.
To see Reggie moving so well from the ground with another person in the saddle was our final milestone. The fact that he could focus on his job for another person with me on the sidelines meant I had done everything I could for him. Even in that proud moment, I selfishly still wished it was me in the saddle, cruising across the ring with Reggie just one more time.
The day the trailer came to get him I was a mess. We spent the days before grazing bareback in the pastures and taking leisurely trail rides. I made sure he was clean and polished for the next person, without a hair out of place. Reggie hesitated for just a moment before he stepped onto the trailer, his nostrils flared and he took in a deep breathe, as if he was taking one last whiff of this place. The friends he made – the horses out in the pastures – called to him as the trailer gate was closed and off he went, rumbling down the road toward a new home and a new life.
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