I grew up riding a whole bunch of different horses. When I was very small I rode a pony, but that was short lived. Soon I was too tall and moved onto a Morgan horse (my favorite school horse – RIP Justice). The first horse I ever owner was a petite TB, and the horse that carried me safely through my mini medal years was a chunky TB. When I was 15, the time came to buy another horse. Warmbloods were coming into vogue and I was a bigger kid, so it made sense to start looking in that direction. My trainer at the time helped me find one to do the junior medals on, and my riding education continued.
I rode warmbloods throughout my junior career and into adulthood. My first green project was a warmblood, and, after spending the last ten years on the back of an 17.1H+ and 1200+lb animal, I felt comfortable saying I was a “warmblood person.” I liked their bigness – big heads, long bodies, big barrels, and massive strides. There was something about the bigness that made me feel comfortable, kind of like I knew that whatever tricky situation we got into, my big giant equitation horses and I could get ourselves out of it with minimal effort. I didn’t have an opinion on TB’s, mainly because I barely saw any. At that time almost everything showing at a high level in the equitation ring was imported with a fancy name nobody could pronounce. If you had asked me then what I thought of TB’s, my mind probably would have gone back to my first horse, a TB who was very sweet on the ground but slightly neurotic to the fences (not exactly a good first horse for a short stirrup kid, but my folks an I were naive to horse buying). I probably would have used words like “unpredictable”, “quick”, and “sometimes dangerous” to describe TB’s, but my opinion would have been based on a limited experience with them.
Flash forward some years. I’ve settled into a great barn with a great trainer who has helped my warmblood project-I-can’t-ever-part-with-ever-EVER and I achieve great ribbons in the amateur adult equitation and jumper rings. My trainer has two TB’s of her own, and there are a few in the barn. Her horses are absolute rockstars, but have their ticks like any other horses. I’ve never believed in prejudice in any form, and, in my mind, a good horse is a good horse, doesn’t matter what the breeding, however being around so many cool TB’s really opened my eyes to how much fun they could be.
Flash forward again, a sale horse comes into the barn. A gray OTTB mare. I don’t like grays or mares, and I usually feel too big on TB’s (I feel big on everything that’s not my 18h 1400 lb horse!). The horse needs some extra rides, so I volunteer because I need the extra ride time to stay strong and keep up my endurance. Biggest mistake ever.
The mare was tricky – she was very out of shape, slightly arthritic, and in need of a good farrier. She locked on her right side so was always going slightly crooked, had as much bend as a block of wood, and would run when she felt unbalanced. But she would jump anything without question or hesitation. Her can-do attitude about jumping made me curious, so I started teaching her about flat work. After a month she was a different horse – she used her right and left sides as one, had a great balance (and a lead change!), and could really use her body. I even took her to a few schooling shows to see how she’d be, and she never got nervous or spooky. She did, however, get very serious when we got into the ring. By the time we did our third show together, she was all business and seemed to say “you just sit there and look nice, I’m going to win this class”. I’ve never ridden a horse that wants to win as much as she does.
Needless to say, I fell in love with her which made it really difficult when her owners decided to move her to another facility. At the time I just couldn’t financially handle another horse and had to let her go. I tried to follow her as best I could, but the prospect of buying her seemed like a long shot.
Three months after she left the facility I ride at, I saw an ad for her. I made a quick phone call to my mom to make sure I wasn’t being completely irresponsible if I made an offer. I got in touch with the owner and made an offer, hoping that it would be enough.. and it was! I brought her home a few days later.
I don’t think me or the horse could believe it was real – now we belong to each other. I still check to make sure she’s in the stall every time I walk by, as if she might vaporize and vanish. I never would have thought I would have become so attached to a TB, but this little mare has shown me what fierce and intelligent competitors they can be.
To all the loyal and sometimes vocal TB people out there: be patient with people who don’t fully understand your breed of choice. For whatever reason, whether it be a bad experience or just plain lack of experience, those people don’t know how cool TB’s are…. BUT if they are horse people long enough, they’ll come across one that will change their mind!