To have a draft cross in the middle of hunter/jumper land is like walking around Fashion Week in your dirtiest barn jeans and sweatshirt with hay stuck in your hair..and everywhere else… Add your muddiest boots that have the lovely aroma of New Jersey spring mud (if you’ve never smelled this….it’s special, for sure) and you’ve got the definition of the phrase, “sticks out like a sore thumb”.
In an area where Warmbloods and OTTB’s reign supreme, here I am with my awkward Belgian/Haflinger cross. But hey, I’ve never liked following the norm.
I adopted my big guy after realizing that my chestnut OTTB mare was a little too close to that phrase, “Hell hath no fury like a chestnut Thoroughbred mare.” (Turns out that’s true. Who knew?!) and she was just plain too much horse for me. She found a home with two younger, and far more skilled and fearless than I am, who were able to do more for her than I ever could. I loved that horse, but I just wanted to ride without the fear of…well…..dying.
I knew I was adopting a giant potato with an alarmingly large head, no neck, and feet too big for his poor little brain to coordinate. But when the rescue walked him into the barn the day I went to meet him, I nearly cried. He was exactly what I was looking for. He was sweet, goofy, and a little too pushy. In fact, he dragged the poor volunteer right out the door to go find grass when we were about to load him to bring him home….. Funny enough, everyone seemed to accept this as the norm and just went on talking as if this poor woman hadn’t just vanished out the door trailing behind that big palomino butt like a banner in the wind.
I brought him home and he was with me for exactly 3 months of the worst winter ever, ice/snow/rain/freezing wind every day. I rode him about 5-10 times before he went lame and was diagnosed with a pinched nerve that required 6-8 months of field rest. Seven long months later the vet came to ok him for work again. He was given a regime of stretches, hand walking, hand trotting, lunging and eventually riding over the course of 4 weeks. I was thrilled! I put him back in his fields and promised him that work would begin that Monday.
On the way home, I got into a car accident, the airbag breaking my arm and dislocating my wrist. The following day I had surgery and learned I would be out of commission anywhere from 6-12 weeks. As I was wheeled into the emergency in my barn clothes everyone looked at me with pity and one nurse finally said, “riding is just so dangerous.” Turns out they all assumed I fell off due to the barn clothes. I laughed (thank you pain meds!!!) and said to her, “This wasn’t horses. This was the airbag on the way home!”
Soon enough we’ll be able to get back to work. I thank my lucky stars every day for a wonderful barn and friends who will care for him and bring me to see him while I’m out of commission. But when all is said and done we’ll both go back to work. Whether he turns out to be a trail horse, a Dressage horse, or we try our hand at playing with all of those big fancy hunter/jumpers in local shows, (if nothing else, it will at least be amusing). Whatever we do, he’s worth his weight in gold…..and he weighs an awful lot right now.
But, hey, at least the future is looking like an awful lot of fun!