For those of you who don’t know me personally or who haven’t been following me on here, I’m a 31-year old “horse crazy teenager” who didn’t get the privilege of starting to ride until the age of 26 and is trying to now play catch up for all those years I didn’t get to!
My horse of choice – a 10 year old buckskin mare named “Sandie” who stands at 14.1 hands and was a green broke rescue when she came into my life 2 ½ years ago. She brings me so much joy in my life, and has helped me through some really difficult times (most notably the sudden and unexpected loss of my beloved father last month, which has been harder on me than I ever thought imaginable, harder than anything I’ve ever encountered in my life).
Originally, I got Sandie as a trail horse companion. Although my basics were rooted in dressage training, I’d never shown nor did I ever want to, so a calm rescue mare sounded like a plan to me!
Little did I know how much talent this little pony could possibly have, how willing she would be to learn new things alongside me, how many lessons she would teach me. Somehow, we were convinced to try learning to jump, both of us together, and then introduced to the wild world of Eventing!
To say that it started out rocky would be an understatement, but we’ve both earned each other’s trust and have come a long way since the spring of 2009, when we tackled our very first cross rail together! Since then, we’ve been squeezing as many lessons into our training schedule as possible, eating up knowledge from forums, books, magazines (thank you Equus, Horse Illustrated, and Practical Horseman!), friends, and anywhere else we can find information!
I’ve always loved to read and research and I’ve finally discovered something I could literally spend ALL DAY reading about/talking about and never get bored!
Sandie and I have had a lot of firsts together, and last weekend marked the biggest (literally) one yet! In 2009, we showed at the Intro level (jumps set at a max of only 18”) and I recall like it was yesterday being scared out of my MIND about those little poles on the ground!
I would hold my breath and pray that Sandie would decide it was a good idea to go over them! Last summer in 2010, we moved up to the Very Green level, where the jumps were verticals and were set at 1’6” to 2’0”. We had a lot of fun and a lot of success – I was incredibly proud when I learned Sandie and I were Champions of our division at the year end results of our little schooling show series!
This year we moved up a level to Starter, with jumps set at around the 2’0” mark but with a canter in our once walk-trot dressage test.
We had a lot to work on, as our canter was somewhat like a freight train with a 20 meter circle shaped like an oval! But we were up to the challenge.
Then one day, at a clinic with a local trainer, we successfully jumped a 2’6” – 2’9” course and it got me thinking…could my little pony and I reach the 3’0” mark? Was it even possible, the duo who 2 years before had been scared out of our minds to go over an 18” stick on the ground? I shared my thoughts with my trainer, who decided that if we wanted to go for it, we could school a few lessons over a 2’9” course and if we felt confident and she felt we were capable of safely executing it, we could push it up and see how we’d do.
Over the next week, we did just that…schooled at the 2’3”-2’9” level and felt pretty confident doing it. I was most proud of my pony really, she never touched a single pole…in fact, the day we decided to go for it, the deciding point was the fact that she was clearing a jump set at 2’10” by about 6 inches. So we decided to bump it up 1 hole and go for it.
I can’t even begin to explain to you how it felt, but then I’m sure many of you already know! I felt like we were absolutely flying, like she could just take off and fly right on up to heaven to show my Daddy what we could do, he was always so excited to hear about our adventures.
I know he was watching us that day, lifting my pony’s legs up and carrying her over that fence, which we discovered with the tape measure afterwards was actually set at 3’3” and which she cleared without touching the pole.
And although my underdeveloped jumping legs swung back and I lost a stirrup our first go round, I couldn’t have been happier. We had done it, cleared the impossible (well, in my mind anyway!) 3’0” mark! I wished my Dad was here so I could show him the video clips he always loved watching, to hear him say how very proud of us he was. I know he was with us in spirit, but it was still a sobering moment for me.
To say that I believe this mare was sent to me from above is a given in my eyes. She does (or at least tries to do, through my sometimes muddled cues!) everything that I ask of her, with ears pricked forward and a determined look on her face.
The only time my girl has ever so much as pinned an ear back at me was the time I accidentally sprayed her in the ear with the hose during a hot summer bath! She truly enjoys her job and although it has been and continues to be a long road of training for both of us, I know we’re up to the challenge and we’ll be supporting each other all along the way.
But I’ll never forget the day my 4-legged soul mate and I made our own history and soared our way to Heaven.