Willy, my first prelim horse

Meredith C. Johnson sent us this great blog post about the lessons learned from every horse.

Thank you Meredith!

Twenty Five Years Since My First Riding Lesson – What Horses Teach Us

While out on a run a few months ago, my mind began to wander as it always does while jogging through the woods. It dawned on me that this coming January will be 25 years since my first riding lesson.

I immediately recalled that first lesson, as a pudgy 8 year old staring up at a 16+ hand gray Percheron/Thoroughbred gelding. It was freezing cold, especially for Alabama, and I swore I would never go back! But when next week’s lesson grew closer, I gave it one more try, and then swore I would never go back again!

As the months passed, Steeler taught me more than I ever thought I wanted to know. He taught me that if I asked correctly, he would pick up a foot that weighed as much as I did. If I stood on a milk crate to reach his head and didn’t hold the bridle upside down, he would take the bit when I offered it. I learned to trust him to stay underneath me when I got a little off kilter trying to canter.

As my run progressed, I moved forward in time through the many horses I’ve known and what I learned from each of them. There was Daisy, the bay pony mare that taught me how to kick! Ann, who taught me to SIT UP when a horse bucks (although that lesson took several tries to learn). Sarsen, who taught me the difference between going forward and going fast.

Of course, there was Rachel, the very first horse that I actually owned. She somehow managed to teach me about both subtlety and how to say “WHOA” with authority. She could be very sensitive to your aids or completely oblivious! I also learned from her how to just sit tight and hold on when necessary because she was going to jump whether I was ready or not.

Some of the lessons were more life related than riding related. Willy, my first Prelim horse, taught me that sometimes it’s OK to let someone take care of you. That lesson came over a black ramp at the top of a huge drop, where I literally closed my eyes, grabbed a piece of mane and prayed that he jumped! Being a trustworthy soul, he did.

My current OTTB is teaching me how to be brave, because he is the most adventurous horse I’ve ever known! We currently live by the motto “If it scares you a little bit, that means you should do it.”

And then there was Exchange, who taught me, in the most heart-breaking way, how to grieve.  Even after 4 years, I still well up just a little when I think of him.

I know that without a doubt that these horses, along with so many more, made me who I am today. There were, of course lots of human influences as well, but this article is firmly dedicated to the equines that have touched my life over the past quarter century. I owe each and every one of you a debt of gratitude.