by Annie Bolling

Once upon a time...

Once upon a time… – photo by Becky Bolling

I attended NAJYRC for the first time when it was held in Chicago and my older cousin, Missy Miller, was grooming for Area III’s event team. Something about the atmosphere got in my blood and I’ve known I wanted to represent Zone 4 in Show Jumping ever since. I showed in the pony hunters until 2010 when the horse of my dreams, Ofrenda, became mine as a surprise Christmas Present. While she was only 6, and had only been at our barn in training for a year, and I was only 12; we made it work a lot better than it should have gone. Although she stands at a colossal 15.2hh, she has the biggest heart of any horse I’ve ever ridden and wanted to win more than I did at some times.

As she held my hand through our beginner phases in the children’s jumper ring, she showed that she had a tremendous amount of scope, but a rather small step. That never once held her back though. Our first classic win was soon followed by our first circuit champion award in the High Children’s Jumpers at Pensacola Winter Classic, and then that soon became the new normal. She is fast, careful, and a dream to ride; which made my job incredibly easy. If I knew my course and held myself in a somewhat decent position, she jumped clear and blazed through the timers. We even made the journey to the Washington International Horse Show in 2012 and 2013, bringing home the 11th place ribbon in ’12. By then I was itching to move up with Ofrenda, and my trainers began showing her off and on in the 1.20 classes. She never had any issues, but you could also tell it wasn’t quite where she belonged. So in August 2013 I made the decision to put Ofrenda up for sale and starting looking for the coveted Young Riders horse.

As anybody in this business knows, selling horses isn’t easy. No matter how much they’ve won, how easy the ride is, or how pretty they are. It takes time. We campaigned through winter circuit, ending up circuit champion for the third year in a row in Pensacola and winning our first Gulfport circuit champion. When we decided to bring her to Colorado our goal was to try to sell her in a new market. Luckily for me, she also continued her winning ways until our last class together of circuit. A lady had been trying her that weekend, and I knew that could possibly be our last round together. And Ofrenda came through. She went the fastest she has ever been asked to go in a jump off, and flew through the timers one whole second under the leader. As I went in for the awards ceremony I was being nostalgic thinking, “Wow could this really be the end of our partnership?” As I led Ofrenda around the victory gallop I shed a tear knowing I would never be able to repay Ofrenda for all that she had done for me.

Victory gallop

Thank you for everything, Ofrenda. – photo by Becky Bolling

When I got the phone call that it was official, she had a new home, I felt like half of me had just been ripped out. We had grown up together and knew every quirk, mood, and need of each other. Who was going to nicker every time my car pulled up to the barn? Or give me accusing looks when I went through my trunk but didn’t pull out a treat? While I thought selling her was just what I wanted, I soon realized this was also a good thing for her as well. While we had grown comfortable competing at 1.15, we knew every strength and weakness and it was time for a change for both of us. She now gets to focus on taking care of her Adult and being the new boss mare. I’m focusing on finding a horse that can fill some very large shoes and learning all I can from my trainer. I’m more than grateful for every day of our four years together, but know life is leading us down these roads for a reason. And while selling my other half is exceptionally hard, there is still that little girl in me dreaming of competing at Young Riders.