Hello There, Eventing Nation Readers!
I am so honored and pleased to have been chosen as one of your New EN Bloggers! Hopefully, my future entries to Eventing Nation will be filled with rewarding anecdotes, useful advice, and stellar recaps of all things related to the eventing universe!
But for right now, the EN Chincillas have asked me to introduce myself a little more completely, just so you all have an idea of where I come from (and how I got here!) as a rider/blogger/eventer/crazyperson. And what better way to do that than to write a brief homage to the wonderful horses that have helped me along in my personal journey to the world of eventing? Because of course we mark time in horses owned, not in years!
I Owe it All to Ponies!
Like many people in this sport, I wasn't born knowing I wanted to Event (nobody's perfect!). I did, however, know that I wanted to live a life that included horses, no matter what the capacity. The story goes that I began asking for a pony at the age of three, and was completely obsessed by the time I turned five. I had all the Breyer Horses, all the Marguerite Henry novels, the entire Black Stallion series. At the risk of embarrassing myself further, I'll even admit that I ran around the house on four legs, neighing and jumping couch pillows like I was National Velvet!
My parents were understandably baffled. They'd never ridden in the entire adult lives, and had certainly never supported the idea in me. But somehow I just knew that horses were meant to be my life-long passion, and after several years of begging I was finally granted permission to take riding lessons at a Welsh pony farm in Willis, TX.
After that, my life took a predictable (and no doubt familiar) route. Of course I fell in love with riding, and learning on ponies taught me to be a darned good equestrian with a correct seat and adaptable riding style. I became heavily immersed in the pony hunter circuit, and after a few years of competing, my parents bought me the love of my life; a Black Section B Welsh Pony named Madoc Carbon Copy. Yes, I had a my own little Black Beauty!
Lil' Lacy & Carbon Copy - Early Eventers!
Carbon taught me more about being an excellent rider than any other teacher or mentor I've had in my life. Far more importantly, he taught me so much about being a Good Person. Like many "first ponies," he wasn't perfect, but it was his imperfections that made him amazing. When I first got Carbon, I had to ride him in draw reins because he was notorious for grabbing the bit and taking off, jumping out of the arena (carrying me in tow - of course!), and galloping to his pasture at the bottom of the hill. It's a wonder my parents bought him for me at all!
Many years would pass before we actually won anything in the hunter ring, due largely to the fact that while Carbon was very athletic, he was also built a bit like a Picasso painting - all crazy angles and odd dimensions! But as a pony, he was kind and forgiving of my mistakes, he forced me to ride properly, and he took care of me when it counted. Once we hit our stride as a pair, we were practically unbeatable.
Lil' Lacy & Carbon Copy - circa 1994 (Photo Courtesy of Jim Stoner)
Because of Carbon, I was able to explore a multitude of different riding disciplines, from hunters to dressage, western pleasure to trail. And yes, even Eventing! He was a super adaptable pony, and he did well in pretty much every sport we tried. From 2000 - 2003, Carbon was the USEF (former the ASHA) Zone 1 Horse of the Year. I owe him so much more than I can ever really tell you, readers, and I just hope that you have all had your own "horsie version" of my Carbon.
(For those who are interested, I actually still have Carbon. I rode him all the way through college, competing in hunters and foxhunting in Virginia. After graduation, he served for a number of years as a lesson and therapy pony to a few of my riding students. In 2010, I took him home to my parent's property where he lives the good life in retirement, eating grass and swishing flies all day. He is now 22 years young.)
Growing Up, Up, Up! to OTTBs!
Carbon was only the beginning. I'm sure you all know that horses are alot like Pringles potato chips. Once you pop, you just can't stop! By the time I was in high school, my family had accepted a "revolving door" policy on horses and ponies, which meant that at any given time we would have up to five animals living with us on our 12 acre farm. I was riding and training, flipping horses we bought in backwood auctions from bankrupt race trainers. Looking back on it, I wonder what my parents were thinking, considering all the financial risks we took with these untried mounts. But it was a great life, and it kept me out of trouble, so I suppose that's what mattered!
I temporarily gave up training and selling horses when I went to college. School life is not easily balanced with an equestrian hobby, and I chose instead to focus on just riding Carbon when I could, competing on the college intercollegiate team, and I looking for my next "grown up" horse. After a few failed attempts (we won't mention the Hanoverian mare known only as "Dementia"), I ended up with a gem of an Off-Track Thoroughbred named Prophet.
Prophet was leggy and bold, with a jump that could clear the moon - the perfect choice for an eventing horse! So of course I wasted a good two years trying to compete him in Hunter/Jumpers before realizing that his talents (and his energy) was better suited for the cross country field.
Grown-Up Lacy & Prophet - Stadium Jumping Fools! (Photo Courtesy of Jim Stoner)
Introducing Prophet to eventing has been one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life. Like Carbon, he is far from the physical ideal of his breed, and that factor often leads to an uphill struggle in obtaining our goals. There are days in which I feel so incredibly discouraged, I wonder how I'll ever drag my butt back to the barn and face all the work we must do. But then we'll have a breakthrough, a moment of riding clarity, and I am fit to burst with pride over this horse's incredible talent! Prophet's tremendous willingness to please me is both a blessing and a responsibility. I find myself continually reminded that it would very easy to take advantage of his trust in me, and ultimately crush his fragile spirit in the process.
But I'm just preaching to the choir, aren't I? One of the amazing aspects of being an eventer is that my struggle with Prophet is not a unique experience, nor does it put me at a disadvantage. Every day, I meet someone in this sport who shares my same troubles and fears, my same revelations and triumphs. We are all working through our own obstacles in our own ways, and by supporting one another during that process, we create a community of intelligent, capable, and kind riders. We are all what this sport is about!
Lacy & Prophet - Just this Past Weekend, at Holly Hill Horse Trials! (Photo Courtesy of David Patton)
Nowadays, Prophet and I are competing successfully at Preliminary level and I am constantly grateful that I chose to stick with him through the tough spots. It certainly took a village (of people and ponies!) to make us both what we are today, and hopefully that same village will see us through as we continue to improve. I hope I can add all of you Eventing Nation Readers to my clan of cohorts and friends!
Best of Luck to you all, and Go Eventing!
~ Lacy Cotton