Sixteen months ago, Java was standing in a stall at Turfway Park. Race fit and knowing nothing but the track for the last four years of her life, she was ready to retire from racing. Body sore and a little lame, I fell in love with her anyway and despite my vet’s hesitation, Java came home.
It was impossible to know then just how much that little mare would do for me.
From an outsider’s perspective it may not look like much. They may see a girl living in the heart of horse country, trying to make her way in the equine industry and taking a horse from the track to Beginner Novice in a little over a year. So what?
But what those people can’t see is the years and years spent with nothing but baby horses. The basics instilled, the light bulbs starting to switch on, the tiny schooling shows that were few and far between and the smallest of victories before moving them on. They don’t see the years of not being able to afford to show, let alone actively pursue my goals. A broke college student with no truck, no trailer and no money. So I did what I knew how to do, I brought along the babies, I sold them to people who could afford what I couldn’t and I put my four-star dreams and AEC wishes on hold.
And then, a head-first leap into the craziness that is the bluegrass, an acceptance to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project and a few good Thoroughbreds that knew exactly what I needed and when I needed it changed everything.
It seems sometimes patience and persistence pays off in the most unlikely of places. And somehow, the sweet “nearly war-horse” mare with the sore body, kind soul and least natural jumping talent was the one who lit the fire I had been missing, gave me the confidence I didn’t realize I needed, and has me finally accomplishing goals I used to only dream of.
This weekend, after a solid six months without competing and a good portion of the winter off, Java stepped up and completed her first Beginner Novice. And no amount of rain, mud, lack of warm up or soggy breeches were able to stop us!
She put in a solid dressage test, bounced around stadium like she was born to jump, and gained some much-needed confidence on cross country.
And while we fell .4 points short of my goal of a dressage score in the 20s and two stops on cross country isn’t quite the clear round I was hoping for, we did accomplish the most important goal I had set for the weekend — to finish on a number and not a letter. And even more important that that we walked away stronger and wiser, with new homework and our sites set on our first recognized event in just over a month!
So after several years of breaking babies, finding them perfect new homes and watching them make other people’s dreams come true, maybe — just maybe — it may be my turn. I may finally have an event horse and may finally feel like an eventer.