One of the coolest parts of my life is not knowing what horse(s) I will be riding on any given day, week, month or year. Currently I am riding four horses, and they could not be more different from one another, and yet the lessons I have learned from each horse can be transferred at any moment, on any horse.
Door # 1: Skybreaker, the coming 9 year old. Skybreaker, also referred to as the “Lump,” or “Bubbu,” has a Labrador personality. He is the epitome of low key, and casual. Nothing really ruffles his feathers. His favorite gait is the halt, and yet he is the only horse I have jumped 4’10 on. Mentally this horse has been pretty easy for me to ride. I hate to stereotype here, but he basically rides like an easy going gelding. There are no hidden agendas, or major tricks up his sleeves. He is really consistent and gives me about the same level of work and energy on a daily basis.
Physically this horse has been a challenge to say the least. My dressage trainer, Lindle (She who makes Dressage fun) would back me up on this. In the beginning, this horse was like riding a roller coaster, a giant slinky rubber band, and a two-by-four, all rolled into one horse. You got hurled forward and tossed around like a rag doll. He barely could steer and to say he was unsteady in the bridle would be a major understatement. Fast forward a couple years and this horse is starting to learn about self-carriage, a quicker high end, better overall balance, and he is mentally checked in. Skybreaker has taught me many lessons, but the most important thing I have learned from him is that this process takes time.
Door #2: Valonia, also coming 9 years old. How to put this accurately? Valonia is one interesting mare. She is not mareish in the traditional sense of the word. There’s not one part on her body that’s “off limits.” She doesn’t kick, or bite humans, though she may let out a high pitched squeal to her neighbor once in a while. This horse has been challenging since day one. She has a bold personality and thinks very highly of herself. One large ego + one large mare = you’d better learn how to ride when all is said and done! “V,” as I call her, could be stereotyped in the mare riding department as she is the queen of hidden agendas, and tricks up her sleeves. Honestly, I don’t know what each ride will be like ahead of time. She is constantly throwing curveballs towards me, and only just in the last year have we started to share a mutual understanding. This horse is mentally and physically a challenge to ride, and yet she is by far the coolest horse I have ever owned, and I wouldn’t trade her for anything! Valonia has taught me more than I can say, but most importantly she has taught me how to ride more effectively, and be a more confident rider.
Door #3: Chai, coming 5 year old. I have only had this Connemara cross since last fall. I bought her as a lesson pony. She is cute to boot! It’s a treat riding something so compact and so easily influenced by the rider. She is not mareish, and rides almost like a gelding, except she’s slightly more tuned in. She is a little sensitive like a lot of mares, but mostly she loves to work. She is super athletic and ready to go all the time. She might be my easiest horse to ride because she is mentally and physically straight forward. Her education is limited at this point, but she shows up to class everyday eager to work, which is a treat. Compact horse + super brain =she’s a keeper! This super pony has taught me to chill out and be less intense.
Door #4: Suki, 7 year old. This mare is owned by a friend and neighbor, Jocelyn Thibodeau. I came about riding this mare because Jocelyn had an unlucky sliding door, finger incident. Suki is an OTTB, and has been a joy to ride, because her owner has put in the time and patience. She is sensitive, forward, smart and willing. She is very different from my other horses, except some of her mind games teeter on the edge of Valonia’s playing field. I personally have not sat on an OTTB in some time now, and Suki has reminded me what it’s like to ride a powerful and intelligent TB. At times this mare gets flustered, does not appreciate last minute change, and hates feeling trapped. She has reminded me to stay soft, while offering clear parameters. If you are fair in how you ask your questions, this mare will happily respond. If you are unclear or become agitated, forget about having any conversation. Suki has taught me to ask clear questions and give her time to respond to those questions.
How can all this be translated? Well, yours truly made a diagram…