If I have picked up anything from riding and competing horses for the better part of my life, one thing I know is true: there’s the horse that knows and loves his job, and there’s the horse that does not. Plain and simple this truth is. You can try as much hypnotherapy as you’d like, but in the end a square peg will not fit in a round hole.
Such realizations have been in the forefront of my mind the last month and a half as I acquired a borrowed ride for the summer. “Theatre Royal,” or better known as Vinnie, has given me more than I could have ever dreamed of. This fifteen year old ISH gelding has been around the block, so to speak. He has competed through the upper levels and spent countless years going around any and all Preliminary courses like it was nothing. This horse knows the routine and loves his job, and what a treat has been for me.
As many of you know, I made the difficult decision to decide to eventually sell my mare Valonia. She was purchased in hopes of becoming my future superstar event horse. She seemed to have all the potential in the world as a four year old. She floated across the ground. She jumped with power and scope. She could gallop and she was athletic. This horse appeared to be a recipe for success, though only time would tell. I attempted to turn the big gawky four year old giraffe into a successful and powerful event horse, at least through Prelim, though such reality was not in the cards for us.
I tried and I hoped and I tried some more and I hoped some more. Maybe, she needs more time. Or, Perhaps she doesn’t quite understand what we are asking of her. Or, she’s still green and just needs to get out and compete more. Well, fast forward five years and I am still banging my head against a door. No matter what I tried, no matter how simple I made the questions, Valonia wanted little to do with the unknown elements that xc is built upon.
Even though I consider myself a fairly brave and gusty individual who lives for galloping on xc, I found myself becoming almost as afraid of the unknown as Valonia was. What if she stops at that table…what if we don’t make it over the 2nd fence on course…WHAT IF, WHAT IF, WHAT IF? Even though I have basically raised this mare and adored her for so long, she was inadvertently crushing my confidence.
Thank god, Vinnie arrived when he did. I have only had him since the end of June, and taken him to three events, but he has done more for my confidence than any horse I have ever ridden. He assures me that xc is a blast. He reminds me to chill out when my nerves are escalating. He takes me to each jump, without any if’s and’s or but’s. He takes me to each fence and jumps everything like it’s no big deal, whether it be a coffin, or a trakenher, or a ditch and wall, he gladly and excitedly accepts the challenge.
One of my favorite Vinnie traits revolves around the start box. Holy cow is this horse cool! His owner warned me when I took over the ride, that Vinnie can get a bit charged when you point him towards the box…so be ready! I had no idea, nor had I ever felt this level of excitement from a horse going in the box. Each outing has been slightly less dramatic, but when I took him to our first outing together at the July Huntington, I went to turn on my watch at 30 seconds and was unable to even hit the button as Vinnie was leaping, trying to rear and couldn’t contain himself. He knew what was coming and he couldn’t wait. WOW…WHAT AN AMAZING FEELING!
Going from a horse who sucked back and didn’t want to go, to a horse that literally cannot wait to get on course has changed my world around. Vinnie’s default answers are “sure,” “why not,” “I thought you’d never ask,” “heck yeah, lets jump that!” I feel so incredibly lucky to be riding this horse right now and what a treat it has been. Vinnie has changed my confidence overnight and he has everything I would ever want in a horse. You can try, and pray, and hope all you want, but having a horse that loves his job makes all the difference in the world!