Turnabout is fair play. Here is how I got started with the all consuming passion for horses and the sport of eventing...
It all started with the thoroughbred...well maybe the Arabian.
Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. Most of these books were centered on the sport of racing...little did I know at the time but Arabians do not in fact race in the triple crown.
As a kid in the city the only outlet I had to horses was through the television. And the only programs that had horses was racing. The first race I clearly remember was Gato Del Sol's derby victory. I would have been five years old.
From such a young age I awoke (on my own) at 6:30 am every Saturday to watch the newest edition of Race Horse Digest. I lived for the first Saturday in May and the Triple Crown series to watch my thoroughbred heroes in action.
I whinnied stomped and pranced anywhere I went. Every time I threw a penny in a fountain or blew out my birthday candles I wished for a horse of my own.
At eight years old a family friend gave us a pony. And some goats. You see my uncle wanted goats...to get free goats he had to take the pony. That should have been the first clue. We did not have the first clue.
It was a dream come true for me and a nightmare for my mother. Every time I rode, the pony bucked, brushed, or rolled me off. To my mother’s horror, I would immediately climb back on until the next untimely dismount.
After only a few short years, my pony died of cancer. I was devastated. And we still did not have the first clue. Would you believe we bought the horse from the first for sale ad we saw? And that the horse was a green broke/been gelded two weeks/4 year old Arabian? But he was so preeeetttttty (as in he did not resemble a very hairy dog and did not try every way possible to remove me from his back)! And cheap! And the price included delivery, brushes, blankets and a saddle! (All of this should have been the second clue but we just though ourselves savvy shoppers).
With this fine new horse we decided to board our purebred Arabian locally for a whopping $75/month. This led to lessons (praise the lord). I lucked out-still did not have the first or second clue-with getting a decent instructor. She cussed a lot and could be a little mean but she knew what she was doing!
Leg loose in the canter? Well stirrups were locked in a tack trunk for a week. If you wanted to ride you rode with out them. Hours, hours I tell you were spent on the lunge line without stirrups or reins with me clinging to my pony's back exhausted. Days where spent marching around the barn duck footed and bowlegged if I turned my toe out to much in a lesson.
Admittedly our start in short stirrup and then the pony hunter ring was rough. He never was an easy ride and always had a dirty stop. I knew we had come into our own when another trainer argued with my mom that he could not possibly be a full Arabian -he had to be at least half welsh! As I got older I got more self conscious. I began to realize the difference between my horse/clothes/equipment/ that I worked off lessons while others paid and others. The snide remarks (that happened a lot more as we began to do well) began to bother me. I was a teenager after all. I needed a change and decided to try pony club.
The first activity when I joined was something called 'Combined Training Rally'. I may have had the first clue but still not the second. I happily signed up never having seen a dressage arena or cross country course. I showed up proud of my turnout complete with slow twist bit and standing martingale...that was hastily changed! My pony did a dressage test -hunter style with nose poked out- and jumped handily around stadium. Then cross country. The first fence was a log -they do not have these in the hunter ring. Pony stopped not once but twice. On the verge of elimination I gave him a swat and off we went. I ended the course beaming and knew no other type of riding would ever be good enough. I also found a new family. A family where competitors helped each other. To the little girl (from another team no less) that walked with me to the start box that day telling me what to do and who also shouted words of encouragement as we tackled the log - you are eventing. Thank you.
My aunt (yes, the aunt from this post) had a friend who had a cousin that she was pretty sure did eventing. I enrolled in their summer camp (oh how I love camp!)
I spent that week in a variety of activities including basic dressage, grid work and conditioning. In the heat of the afternoons, the other kids swam in the pool and watched TV. I, on the other hand, stuck around the barn helping the more advanced rider’s clean tack, hold horses, or just watched them ride. At first they were a bit surprised that I would help feed or clean but by the end of the week they were accustomed to me being underfoot. Come Sunday we packed up and readied for our journey home. Mrs. Kitty, as she is fondly known, pulled me aside and invited me for another week free of charge provided I would work as hard as I had the prior week.
That invitation began many summers of residing at Southwinds Farm. More on this later perhaps.
So dear reader or dare I hope readerS. How did you get your start?