Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

Kate, who writes the blog "A Year with Horses"  http://ayearwithhorses.blogspot.com/ , posted a very thought provoking piece about horses and how they do or don't reflect the personality of their owners.  I've been discussing this with myself most of the day and have come up with the following.

Mr. Mike was my first horse.  He was a 13 yo OTTB.  We were still  living in suburbia when I bought him.  I was taking lessons at a schooling barn so I could learn to ride correctly.  I had access to a horse when I was a teenager but mostly I rode her bareback, racing my best friend and jumping logs.  I knew how to stay on and not much else.  Mr. Mike was thin and out of shape when I purchased him in 2000.  He was a horrible fit.  He was aggressive, bordering on mean -- okay, he was mean without borders.  I got dumped, cracked a helmet, and he tried to kick me while I was on the ground... you get the picture.  I traded him after two years for a little Paint horse named Starman.  I was desperate to get rid of him.  I think he was an aspiration horse.  I thought I wanted to jump.  I thought I wanted a hot horse.  I was so wrong.  I was so not 16 anymore.

Starman lived in the stall next to Mr. Mike.  He was a lesson horse but he hated it.  He wanted to belong to someone.  He tried to intimidate the students and was successful, even though he was only 15h.  But, we liked each other and I started bringing him treats when I went to the barn.  When our trainer offered a swap I took it even though I thought I looked dumb on such a little horse.  I had lost all my confidence and for the first time in my life I was scared to ride.  Starman, being short, was not scary.  Plus he was fat and out of shape and couldn't even canter.  He was safe.  We finished building our house that year (2002) and moved Starman and Flash up to the new barn.  Starman tried to learn dressage - but he had been a western show pony in his youth so he never did more than jog the pattern.  Here we are at our first show -- first for both of us:
Starman wasn't very brave and he was opinionated.  Either he liked you or he didn't and he never changed his mind.  He loved me and he gave me all his heart and all his try.  He had a wonderful rocking horse canter.  Starman also loved my daughter.  When he became too arthritic to carry me comfortably, I gave him to her.  She would ride him once in awhile but mostly they just hung out together.  This is my favorite picture of them:
We lost Starman in March of this year.  I still miss him.  We were both grumpy and opinionated and fiercely loyal to those we love.

In 2004, I bought another aspiration horse.  I had regained my confidence, thanks to Starman, and I wanted to be a dressage queen.  Brett and I found a 4 yo Friesian that we had to have.  Auke was tall, with beautiful conformation, a puppy dog face, perfect gaits and natural rhythm.  But we were not compatible.  He was an extrovert who thrived on attention.  He was arrogant, proud, alpha (but not mean) and demanded perfection from his rider.  With my trainer, he was poetry in motion.  With me, he was total frustration.  I learned a lot and I don't regret the five years spent with him.   It was also difficult to take him on the trail.  He would spook at little pebbles or lines in the dirt.  He would piaffe if I tried to hold him back...  it was a lot of work and not much fun.

In 2009, I put him in full training at my trainer's barn.  He excelled but it was doggone expensive.  I ended up selling him to a young rider in Nebraska with tons of talent and FEI dreams.  I hope he takes her there.

While Auke was in training, I decided to look for a trail horse.  I missed trail riding with Brett and it was clear that Auke wasn't coming home.  He was too talented to be hanging out up in the mountains with us.  I found Jackson and fell in love with his soft eye and goofy expression.  When I brought him home, he met all my expectations for a trail horse.  I can take him anywhere:
I started playing with him in the arena, trying to teach him some basic aids.  He loved it.  He tried his heart out and when I asked him to do something he didn't know, he threw me everything in his book trying to find the answer.  He made me laugh and I realized that he was all I needed.  I didn't need a big fancy Friesian to do dressage.  I could teach Jackson and we would have fun.  Jackson is my once-in-a-lifetime horse.  If he is treated with respect and compassion, he will try anything.  He is honest.  He never quits.  He loves to be pampered.  Neither of us likes to be cold.  We're both level headed and quiet.  We don't like being the center of attention, but we have high expectations of ourselves.  Like me, he gets cranky and tense if he doesn't understand something and we are both excessively pleased with ourselves when we get it right.

And last, but certainly not least, is Brett's horse Flash.  I bought Flash for Brett in 2002 and they have been inseparable since.  I asked Brett to tell me the ways in which they are similar.  He said they are both bullies and they are both belligerent.  Those aren't the traits I was going to highlight, but it is true.  They are also both playful and they both get bored easily.  All the sensory training that they do for mounted patrol suits both of them.  They are co-dependent in some ways as well.  Until recently, they leaned on each other during dressage training.  Brett has learned to be lighter in his hands and Flash has stopped hanging on the reins and falling on his forehand.  They do still mess with each other though.  Flash is aloof and likes to be left alone.  Brett goes into his stall or the pasture and cleans off eye goobers or whatnot.  It annoys the heck out of Flash.  He gets even though.  When Brett works on projects in the pasture, Flash takes the keys out of the tractor ignition or steals tools.  Just last week, he dropped Brett's hammer into the pond.
What has been your experience with the horses in your life?


  1. This is the best blog yet; however, Flash and I aren't "bullies". We just don't let anybody push us around. Brett

  2. Really enjoyed your stories - sometimes we have to do that "too hot, too cold" thing to find "just right"! Jackson and Flash both seem like stars in their own ways.

  3. Good post!!! You have had some amazing horses. So glad you found a couple that were just right for you! That's how I feel about Boo.

  4. Sounds like you and your husband have finally met your matches, though the journey was worthwhile too.

    Lovely post :)


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