Monday, February 14, 2011

My Exuberant Valentine

This post is my response to the challenge posted by Jane at The Literary Horse (great blog!).  She asked us to describe why we fell in love with a paticular horse.  Was it love at first sight or did it grow slowly?  And what horse in our history was our "love"?

When I bought Jackson a year and a half ago, I was looking for an average Joe kind of horse.  I already had a high octane dressage horse - gorgeous, talented, opinionated, difficult.  I had that horse for five years and somewhere along the line I failed him.  He didn't really respect me and I don't think he even liked me.  I wasn't accomplished enough as a rider to be worthy of him.  That's what he told his barn mates.  So, I put him in full training with our then trainer - a Grand Prix rider who trains with Steffen Peters and was, therefore, worthy - and looked for a horse I could ride at home.   I wanted a horse I could ride on the trails, a horse I could hang out with, a horse who would let me kiss his velvet nose.  In short, a horse with whom I could have a relationship.  I didn't care about breed or color or flashy good looks.  I was looking for temperment and connection. 

When I saw the ad for Jackson, I was immediately intrigued by his soft eye.  He had the most wonderful expression on his face.  I tried him out in the arena and on the trail.  In the arena, he was pretty clueless.  He didn't know how to go straight and he didn't know any of the aids.  But I could tell he was listening and trying to figure things out.  His ears were locked on me the whole time.  On the trail, he was solid.  He crossed water and swinging log barriers and wood bridges.  I negotiate contracts for a living but I didn't try to negotiate his price.  I just bought him and brought him home.

There are many things I have grown to love about Jackson.  The one I am going to highlight here is his ability to make me laugh.  I am an excrutiatingly serious person.  I don't laugh easily.  Chuckle maybe.  Smile, yes.  But gut wrenching, snorting, belly laughs that make my eyes run with tears?  Very rare.  When I ride Jackson, I laugh.  Often.

We were supposed to jump over this at an ACTHA ride.  Instead Jackson poked at it for a few minutes with his hoof, then stepped over.  The judges were busting up too.


Example:  Shortly after I bought him, I took him into the arena to just play with teaching him some simple dressage stuff.  He wasn't used to having rein contact, since he was trained to be a western trail kind of guy.  So, when I took any contact he would throw his head in the air like a camel and get worried.  I started by asking him to halt and then took the contact with the idea of gently flexing him from side to side.  Easy.  No pressure.  Nope!  He was confused. 

What the heck does this woman want???!!  Back!  That's it.  She must mean back up.  I can back.  Watch this! - (he backs up rapidly).

Okay, that didn't work...  She must mean side pass.  Look I can do that too!  (we go flying sideways across the width of the arena).

Hmmm, not that either.  Maybe sideways and backwards at the same time? Let me show you that move.  (we spin rapidly in both directions)

By this time, I am laughing so hard I can hardly breathe.  I could FEEL how hard he was trying.  His ears were like periscopes turning around and around.  Thinking, thinking. 

Everytime we try something new, it's like that.  He's trying and I'm laughing.  It happens a lot because he still has so much to learn.  But, I can also tell you this.  He is the horse of my heart.

4 comments:

  1. What a great story. I love it, especially how he tries so hard to figure out what you want. How could you not love a horse like that? Glad you found him.

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  2. Love it! Thanks for sharing. What a doll.

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  3. What a wonderful tribute to Jackson. I fall in love with him through your words (of course being a gray paint doesn't hurt that fact any LOL). Don't you love a horse that is so willing to please? :)

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