I guess since I gave y’all the background on Henry, I should probably give a little bit of background on me too, and my past ponies. Don’t worry, I’ll try to keep it as short as possible since I know I’m not as interesting as Henry is.
I started riding in 1994 when I was 9, at a little Pony Club farm outside of Little Rock, Arkansas. I only got to ride once a week but I was totally obsessed from the word go. We moved to Austin, Texas in 1996 and I vividly remember scouring the Stables and Riding Academy sections of the phone book (yes kids, a REAL phone book) calling every single place to ask about lessons. I’m sure most folks didn’t take a 13yo kid very seriously, and only one of them actually called me back. I started riding there, then steadily got more and more involved in the barn. I became a working student, doing everything from cleaning tack to turning horses out to wrapping/medicating to grooming to setting courses to tacking up the lesson horses, etc. I got to ride some really awesome horses as well as some really not-so-awesome horses, but they all had an equal part in teaching me how to ride. Sometimes I even got to tag along to the A shows and groom my trainer’s big jumpers, standing by the GP ring wide-eyed and in awe. During the summers I was a camp counselor (best birth control ever for a teenager, BTW) and I definitely spent more time at the barn than most people spend at a full time job. I got my first horse at 16 – an older, half crazy, skinny, roaring mess of horse that I absolutely adored. Charlie was bonkers but he was mine, and that’s all that really matters to a 16yo girl with a bad case of the horse crazies.
After I graduated high school I went to Maryland with Charlie in tow to be a working student for an upper level event rider. I wasn’t really emotionally ready for the experience of being 1500 miles away from everything and everyone I knew, and as soon as winter set in that was the last straw for this little southerner and I ran home with my tail between my legs. I really don’t understand how you people do winter. But, while I was there I did learn A LOT about everything. Riding, horse care, barn management, you name it. I got to rub elbows with the best riders in the world and watch them at work. Everyone should be lucky enough to have a working student experience, even if it is really exhausting and more work than you can possibly imagine.
When I came home I moved to a new barn and met Ronda, and started riding one of her horses. I kept eventing Charlie through Training level and started eventing on Ronda’s mare Jezebel. One thing led to another and before you knew it she had started her own barn, and I was working there. At first we mostly just flipped cheap horses, but stumbled upon a couple broodmares for sale and next thing you knew we were both bitten hard by the breeding bug. We bred a few mares, she got a young stallion, and we embarked on a new journey. Eventually I got a little burned out with the horses and got a desk job – horses are a tough business. Ronda has since relocated to Georgia and has built herself up into having one of the best breeding programs in the country – Rising Star Farm (google it). After a while I started riding again and got a new project and settled into a “normal” horse life as a working adult rider.
Throughout all of this I’ve had a lot of random project horses here and there – the 3yo unbroke pony bought from a QH farm that SURPRISE happened to be pregnant, the mare adopted from a TB rescue, the TB broodmare from CANTER, the $380 auction pony that wouldn’t even let you get near his back half (fun times), the $800 QH pony mare with a raging case of ring sourness, the $300 halter broke 4yo 17.1h TB (more fun times), the nice OTTB turned hunter, the free lease Oldenburg jumper that I rehabbed from a tendon injury, and my homebred Hano/TB mare by Westporte. I’m probably forgetting one or two in there but you get the idea. I’ve never had much money to spend and I’ve always been drawn to a project, even a somewhat hopeless one.
The $300 halter broke 4yo TB
The unbroke 3yo QH pregnant pony
the OTTB turned hunter
restarting Max, the $380 auction pony
The free lease Oldenburg jumper
a catchride in the AA hunters
I’m NOT a super talented rider by any means. I don’t have a great eye, I’m crooked, and I have deeply ingrained bad habits that I love to repeat over and over ad nauseam. I never had the money for a fancy horse or lots shows. I’ve never won anything big or exciting or impressive. But I have been incredibly fortunate in that I’ve always seemed to find my way to people/places that are extremely knowledgeable and also extremely generous… I’ve had a lot of really fantastic opportunities and learned so much along the way. And because of my background I do seem to get along with green horses pretty well (god I should hope so by now) and I’ve made a horsey life of going from one project to the next. I’ve evented, done the hunters, done the jumpers, catch ridden some random horses here and there, and even learned a little bit of reining when I got burned out from showing. Over the years I’ve taken a few breaks but they never seem to last for long… my life has revolved around horses for so long, I really am lost without them.
Now I’m back in the world of eventing and hopefully here to stay. And although they’ve all been really important in their own ways, I’ve never fallen in love with any of my horses enough to keep them long term (except for my homebred mare, but I’ll talk about her another day)… maybe Henry is “the one”? Time will tell. He is very quickly working his way up toward being my favorite horse ever, that’s for sure.
The beginning of a lifelong obsession