Emily over at May as Well Event (have you seen her cute little palomino mare? She’s one of my favorite blogger horses.) came up with a really great idea for an end-of-the-decade 2010’s photo challenge. The rule is that you have to pick one photo, and only one photo, for each year of the 2010’s. Which is… way harder than it seemed like it would be. Thank goodness I’ve had facebook forever so that I could at least tell which year was which. Things really start to blur together over time. But then it got really hard narrowing it down to just one. I found myself picking more “pivotal moments” photos rather than the best or prettiest.
I owned Sadie in 2010 but she was just a 3yo, so while I hacked and trail rode her a few days a week, most of my “real” riding was on catchrides. It was also still back in my h/j days. This was Otis, a Holsteiner gelding that I hadn’t ridden until the day before the horse show. We did the adult hunters at that show, and I still vividly remember paying that bill (which, coincidentally, is the day I realized I would never really be able to compete at the level I wanted to in that sport, even though I’d keep trying for a couple more years).
In 2011 Sadie turned 4 and went to her first couple horse shows in the hunters, mostly with my trainer at the time. However, I also started leasing an Oldenburg gelding from a friend. I brought him back from a ligament injury and started showing him in the jumpers, which was a real aha moment for me. I hadn’t done the jumpers in many years, and now I remembered just how much I really loved it. Suddenly I really didn’t want to do the hunters at all anymore, despite having a homebred that was specifically created for the hunter ring. Oops.
Luckily Sadie, now a 5yo, was totally down for a career change and humored me without complaint.
Between 2012 and 2013 the shit really hit the fan in my personal life, so I made arrangements to lease Sadie out for a year to get myself back on track. The person I leased her to turned out to be Michelle of Willow Tree Warmbloods, which of course was the beginning of something epic even if we didn’t know it at the time. Granted, I only managed to make it about 6 months without a horse before I had a mental breakdown, and Sadie was now pregnant, so naturally I impulse-purchased Henry on facebook. At the time I reasoned that he’d be a resale project to keep me occupied until Sadie’s foal was weaned and she was ready to come home.
Henry and I started the year in the jumper ring, dabbled in a couple hunter classes, and by the end of the year, through a series of very serendipitous events, somehow found ourselves at Henry’s first horse trial. I hadn’t evented since 2003, but as soon as I left the start box I was hooked all over again. Henry also seemed to really love it, although he was a little bit spooky about XC at first and had a definite aversion to down banks.
We came out swinging as eventers in 2015, and I set the goal of qualifying for AEC’s since it was the last year for it to be held in Texas. We showed a lot with Bobby and got our BN AEC qualifications secured by May, then moved up to Novice in June. We moved back down for AEC, placed 10th individually (Bobby won!), and our team won the Adult Team Championships. After AEC we moved back up to N and now I was definitely mega-hooked. It was also becoming really clear that my “sale horse” was definitely… not.
Our big goal in 2016 was the Novice 3 Day at Coconino. We secured all of our qualifications throughout the spring, and then in July we were off to experience our first classic format. Roads and tracks still stands out as some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a horse, and it was also when things really started to click for us on cross country. I came back from that trip feeling like Henry really understood what the game was all about, and I was finally figuring out how to really ride it.
This stands out as one of the best and also one of the worst years I’ve ever had with horses. Presto was born, and we all know what happened after that. I’m still not okay and probably never will be. But he pulled through, time and time again, and I put in my first season at Training level with Henry, something I had honestly never thought we’d get to. The jumps were starting to shrink, and our confidence was starting to grow.
Things started really coming together for Henry and me in 2018. The XC was now the easiest phase, and the dressage was slowly but surely improving. Now the bugaboo was stadium… ha, go figure. By the end of the season we managed to pull it together and finish on our dressage score a few times at Training, finally getting some good placings at the level at recognized shows. We decided to keep riding that wave and in December we did our first Preliminary, where I crossed the finish line and bawled like a baby. I’ll never in my life forget how that felt.
This year we did three more Prelims. Each time felt a little surreal, since I never actually imagined we’d ever get to that level. That was certainly never the goal at any point, it just… happened. Henry proved his heart and his love for the game by turning in a clear XC round at each one, even at Coconino which was definitely the toughest XC we’ve ever faced, with questions the likes of which he’d never seen before. He gave me the round of my life that day, eating it up like he was having the grandest time. It’s one of the highlights of my life, much less my year. To have brought this horse up the levels, and to see how hard he tries for me… that’s the part that makes it so extraordinary for me.
It’s been a crazy decade. If you’d told me in 2010 that I’d be eventing at Preliminary by 2019, have an eventing-bred son of Sadie in my barn, and be absolutely head over heels in love with both horses, I would have thought you were definitely off your meds. It’s interesting, the places life takes us. Goes to show that sometimes fate has better plans in store for us than we could ever have come up with on our own.