Now I Get It

For the majority of my life I’ve always had horses that were green and/or young and/or remedial. Part of that was because projects were the only thing I could afford. The other part of that is that, luckily, they’re also what I’ve always tended to enjoy most. I like taking something and molding it into something better. It’s rewarding, it’s challenging, and it keeps life interesting.

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what, you don’t buy random 17.1h halter-broke-only TB’s out of people’s backyards because it seems like a good way to spend the winter?

Sure, I fantasized about the whole “if I won the lottery I’d go buy an experienced horse” thing, but since it was so far outside of the realm of reality I never devoted that much thought or desire to it. Realistically I didn’t really even understand the appeal… a horse like that seemed honestly a bit boring to me. What was the point really? And if, in my price range, you gave me the option between the young/green/idiot vs the older/past it’s prime/but likely a lot easier horse… my dumb ass is gonna choose the idiot every time. I can’t help it.

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And, truth be told, because pretty much all I’ve ever had is projects (aside from my first horse who was older but actually WAS, in retrospect, fairly dangerous for 16yo kid), I’ve never kept one long enough to enjoy it as more of a finished product. The closest I’ve ever come was the lease horse that I rehabbed from a soft tissue injury and showed a little in the adult jumpers. He was further along in his training when he came to me compared to most I’d had, although he was T-R-I-C-K-Y to ride. Particularly the first 5 minutes where you had to convince him that he was, in fact, required to move beyond a stand still (every ride. every effing ride.).

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he could jump though, if/when he felt like it

In my time as a barn rat, though, and then later at boarding barns, I was lucky enough to have access to some more “made” horses. I got to ride some nice ones, and it was of great benefit to me as a rider. I still never really found myself jonesing for one though. I can’t help it, I really love my projects. When it comes to horses, green is my favorite color.

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I’ll take two

But now, 6 years into owning Henry, I find myself in uncharted territory. He’s almost 13, we know each other really really well, and swinging a leg over his back is like slipping on your favorite pair of gloves. He’s not a dead-head, but he’s a pretty confirmed, trained horse by now. There are few surprises (even last week, when he spooked at the bushes because the lawn guys trimmed them and they were SHORTER THAN THEY HAD BEEN BEFORE OMG… it was still the reaction I expected). And although he is a spooky idiot and probably always will be, he’s predictable.

predictably terrifying, if you ask Presto

I think the best part, though, is that even when he’s off for a few months, or we do things we haven’t done in a while, he still just shows up and and does his job. He has buttons firmly installed, and they don’t come and go depending on the day. Like when just a couple weeks into riding him again, I got on bareback and ran through all of his confirmed dressage movements and he just… did them. Half pass? Ok. Halt-rein back-canter? Ok. Shoulder in? Ok. Counter canter loops? Ok. They weren’t perfect, he’s not as strong as he was, but… he did them without question. I have been riding for almost 30 years and this is legit a new experience for me.

The jumping is much the same. I’ve taken my time working him back up, but on Sunday I put up a 3’3″ course and hopped around it a couple times. First of all, he knows when it’s a jump day, and all he really wants to do from the second I swing a leg over is canter. Which I find more amusing than I probably should, but I just can’t help but think his enthusiasm, and the fact that he obviously knows what’s on the agenda, is endearing. And the fact that he’s so excited to be doing his job, one he knows really well, that he’s more than happy to cover any of my rusty mistakes (could I find a consistent distance? any distance, just not 500 different ones…) because he’s confident and happy in his job.

Now I get it. I get the appeal of having an experienced horse, and I understand why it’s so fun. No it’s not boring. No it’s not monotonous and predictable. Yes it’s still very rewarding… I made the horse, now I get to enjoy him. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all along. Not in the respect of buying green horses and projects – that will always be my first love – but in not keeping them and enjoying them long term.

But maybe I’m also able to say that now because I look out in the pasture and see the next big project waiting for me, and knowing what all is in store. It makes it easy to appreciate the horse I’ve built, and at the same time I’m also really excited to get started on the next one. Maybe this is the way to do it – one older established horse, and one dumb baby idiot. Best of both worlds.

6 thoughts on “Now I Get It

  1. I’m in the same boat. I have always either ridden the super green horse… or the less green horse with a significant screw loose. Now I am nearing 5 years with May, and while she is a touch green at the bigger heights (as I am sure Henry is for his much more bigger heights lol), she is SUPER reliable at the BN height and a total packer at anything below. She’s happy enough to give me the short, long, and, on the rare occasion, perfect distance to any fence from pretty much any angle. It’s a weird feeling and totally uncharted territory.

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  2. So I’ve never been into the green horse thing because I’m a huge floppy weenie, but I totally get the comfort and excitement of riding a horse than you know SO well and can just enjoy the hard work you’ve put in. Frankie has always been a solid citizen, but we have a lot more buttons now and I feel downright giddy getting to push them. And it’s 10000x better when you can feel how much they enjoy their work too.

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  3. I love this post. I’m SOOOOO enjoying having a horse that is getting more and more trained. Putting Scout in full training was so scary for me at first (financially and mentally), and I got a lot of solicited and unsolicited advice about what/why I was doing it. For me, at 41 and helping to co-parent two kids, I don’t have the same free time I used to — and I know I have a nice horse, an athletic one with a good brain so he’s worth the investment. Because at the end of the day I want him to have some value (more value that I can put on him) — putting him in training has been like putting a $$$ horse on layway, all the while I get to enjoy him and have fun while he gets to go compete at the upper levels. I could never afford a made horse and this decision has allowed me access to a much more trained horse (but one that I know SO well) and get to be a part of the journey too. The best part about all of it is that I can just HAVE FUN on my horse. ❤

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  4. I’ve always tried to have access to something that knew it’s job while bringing up a young one. For me, it helps with my confidence, and the wise ones would keep me well schooled. I found it easy to want to do to much and not let the kids learn, so the older guys were like, hey stupid, leave me alone here and over there. Help in that spot. It was a nice mix.
    I think I’m past the project phase though. I don’t have the time or confidence anymore for it. Wish I did, because getting the more made up ones, I have to sacrifice in the vetting ya know? Cause my wallet isn’t that big either. (Despite what my shopping habits may suggest!)

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  5. One made horse and one greenie is absolutely my happy place. The made horse reminds me that I DO know what I’m doing… The greenie challenges me to get better.
    Still don’t understand the appeal of BUYING a made horse though – I don’t think that’s anywhere near as satisfying as riding the one I made myself.

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