Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Substance of Things Hoped For...(Our Story)

Well, a few of you have asked questions when I have mentioned the trials I have had on Jackson--breaking my shoulder, falling off numerous times, and the funniest mishap(afterwards!) hitting the tree-- so that I feel compelled to finally tell our story, and of the night on a camping trip a year ago now, in the PITCH BLACK, that I KNEW I would keep him NO MATTER WHAT.

Jackson was my birthday present to myself in January of 2007, and I met him for the first time on my birthday! Don't that beat Bath & Body Works gift wise?! I knew nothing about buying a horse and knew only what I had read. AND I did everything wrong from A-Z. I should be ashamed of myself, but I am not. I followed my heart, and as my heart frequently is (at least in how I feel about an animal) it was not wrong. But, OH BOY, I simply got lucky! Lucky that he turned out to be a sound horse (as I waived a vet check-DOH!!), and doubly lucky that his owner that had had him since he was a colt (four months old), was honest with me. In my defense, I did not have the knowledgeable friends that I have now, in fact, I had no horsey friends IN San Antonio, really, I had no friends here at all! I had moved here about a year before that. Largely due to this, I had been depressed for some time, and the horse purchase came after about three months of intense thought and yearning to actually have a life and friends again besides work!

Jackson had not been ridden in two years(!)(age 7) as his owner had to have her spine fused along with pending knee surgery (she was older), and despite keeping him at the cheapest boarding place in town, she could no longer afford to keep him. She was up front with me about everything (except one thing, or maybe I just didn't even hear...), I thank God for that, because I was SO gullible, a lesser person could have really taken me for a ride. He would have flown through a vet check, I am certain, but that is the one thing I didn't do that makes me pretty embarrassed. UH, HELLO? She told me that he had been trail ridden extensively, but she did not mention that he HAD NO IDEA how to canter with a rider, which will play into my story here in a bit.

Anyway, after meeting him for the first time I REALLY liked him. I could tell he and his PO (previous owner) Yvonne had quite the relationship and while Jackson was friendly, there was an aloofness (Ok, he was stuck up! He loves me now, but that took awhile!) that I didn't even notice as I was so excited. I told her that I needed to ride him and I could tell that she was nervous about that since he hadn't been ridden in two years. The ride was less than ideal. She brought a horrible Western saddle (he was only ever ridden in an Australian saddle) that was so uncomfortable I wanted to cry. She was thrilled that he performed so well after two years of not being ridden, but honestly, I just wanted off. I couldn't tell anything with that saddle. I only did walk/trot which seemed fine to me. Now I know had I tried a canter I would have been OFF. Most likely anyway.

But I bought him. There was something....I just knew it. Despite the fact that he was completely chomped on from all the mares bossing him around, and had a shaggy winter coat, I could SEE him and what he was. Not to mention that beautiful picture in the sales ad. I have it up in the corner of this blog, the one of him cantering. I could SEE that horse and he was to be mine. And I got him for a steal. At least I think so. A horse is only worth what you think he is, and what someone is willing to pay for him. Bottom line. That is something my friend Lorri told me. She asked me a couple of months ago what I would sell Jackson for NOW (hypothetically) and I went off on his experience since I have had him, his breeding, his papers, YADA YADA...and she comes out with that! I have seen AngloArabs with papers go from $500-$60,000 so I think she has a great point. My trainer Allison told me I got a steal and have a diamond in the rough. Not as rough as we used to be, and a real compliment from her! Anyway, I digress.

So I found a boarding situation I could afford (at the time)and there I met some wonderful horsey friends to ride with. Yvonne and her friend (who boarded at the same ranch) came to meet me there on the 8th of February and we went to pick up my horse. We first went to drop off one of her friend's horses at another friend's ranch, who just happened to be Jackson's breeder, Connie Covington! Connie is awesome and still keeps in touch with me. She has also gotten me in touch with Jackson's full-blooded brother Jack's (Bugsy) owner. (This is the one I want to breed with Lorri's horse). While at Connie's I got to tour and meet some of Jackson's half brothers and sisters and meet his sire, Lamaras Firebusz (Buzzy) the Arabian half of his parentage.

The picking up and loading of Jackson was uneventful, he loads like a dream and his ground manners were very well taught. We got him to the ranch and put him in a stall to settle in for a few days before he would be turned out daily with the other horses and then brought in at night. They were feeding oats and hay and I had to go talk to the ranch hand about starting him VERY slowly on the oats as he thought nothing of just giving him a normal ration. AGH! He said they are easy on the system, but easy or not, they were new to Jackson and I did not need a colic on my hands. That settled, I gave him a few days to settle in before riding him. I had to anyway as my bridle was still on the way!

Our first ride was just a round pen and then an arena workout with w/t transitions and plenty of WHOA's, making sure stopping would not be an issue. It wasn't. We were ready to head down the lane on our next ride. This ranch and the one mile lane each way have been on several local commercials due to the beautiful walnut trees lining both sides. It is a fun ride and we had a wonderful time. We even cantered so I was in horse heaven!

The cantering issues started about a week later. We were in the arena and there were lots of things going on that day, team ropers practicing with live baby bulls and lots of horses and people around. When the ropers were taking a break, I took J. into the arena for a ride. I started him into a canter and I still am not sure what happened, but I was soon on the ground. Dusty, shook up, but fine. The ropers caught my horse and were nice. They were all drunk so I'm sure they thought it was funny as hell. English rider falls off. Yes, riding drunk is quite common with the ropers at this ranch! I blamed it entirely on myself, and really, every time I have come off is my fault in my opinion. I have a willing, forward horse and I am (yes, I admit) OVERHORSED. But it took many more spills for me to get this through my skull.

On to the day of THE trailride. Five of us set out and at one point my friend Tami began to lope her horse down the trail. I wanted to GO too and got Jackson into the canter. When I asked him to stop, he did, but since he was green and uneducated (and I include myself in that equation!) he dropped his shoulder and stopped on the forehand. I went one way, he stopped in the other. UGH! I got up, remounted and continued the ride. I had a three inch rugburn type cut (freckles still haven't come back to that area!) and was incredibly nausous with my right shoulder KILLING me. I finished the ride, pretty miserably, but I did finish, mostly because I knew I wouldn't have been able to make the 2 mile journey back on foot and didn't want to ask the whole group to turn around. My shoulder ended up being broken and still hurts every day as it also had torn ligaments and has over the course of 2+ years developed a bone spur. After two weeks I was back up riding and taking lessons from a friend out at the ranch, but cantering was out. Then one day about a month and a half later, Jackson spooked and I went off again. When I tried to remount he was so spooked he re-spooked but I landed on my feet. About this time my main riding buddy Tami moved her horses to her ranch and my nerve was about gone. Especially to go out and ride by myself. I tried it once and ended up in the sand in the round pen just from hitting his butt with my foot while mounting. I had set up a situation where fear was all I felt, and I was not the leader anymore. Jackson knew it and was feeding into that fear. I began to avoid going out to see him. I was at an all time low. I had to MAKE myself go and see my horse? The guilt is indescribable. You should get joy seeing your horse and all I felt was dread and sadness about my situation. I did not know what to do so I put him up for sale. He needed someone who would do right by him and could really ride him. UGH. Horrible feeling. I was also having issues paying my board, and paying that much for a pasture ornament is ridiculous.

You know that saying,'When God closes a door he opens a window?' In my case he THREW open a barn door. I had not answered ONE of the numerous responses I was getting to my ad on equine.com. I could not do it, and I knew I needed to. I work with a lady named Linda and we always talked about our horses. I mentioned that I was selling Jackson because I could not afford the boarding situation anymore. I didn't really go into the chicken I had become on my horse (and I had gained a good amount of weight by this time (40 lbs)!!!) and how depressed and totally distressed the whole thing had made me. Being the type of person she is she said, "Nope, bring him out to my ranch and keep him there, you can pay me $50 a month and pay for his feed and hay." So that is what I did. The barn door got thrown open and I was on my way to getting my nerve back and keeping my horse!

Obviously, this has not happened overnight. My friends have been immensely patient and tolerant of my slowness and encourage me a lot. Over the years they have both dealt with and overcome fear issues; Linda even had a horse rear and fall on her and break her tailbone. LORDY! I can trot forever now when I wouldn't have been able to do even five minutes a year ago. I have cantered on Jackson exactly two times in the past year (and the second time I hit a tree because I didn't give him ANY direction when we got to it! I was so amazed and delighted we were cantering, we came around a corner to a tree directly in front of us, and I did a mini-freak which consisted of not telling my horse which way to go--so we parted ways, and I left marks on the tree where I went SPLAT!) although I do fairly well on my friend's horse. (See two posts ago where I was cantering the spotted app.) Cantering has now become The BIG Monster. The dressage lessons are helping IMMENSELY and I am gaining my independent seat which is riiiggghhhht there. A nudge away. The fear is the problem. I am gaining confidence all the time, I know I will get there. Some of the fear comes from the fact that I have sole custody of my son while his dad is in Iraq, and even if he weren't relying on me, if I get injured, I have NO ONE ELSE to help me with the bills. So injury isn't an option. The living on the street vision helps feed the fear fire in my mind, I tell ya'!

But I want to tell you about the TIME I WAS SURE I WOULD BE KEEPING MY HORSE. A year ago this month, Linda, Lorri and I made a five hour trek to Parrie Haynes Ranch near Kileen, Tx which has 55 miles of trails and the rustic (but fun!) accomodations you see below. That cabin was air conditioned and that was good enough for me! We did one 9 mile ride the first day we got there, as we arrived later in the day, and then two the next day. It is the second ride I want to tell you about. Lorri and Linda decided that leaving at 6:30 pm would give us plenty of time to do a 10 mile trail. I had my doubts, some of the trails had proven to be so steep, rocky and perilous that I literally closed my eyes and prayed a couple of times. My awesome horse did it all. I voiced my doubts that we would make it back before dark, but I was overruled. So off we went. And went. And went. And darkness started to creep in. We started to use a cell phone to read the trail markers. And then we were lost. In the PITCH dark. Moon? Nope, not out. We had to establish a system to follow each other by. I had to follow Linda on her white horse and Lorri had to follow me with my white t-shirt, because Lorri was all in dark clothing on a dark horse. I tried following her and totally freaked, there wasn't anything there to see! Linda and Lorri weren't really worried. They knew we could follow the power lines and come out somewhere. I wondered where and how many hours this would entail. How many more hours would I be able to stay on? Could I drape myself over Jacks while we walked and rest my muscles? Lorri laughed her ass off the entire freakin' BLACK ride. I knew my horse could see with no problems, so that really wasn't an issue and did help with some of my fear. He was just SO awesome. Nothing phased him on that trip. Ravines, steep rock going down & up, weird riding patterns, a PITCH black ride; he SO had my back. As I was riding him in the dark I was proud. I knew we were becoming a team. A team coming a bit slowly out of the starting gate, but one that will inevitably win OUR race. We made it out of those woods somehow, and it didn't take all night. Our neighbor's had called the ranger to report us missing (ha ha) and told us that people get lost (REALLY LOST) on the trails at night and have to be rescued quite frequently!

So, that is our story! I am just going to be riding, riding some more, and taking as many lessons as I can afford. And guess what? WHEN we get our canter on you all will be the first to know!!!

The Cowboy Cabin

Pit toilets but HOT showers! No complaints from me!

Up the rock...

A view of a sorta steep part...

Going UP!

Me & Jackson and Lorri with Kite

Linda on Shorty & Lorri on Kite (Those sunglasses of Linda's have miraculously disappeared!!:)

Can you see the marks I left?

Dressage Lesson


  1. If you can go on those sorts of trail rides with your horse, both you and he are awesome! The cantering will come with time - does he have much experience carrying a rider under saddle at the canter? If not, you might consider asking a more experienced rider to get him used to the feeling before you canter him much - but then again, you didn't ask for my advice and you know what they say about free advice! LOL! Good luck and there's no need to feel pressure to canter - just keep on trotting as long as you want and enjoy yourself!

  2. you have such great perseverance! It is wonderful. Just keep believing in yourself and your awesome horse. (and Kate does have a good idea :) I hate to admit but the story of you hitting the tree (splat!) and then the picture of you pointing to the spot made me laugh. I guess there are many things in life that in hindsight are funny.
    Keep up the good work!

  3. That's a pretty amazing story. I think the horsey gods were smiling on us both in our initial ineptitude. Hope the shoulder continues to improve.

  4. Cheers to ya, ma'am. You can do it!

    Read my blog for some pretty inspiring moments of getting myself over that fear-of-splat-at-canter. Had a buncha big ugly falls, myself...

    You can do It!
    You can do It!

  5. Mindy, I am totally serious when I say that you TOTALLY are the type of person to love endurance riding! Trot all day, and sometimes all night. (Cantering is optional >g<) Spend the entire weekend camping with your horse and your friends.

    You can do it! You can do it! You can do it!!!!!

  6. I did everything wrong too. Bought a horse that was "drugged." She was WAY too much for me and to top it off, she had a fractured coffin bone. Horses find us for a reason. Jackson has things to teach you about horses and yourself. Your journey makes it the relationship that much more special. There was a reason for picking Maddy...she has taught me everything. Can I suggest getting in touch with Jane Savoie about fear issues....she helped me tremendously. For a time, Maddy was rearing and flipping over backwards on the lunge line. I thought "I will never be able to ride this horse." Jane helped me get rid of those negative thoughts and replaced with postive mantras and images.

  7. Thanks for Post-the heads up Mindy...wowwee, um yea, you and I both have started the horse ownership at the bottom and learned to be where we are now by all the scars and mistakes.
    Our horses have such endurance and tolerance for us!I amazed with your story.Jacks is a good boy and so is Wa. Jsut the other day I was off her and looking for mounting location-log-tree-stump-rock, anything...she followed me around patiently so..and when I got to a rather large stump..she took the cue and sidestepped over to it and allowed me to use her neck to get myself onto the stump even..then I slipped and fell below her..she totally did not budge and though my freind was laughing hysterically, Wa stood and let me do it all over and finally mount.She is awesome!
    It is good to have some knowlegeable, friendly horse poeple around you/I may rely upon, to take care of us when we are at a loss for knowing. Blessed we are for those people in our lives! I am being taken care of now and though will not have an arena for a time...feel okay with it.It does save about $300 bucknics, being where I am!

    I saw a lamp for the horses breast collar once and I am sure if you/me scouted about online...we'd find one.
    This one I got is very bright but does not go too -too far ahead for vision use. I find if the light is too close to you it actually makes things even darker(blinds ya) for vision...so the breast collar one, is a better choice..below the horses eyes and ours too.
    This litte one, on my helmet is for visuals of others to SEE ME...mostly road riding home...less than a mile if I go that way.
    Mindy...you know what we really need??!!!
    We NEED THESE...AM certain of it!

    Yea...I bet you'll always have that shoulder ache..and now my feet are messed up too...but for riding, they are still perfect..but I do FEAR intensly...coming off again! I seem to have a weighted butt..and always land on my feet.

    Love ya, Mindy you keep your head up..mee too, and lets do what is in friont of us and not allow fear to stop us but lets get help with what we fear and be safe!
    Smiles and Hugs!!!
    Kacy w Wa mare~

  8. Wow. Girl, you've got some GUTS!!!

    Can I hang out with you? :)

  9. Thanks for the story! I always love finding out how people met their horses.

    When I got Alexandre he was 7, greenbroke (really green) and had never cantered before. He didn't even canter in the 50 acre pasture he was boarded in. The whole herd of horses would go galloping off and Al would get further and further behind trotting for all he was worth. I think his mom, who was a Standardbred race horse, told him that he could trot as fast as he wanted but that he should never, never break into the canter.

    Since he didn't have steering or brakes and I didn't have a round pen or arena I trail rode him to get miles on him. At first I always went out with other people. One day they took off cantering through a field and he got very worried about being left behind. He gave 3 bucks and broke into a very worried lopsided canter/gallop.

    Nine years later and... cantering is no longer a big deal although doing a nice, balanced, collected canter takes a LOT of work. He does better cantering on trails and through fields than he does in an arena.

    Anyway he just had to figure it out for himself. I wasn't dealing with fear issues, though, so I was fine with the awkwardness of it at first, and it didn't bother me that he was very unbalanced which caused him go gallop rather than canter.

    I second those that have said have your trainer or some other brave soul canter around on him first with you there watching. Have him canter around a LOT. I know this may be bad advice, but sometimes on trails in a natural setting it's easier for them to canter as well. If the people in front of you are trotting really fast, for instance, sometimes your horse will break into a canter without even thinking about it in order to keep up. Then you don't have to cue them or anything, you just sit there and let it happen.

    Just remember that to a horse, cantering is just another gait. They do it all the time on their own and it's certainly no big deal. We the people make it into a big deal (and sometimes, such as in your case, for very good reasons)!


Please leave your comments here! I am always happy to hear from all of you in the form of advice, encouragement or questions!
~Slainte' Mhath!