Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I fell in love with my horse...

In honor of Valentine's day, Jane at The Literary Horse suggested folks should blog about their horsey love stories. What a great idea, especially since I don't have a valentine of the human variety at the moment :)

Why did I fall in love with my horse? Good question - it was not love at first sight. I tagged along one weekend to another barn to watch my trainer give Val and his owner one of their first dressage lessons. He was a cute ottb to be sure, good size, although I didn't really want a grey. He was hunter / jumpery, and moved decidedly on the forehand. He was well put together, seemed to have a mellow attitude and had been very well cared for. Plans were made for a test drive - ring work + a mini trail ride - and then negotiations began. And ended in just a few minutes. My overwhelming feeling was if I pass on this horse he'll be gone. No lightning though. No emotional connection at all. Against my better judgment I bought the first horse I looked at.

Two days after picking Val up, we were off to Maryland for a five day clinic with Erik Herbermann. The clinic had been planned well before Val came into the picture, and I convinced myself that taking a new horse on a six hour trailer ride (my first) to a clinic (my first) was an okay idea. Truth be told I was absolutely petrified - to the point of almost getting sick right before my first ride. Thankfully Val behaved beautifully, and in retrospect it was a great way to start off our relationship.

Our first few months together went smoothly. I got used to the routine of caring for Val. He got used to a new living situation. We trail rode out to the beach, Val's first time seeing the ocean. He was perfect :) Then I did something totally stupid. In an effort to address some weight loss, I put Val on a supplement called Amplify. So not necessary. I didn't see weight gain but I did see a change in temperment, and it wasn't good. Not long after, we had our disastrous, bolting, sky high bucking trail ride, where I employed an emergency dismount as well as hit the dirt super hard - without a helmet. I got back on and rode before I called it a day. But I was decidedly not in love with Val. And I had seriously damaged his confidence in me.

Over the next several months I avoided riding. I questioned why I ever got a horse. Who did I think I was, that I could handle an ottb. Who did I think I was that I could even ride. When I did get back on, we had so many arguments. I couldn't steer him - at all. I couldn't get him to move. I was so scared of my horse... and I'd deal with it by getting mad. Val tested me on everything, and it was so frustrating! Until I finally decided to get my act together. A conscious decision. Part of the solution was getting Val to respect me, part of it was resolving to respect Val.

When I stopped treating Val like an adversary, he stopped acting like one. I discovered his soft side. And his sense of humor. His habits became endearing, like how he always tries to eat his reins, or the lead rope, (or whatever he can get into his mouth)... and how when he's really content he'll gently groom me, top to bottom. *Sigh*

Little by little, one tiny step forward at a time, we became friends... then partners. We became more confident, and more confident in each other. I firmly believe you get the horse you need, even if you don't realize it at first, or need a lot of convincing ;)

We're in really good place now, and without a doubt, I LOVE my horse. A lot. What's not to love ?!


  1. Great to hear the whole story - your header photo says it all!

  2. NO doubt in my mind that Val is the horse for you. Like Howard is the horse for me.(:
    Now I'm going to write about why I love Howard now!!!

  3. I believe that you and Val were made for each other. There were some problems to be dealt with but you stuck with it and formed a bond of love and trust with him. It only gets better from here. So glad you and Val are together.

  4. Great story. Congrats to both of you for sticking with it!

  5. great story! he's such a cutie, and i know what you mean - sometimes it's not love at first sight. my first horse took a long time for me to learn how to ride, but he taught me more about riding than any trainer i've ever had and once i did figure it out, he became the best partner i've ever had! good luck with your guy - sounds like you have many great years ahead :-)

  6. I love how open you are about your fears AND joys. Reading your blog has helped my own horsemanship immensely. Good to hear the whole story. I can really see why you love him.

  7. Oh You~
    THAT was the best POST and my mouth DROPPED open and I gasped totally- when I read your first clinic was with Erik Herbermann!!!!!
    YOU Got it so, I think that is so cool.I fell in love with him as I read his book "The Dressage formula" and spied his pic in the back with "Meteorite"(I think).
    How the heck old is he???

    I so loved made me feel a bit better for all the problems I've had with my mare. I am currently at that stage of being afraid of my horse. She gets so angry in the arena( and me too for my fear of loosing my life).
    I KNOW she is the right horse for me...we match up in all other ways...I admire/identify w/ her so very much for survivng her past(like me)too. She has given me so much of herself focus in the arena..and she did try at that for a few years. All I know is , she has me and I shall care for her more than anyone else could.

    I hope sincerely, to pick your brains for "clues" towards what you and Val have now.

    Love to You and yours~ And to that mouthy horsey too!
    Thanks for such inspiration.

    "Action Rider Tack" has the "HAF" pads. They are worth every the spine on the pad and the closed cell foam and antimicrobial bubble base...never slips!

  8. I'm so impressed by how you fixed your problems. It couldn't have been easy. So glad he has you, and you him. Happy Valentines :)

  9. Cute story! Love for you to share your blog with us every Tuesday at

  10. So glad you found him and then found the path to loving him!

  11. I love this story...I think the best love stories have some drama:)

  12. I really love this story because it illustrates so much about what is so easy to forget about horses. They aren't "against" us--it's what we do to them or don't do that ends up making the relationship not work. I'm struggling with one of mine right now, and have to remind myself of this every day. It's not what he's doing to "get" me, it's that I just haven't figured out yet what WILL work. All in good time, right? *fingers crossed*.

    Thanks so much for sharing. It's a terrific story, and a lesson to learn for us all :)

  13. Just stumbled upon this one. Really sweet story. I like Val a lot!


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