I’m one of the lucky ones who grew up riding ponies as a child and learned much of what I know about horses from a young age. But it’s the horses I had in young adulthood through the rest of my life that seem to have had the most influence on me and who I’ll never forget. Here are the horses who helped me become the rider and person I am today.
It started with Watch Me. I had outgrown my pony Little Bit, and my father, being a bit wiser than I gave him credit for, decided to purchase a new horse for himself and handed down his trusty foxhunting packer to me.
Watch Me had already been in our family for quite some time, and I always remember the story that was told to me when we would see his trainer at hunter paces. Watch Me was competing at Madison Square Garden on a stormy evening. No horse had had a clear jump round and Watch Me was the last to go. As he took off for the last jump, the lights in the entire building went out. The crowd was silent until they heard Watch Me land and then erupted in applause as no rail dropped. Watch Me was the only clean round of the evening.
I have no idea how true this story is, or how my Dad acquired a horse like Watch Me, but apparently the barn he was at had no need for horses that could jump in the dark.I had Watch Me during high school and I would take lessons at the Millbrook Equestrian Center. I had a crazy Irishman as my instructor and it was clear to him and probably everyone else that despite the lack of talent on his back, Watch Me would jump anything. At one lesson my instructor just kept raising the jumps. And we just kept jumping them. I looked over and the entire viewing box was full of spectators. And I know they weren’t watching me, but it was still a memory I will never forget.
My senior year in high school Watch Me was kicked by another horse and he never fully recovered. His advanced age and years of jumping made it so an injury meant it was time to retire. So, Watch Me lived into his 20s on my Dad’d farm until it was time to say goodbye.
Seeing that I wasn’t going to give up riding, my Dad decided to hand Mouse down to me, the horse he had purchased when I took the ride on Watch Me. We never could figure out if Mouse got his name because of his color or because he was scared of everything… By the time I got him from my Dad he was a solid horse with lots of go. My Dad purchased him as a 6 year old from a farm in Vermont. He was an Appendix Quarter Horse that was bred to fox hunt and jump.
While Mouse loved jumping and foxhunting, he was really game for just about anything. I took him to college with me where we dabbled in dressage and did a lot of trail riding. He was an all around great horse and great athlete and the perfect horse for me, a college student who just wanted something fun and safe to ride.Mouse lived into his 30s on my Dad’s farm and sadly we had to put him to sleep earlier this year.
When I moved to Ithaca NY I adopted a horse from the Cornell Vet School, where I was working. My biggest worry about Brigadoon at the time was that he wouldn’t be sound. He was sound. And also a rearer.We had a short lived relationship. I gave him to a woman who was able to break him of the rearing and last I heard he was doing well as a jumper.
Brigadoon made me realize I wanted a horse that would be fun and not a project. I didn’t have the time or capability to deal with a horse with dangerous issues.
So my Dad saved the day again. He had recently been given a horse from a well known jumper barn in our area. This barn was known for importing Irish horses in as jumpers. It’s also where Boyd Martin frequents and gives clinics. I like to think that Boyd knew Dublin, but I doubt he ever did. Dublin, the horse my Dad had been given, had broken his pelvis jumping but was still “sound” to walk, trot and canter. That sentence was difficult to write for many reasons….
Anyway, I quickly fell in love with Dublin. He remains to this day one of the kindest horses I have ever met. He is the reason I love Irish Sport Horses and why huge bays with blazes will always have a special place in my heart. He was the perfect horse at the perfect time. He reminded me that riding could be fun and not scary and that horses were kind and easy to be around.Dublin moved to Idaho with me and we trail rode and had fun for about a year before he re-injured himself and we called it quits for good. In the summer of July 2014 my friend Sarah and I took the road trip of a lifetime and drove Dublin back to the family farm in NY, 4 years after I brought him to Idaho. Because who doesn’t drive their 19 year old retired horse across the country? Dublin handled the trip with dignity and grace and made me fall in love with him all over again. He’s now happily living with his girlfriend Priscilla, a Haflinger/Belgian x. So, with Dublin retired I, for the first time in my life, could go ahead and buy a horse and not get a hand me down! So, just like any stupid first time horse buyer, I jumped on Dreamhorse and bought a horse because she was pretty. Kilkee was being sold because she was “too much” for her owner (red flag #1) and she was greatly reduced in price because she failed her pre purchase exam (red flag #2), but she was pretty and a draft x and in my price range. So I bought her. And man did I get lucky.
While at first Kilkee proved to be a challenge (she bucked when I asked her to canter) she ended up being one of the most solid horses I have ever had. She was an amazing horse to event and we had a fair bit of success at the Novice level. She got me comfortable jumping again and was tons of fun out on xc. But, when I was ready to move to Training, it was clear Kilkee did not want to make the move with me. She would have tried, as that was her nature, but she wouldn’t have been happy, and probably wouldn’t have remained sound as jumping 3’3 was a struggle for her. Knowing that I wouldn’t be happy staying at Novice I made the decision to sell her.
One of the hardest but best decisions I ever made was not to ask more of Kilkee than she wanted to give me. I sold her to an adult amateur who I think also bought her because she was pretty. But they’re a great match and Kilkee is living the life in Kentucky being spoiled rotten and running around at Beginner Novice.
Oh, and as an aside, Kilkee never had an unsound day with me- so what I learned from this was to buy a horse despite the pre purchase exam as long as they are pretty. 😉
And now I have Georgie. And while she has an owner and I am leasing her, in my mind, she’s one of my horses, and she always will be. I’m incredibly lucky to have her.
I know you have horses that have shaped you and made you the person you are today and I would love to hear about them! So dig up all those old pictures and take a walk down memory lane.