I have been meaning to go through some piles of papers and organize them into labeled files. One of those piles was horse paperwork. Vet reports, papers, letters from Belle's old owner, and dressage tests. Belle and I had about a year and a half of showing before I moved to Alaska and she taught my mom dressage. We went to several large schooling dressage shows and baby horse trails. I started showing her six months into riding and rode my first jumping course at a show. It was fun to see all of the great comments from the judges. I had forgotten we starting showing first level and was shocked at a score of 62%. It reminded me how lucky I was to start with such a wonderful teacher. Belle wasn't always an easy ride, she was hot, at time temperamental, and would buck you off as a punishment for unbalanced landings over fences. I think those quirks just made her an even better first horse. The challenges she gave me made me a far better rider than had she been perfect. She could spook and be halfway across the county before you even realized what happened so I learned to have a really solid seat. She would lean her whole weight on you and plod along on the forehead or take off at mock speed if you pulled on her face. However, if you were soft and rode her correctly she was a dream. She didn't play games and refuse to do what she was asked. If she wasn't doing something it was always rider error and she would reward me as soon as I got it right. If I was good she was better than I ever deserved. She taught me how to ride better than any other horse could. It was so fun to see our scores and comments evolve over the year I was showing her. In all of the comments it was obvious what a kind, patient worker bee horse I had. It brought back memories of the many clinics and that feeling my horse was an extension of myself.
Then on to Bre. We showed extensively for one season at only recognized shows because we didn't really have schooling shows in AK. Bre and I had a rough go of it. I was showing her while she was owned by someone else and getting pressure from the trainer I had been working horses for. I was discovering that their training methods went against everything I stood for and were detrimental to a horse like Bre. As the season wore on I strongly believed that this mare had talent but needed more time just to grown up and relax. She was nervous, tense, and worried. She flipped her head and seemed uncomfortable. This was reflected in our comments and scores. But signs of brilliance were in those tests. We had one 71% in an intro test. I had totally forgotten about that. And many of our training level tests were filled with 8's. Not just a few. One test was almost all 8s one direction. Then it would fall apart with scores of 4s, 2s, and even 0s. Our average test score was 55% but we didn't have a single test without 7/8s. And all of the judges said she was a talented horse and the scores would go "way up" once she relaxed. Our dressage season culminated with me scratching her mid test. She was worried and the announcer in the hunter ring made her jump. I felt like she was going to bolt at any second. I scratched and we were done for the season. I got some nasty comments from the trainer for quitting mid show but I know that was right for her. I continued to take her to shows just to have the experience and did a few rail classes. And the next year she came back with a vengeance. I never showed her (no money since I owned her and had BILLS) but several young women showed her. She won reserve hunter champion in one show and junior high point in another dressage show.
Looking through those papers makes me a little sad that I never got to keep going with either horse. Belle died a year and a half after I went to finish school in Alaska. Bre was injured the last year in Alaska and was never able to hold up mentally or physically to first level. I had so many goals with both horses and learned so much. I wouldn't trade a second with either horse though. If I could turn back time and have had Belle for many years but it meant trading Bre I wouldn't do it. If I could have had the "perfect" horses rather than Bre I wouldn't do it. I think I am pretty good dealing with problem horses and putting solid basics on horses. I might not be the prettiest rider but if you give me a horse I will give you back a forward, soft, light, and bendy horse who loves to work. Bre and Belle did that for me. Maybe Dickie will end up being the horse who I can take through the levels, maybe not. I know someday I will end up with that horse I can ride hard for years and that horse will have my girls to thank for the forgiving and patient rider I have become.