Sunday, April 14, 2013

Out Of Town Visitor

About eleven years ago I was working with a trainer and her assistant in Alaska. I was exercising and grooming horses for them. The trainer was the person who set me up to ride Bre. At that time I was starting to see the dark side of this pair.  It started out as a great opportunity. The trainer seemed sweet and could be kind to horses and her students. It gave me a chance to attend A circuit shows, quarter horse shows, and exercise these horses. Over time I saw they were rough on horses, quick to take short cuts and use devices, and had very unscrupulous sportsmanship. It also became apparent they thought I didn't know anything when it came to horses and treated me like an idiot when it came to training. I am not big on name dropping but had ridden with plenty of world class dressage clinicians. When I reminisce with friends even I am amazed at all the crazy behaviors I saw in my time with them. 

A year later (about ten years ago) I was trying to gracefully distance myself but had a huge blowout the previous summer when the trainer (in her 40s) gave the teenagers alcohol at a show. I told the parents and quite the war ensued. A big name AQHA trainer was part of the alcohol incident and went around the five day out of town show saying she was going to beat me up. I was 23 and she was mid forties. Anyhoo by the next winter we were on speaking terms and being cordial at that point. There are only so many barns and sometimes you have to pretend to get along. During this time I observed the assistant being mean to a girl who was cleaning stalls for lessons. I can put up with a lot but being mean to kids and animals is not cool. There is never any reason for it. Just about this time a year I was also given Bre when the owners couldn't afford horses anymore. Bre was the main reason I was keeping on good terms with them. When I didn't own her I had to make sure I was the one doing the training. I saw a sweet hardworking kid being undervalued and I had a gorgeous young show horse. 

I offered to give the girl lessons and let her use Bre to show if she would continue cleaning stalls for the owner of the barn (not the bad trainer). I weathered some drama for stealing her but it was worth it. I was impressed with this girl from day one. She was wise beyond her years but still full of fun. She loved everything to do with horses. Even when I confused the heck out of her or asked her to try something new she was still happy to be on a horse. She learned how to ride on a young hot mare. And they did wonderful. I remember their first away schooling show. They were warming up in the big dressage arena and I was watching with some other adults from across the show grounds. One of the ladies asked with awe "Who is that over there" I replied "That is Bre with a new rider *&^" on her. They said "No THAT horse over there" They remembered the skinny crazy mare as a three year old and her rider certainly didn't look like a beginner. They didn't believe we were talking about the same pair. Then went on to win junior high point in dressage and a variety of other ribbons at the show. To this day I think Bre liked showing with her better that she ever did me. 

My goal through my time with her was to instill the importance of approaching horses with kindness. I wanted to show her that you don't need harsh bits, draw reins, and whips to win. I wanted her to finish her high school years with a well rounded riding background and a love for horses. Even the richest parents usually stop paying for horses once kids hit college. If they don't understand how to assess and ride different kinds of horses many of them stop riding once the money dries up. I hoped she would be a sensitive rider allowing her to other peoples horses once she was on her own. I didn't care if she won ribbons or was an amazing rider. But she turned out to be just that. I was impressed by her every day. 

She was one of those kids you just knew would turn out good no matter what life threw at her. She has an AMAZING family and I always looked forward to family dinner. When I left for Oregon I missed them all very much. 

Fast forward to now...... She called me recently to say she was making a trip through Oregon. She has friends in the area and was doing a lecture nearby at the university the graduated from. Her trip was going to be her last big Oregon tour before heading off her get her PhD in England. She has been working in Europe and an Archaeologist during the summer for the last three years. I was lucky enough to have her for a night. It seemed like I had seen her yesterday even though its been since she was in high school. She is now a grown up version of the same wonderful girl. She is still wise beyond her years but with a refreshing youthful exuberance. And I am happy to say she has continued to ride. She far surpassed my riding skills years ago. That made my heart swell with pride. She help me get the horses over to the big arena. She even gave miss Josey a spin. Josey loved her. She even trotted Josey over some poles. I was impressed by her calm horse centered approach. So was Josey :) 

The only bad part about her visit was sending her home. I wished I could have had her for longer. 

She is probably going to read this and kill me but here are some photos from way back and a little video from now......

Here are my girls at their second show. I don't really count the first one because it was a closed in barn show. She hadn't been riding long and Bre was five but they looked like pros. 

 This is the summer after I left. She riding a lazy green quarter horse who had limited talent for jumping. The fact that they were jumping three feet by the time she finished with him is a testament to her skill. 

They dressed as hula girls for the costume contest. Bre was totally unconcerned by the streamers. I even had people ask me if she was drugged. Bre LOVED her rider and I think would have tolerated anything from her. 

The two of us being rebels and riding double without helmets. Don't worry we got off right away. 


  1. aw what a wonderful story! good for you for being such a good influence.

  2. What a great story! That is fantastic that you took her under your wing and helped her grow into the wonderful woman she is today!! Love stories like this!

  3. Awwwwwww what a great story! I'm so happy you got to see each other again and that she got to see Bre after so many years. :D