Tuesday, April 13, 2010

So, this new horse I'm riding.

I won't try to put the past 10 years of my horsey life down in one big paragraph, but I'll just list the highlights:

2000: the birth of my homebred IDSH mare, Seelie Court, fondly known as Bonnie, my first attempt at breeding and if I do say so, rather a successful one. She's no superstar athlete, she's not going to the upper levels, but I bred her to be a sensible, easy horse to have fun with. She fits that description admirably.

2001: my son Evan was born, I was in the last year of my cardiology fellowship, and I hardly got to ride at all. Bonnie hung out and grew.

2002-2004: New job, young kid, lots of work, Bonnie growing and seeing the world. Her mother Kelly has decided at this point that she no longer wants to jump over things and I'm not quite ready to give up on eventing!

2004: Enter Guinevere, an opinionated chestnut warmblood mare who had been there, done that, all the way up through multiple CCI*s with amateur riders. I'd known her and her owner for years and--long story short--one day I just up and decided to buy her, never having so much as sat on her.

2004-2007: Had some of the greatest years and rides of my life with Gwen, starting out at Training level, moving up--beyond my wildest dreams--to Preliminary and even having a good crack at a CCI*. She tied up before phase D, which was heartbreaking, but just being there was an amazing ambition fulfilled. Tried to breed her, unsuccessfully, at the age of 19 (it was a long shot, well worth the try but not meant to be) and at the age of 20 she came roaring back and finished her competitive career with a slick, fast XC at Maui Jim Horse Trials, followed a few weeks later by a whole pile of ribbons at a hunter/jumper show, just to show she could do anything involving jumping and do it really, really well.

Later that year, she came down with EPM and although she recovered "pretty well" she was never quite right again and she never jumped again. She went out a winner, her last class winning me the first (and probably the last) blue equitation ribbon I'd ever seen.

2008: All grown up now, Bonnie had crept along slowly with me to "almost Training level" in eventing. Good but not great in all 3 phases, we had good days and bad days. She's a good girl, an easy ride, but not blessed with terrific movement nor great athletic ability. So when matched with the human version of the same limitations in her rider, (those being a lack of courage and riding ability) our progress was sort of glacial.

2009: An OK season with Bonnie, just not quite getting it done at Training level, although Novice has gotten to be very solid. We had some pretty nice scores in dressage, and the mare is actually really very fun in that phase, just sort of earthbound and always limited movement-wise. Still, it's pretty cool to have a horse that was born in my lap doing all that fancy "dressage stuff" like half pass and lengthenings. I'm easily impressed, and (I like to think) a realist. She's a darling horse to me but not going to Rolex or beyond 2nd level dressage. She and I have a lot in common.

At the end of last year, Gwen took a gigantic turn for the worst and I had to have her euthanized in early September. It was heartbreaking, but she'd had a long happy life with much love throughout, so letting her go was as hard as it ever is but she had earned her long rest and will always be there in the center of her favorite paddock.

So with a hole in my heart and room for another horse, after a while I started wondering if I could ever find another schoolmaster or schoolmistress who could teach me as much as Gwennie had.

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