Tag Archives: Horse

Autumn Gallop

27 Oct

The other weekend I was playing around with Tyler in the back fields when Chris suggested we try strapping the GoPro to my head. It worked fairly well except that the weight of the camera pushed the helmet over my eyes a few times. This was trial test #1- I’m sure we’ll tinker with other ways to capture the video and next time we’ll ride over something a bit more exciting. Stay tuned!

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Pony Express

23 Sep

Ever since I can remember I’ve been asking for a pony for Christmas. I know this sounds hokey, but my very first word was actually ‘pony’ (much to the disappointment of my parents). I was the kid running around with a stick in between my legs yelling ‘Giddy Up!’, the kid who obsessively collected anything resembling a horse… stickers, posters, books, shirts, I even kept a cereal box that had a horse on it for a year until my dad made me throw it out. My favourite stuffed animal was ‘Leah’, the horse. I still have her in all her raged glory (I must have cut her forelock and mane off at one point).  I also rememeber crying at the ‘Medieval Times’ school field trip thinking that the jousting was real and was terrified for the horses. I remember being made fun of constantly for being a ‘horse freak’ (come on horse girls, you know what I’m talking about). But, I didn’t care. I was obsessed. I was drawn to them. The riding books I flipped through in Chapters made my stomach ache- I seriously needed to be with horses.

I begged my Dad for lessons. Begged. He finally put me in a horse camp when I was 12. I was SO excited.  I remember making one of those paper link strands in preparation of the count down. Each link I ripped was one day closer to the horses! Bah!

Needless to say I had a blast at camp, and started riding lessons shortly after. I took the bus to the barn everyday after school to help with chores. The barn I worked at had over 40 horses. It would take me an hour to bring everyone in after school was over. But it was so awesome. I distinctly remember being so grateful to have the opportunity to muck stalls. Ha!  6,938 stalls later, times have changed.

Eventually, all my work paid off. I was able to part-board a horse in exchange for work at the barn. I rode every chance I could get.  If my coach said no stirrups, I would practice no stirrups for a month by myself. I wanted to be the best I could be. Soon I started competing at local shows, fairs and other small events. I remember winning my first ribbon (it was an 8th if I remember correctly) at the Ancaster Fair with an old horse named Topper. It was like I had won gold at the Olympics. What a fabulous feeling.

As I became a more serious rider, I realized that I would need more money if I wanted to be able to show at a high level. As soon as I was 14 I got a job at Tim Hortons (like every young Canadian does!) which helped me pay for competitions but seriously cut into my time in the saddle. Eventually my determination paid off (much to the surprise of my parents who thought I was absolutely nuts and too ‘obsessed’ with the whole horse thing. I wasn’t obsessed, I was determined!  Parents: Support your children. Help them reach their dreams, even if they’re beyond your wildest!). I reached the highest division in my circuit the 3’6 Hunters.  I was 16 and competing against professionals who owned their own barns and coached kids just like me.

Around this time I was introduced to foxhunting. I was immediately hooked. Galloping across open fields, jumping ditches, coops and rivers?! This was much different from the up-tight sand rings I was used to! I became so involved with fox hunting that I eventually became staff and began a long relationship with the Huntsman… but that’s another story. I ended up moving to Illinois to the Cornwall/Fox River Valley Foxhounds and began training hunters and managing hunt horses. (Oh the places you’ll go!) After a couple years, I got tired of riding for a living. Everyone always says ‘Don’t turn your hobby into your job or you’ll start to hate it’ …they’re right!

Anyways, after a year or so off, I’m back. Easing back slowly. A year without horses was refreshing. I’m ready now to start again. Nothing too fancy. I just want to enjoy my horse. The horse world can be all consuming. If you’re not in it, it’s hard to understand. There is something very special about a horse. My favourite poem, written by Ronald Duncan in 1954 describes the indescribable perfectly:

The Horse

Where in this wide world can man find nobility without pride,
friendship without envy, or beauty without vanity?
Here where grace is laced with muscle and strength by gentleness confined.

He serves without servility; he has fought without enmity.
There is nothing so powerful, nothing less violent;
there is nothing so quick, nothing more patient.

England’s past has been borne on his back.
All our history is in his industry.
We are his heirs;
He is our inheritance.

-Ronald Duncan

Anyways, I don’t really like talking about horses. This will probably be one of the few posts where I talk about my past riding. I abhor the idea of becoming ‘consumed’ again by the sport. I’ve made huge sacrifices along the way, distanced myself from many experiences and people I should have encountered or took time for. I have a ‘real life’ now and my horse Tyler is all I need from now on. Him and I have travelled thousands of miles together. We are quite happy to have the highlight of our summers now being bareback swims in the creek. Before I sign off, I thought I would share a few pictures of some horses who have had a profound impact on my life. I attribute much of who I am to some of them having spent so much of my time, energy, money, my everything on and with them:

1. Lantro – This was my first serious ‘show horse’. This is a picture of us at the 2006 Trillium Championships. Lantro taught me to work hard and to never give up. No pain, no gain. No guts, no glory.

2. Cowboy– this was a horse I trained while in Illinois. When I started with him, his owner was not fond of riding him because he had a tendency to bolt, buck and toss his rider. He turned out to be a seriously nice horse. One of the last days I was in Illinois, his owner put his daughter on him and they enjoyed a lovely hack throughout their estate. Cowboy taught me to believe in myself, not just horses.

3. Tyler– Last but definitely not least. Tyler is my ‘once in a lifetime horse’. Every rider has that special horse. He is mine. I will never have another him. He gets me and understands me. I don’t just mean while  I’m riding, but also on the ground. He’s helped me through many tough times in my life. We’ve had many ‘silent’ conversations in fields. He is my ultimate mentor and friend. Patient, kind, forgiving and much wiser than I am, Tyler has taught me raw honesty, how to be a good friend, when to draw the line, when to kick and scream, how to be silly in a serious world, when to lose graciously and when to be a king. Working as much as I do, I may not have much time to hang out with him as I used to, but when I walk in the barn and he knickers at me I realize how very lucky I am to have such a true friend.

 

Well, that’s all for now. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment, share your horsie memories with me :)

xo Jess

My life is a dog and pony show (Part 1:Pony)

7 Sep

Hey, it’s Jess again. I thought I’d also share a picture of my ‘other’ better half. This is my thoroughbred Tyler. Him and I have travelled throughout Ontario, Canada and the United States in the past few years. We’ve lived in Chicago, Illinois and Albany, Georgia… and visited every state in between and some quite a distance further. I used to ride professionally in the States; training, excersising and managing show jumpers and field hunters. Tyler (AKA Tae Bo, Little Foot, Stinky, Alphie-Tyler) has been my main man since 2006. He’s an off the track thoroughbred having raced under the name ‘Alpha King’. He’s one of my best friends. We have a very special and close relationship.

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