This blog is primarily about The Brego, but since I am but his humble blog-communicator, it might help to know more about me, if for no other reason than to fire off random facts about me if/when you meet me in real life, just to freak me out.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I was one of those kids that was born loving horses. I have wanted to ride since I was, oh, one and a half. By three, I had convinced my parents to start taking me to riding lessons, which they dutifully did (bless them!) until I was twelve. I started riding English and marvelled at my big sister who was brave enough to canter. It took me years to canter. Years.
My first lesson horse: Swede. I am five.
I fell off a Palamino in first grade and broke my arm, the only broken bone I have received (knock on wood). I didn't keep me off horses, though. In this picture, I am actually sitting on a horse, now long cropped off. Again, sans helmet. My parents were crazy.
At least I got a cool cast!
When I was five, my wonderful parents bought me a pony. Well, actually, they bought me an unbroke two year old Arabian gelding. My parents are well intentioned, but knowing what I know now, that might not have been the best choice. But I was in love with the Black Stallion, so my dad did the best he could to make me happy. So, Ben and I grew up together.
Ben and me.
Ben was boarded a few miles from home, so Dad and I bonded every weekend when we went to "see the horses". I took a few lessons a month during this time, mostly in a western saddle by a saddle seat trainer. I did all I could to stay on. Ben was quite the crazy unbroke horse I was riding around (with no helmet).
When I was ten we moved Ben to a barn across the street from my suburban house in Texas and I became one of those barn kids that spends every daylight hour riding and hanging out. I started taking hunter lessons again and taught Ben to jump little cross rails. There was a lot of pressure at that barn to sell Ben and get a proper hunter. When I brought this up with my Dad, he was mad. "We could never sell Ben! He's our horse!" A very good lesson, Dad. Thanks for instilling responsibility early.
Ben and me. Yes, that is a mullet.
I gave up the Hunter Medals dream and just played with my horse. Ben and I moved around a couple of times, until we landed at another barn that was home to a string of Paso Finos. At 14, I started working for the owner of the Pase Finos, mucking and feeding mostly. He eventually let me start to work with the horses. They were amazing. I learned a ton about horses working at that barn. I was a teenager and I woke up at 4:30 am every day and went to the barn. Got to school at 7 am. Went to the barn at 4 pm after band practice. And I never missed a day, not Christmas or any other holiday, for three years.
Tom and Me and Ofrenda de Fe. National Champion Amateur Owner.
When I graduated from high school, Ben, at 14, went into retirement. My dad continued to pay his board while I went to school. My university had an IHSA team, and I decided I wanted to try the competitive hunter scene again, so when I went home over my Freshman summer, I was on the lookout for a new horse. I had long since outgrown little 14.2h Ben. I went back to work for the Paso Fino owner (I very much love and respect this man. The best horseman I have ever known.) and through him I made connections which landed me with my Thoroughbred mare. She was basically gifted to me thanks to the Paso Fino owner cashing in a few favors for me. She was three and fresh off the Florida circuit, a high talent horse I could have never afforded without help. I named her Hobby.
Hobby and me. Sophomore in college.
I spent the summer working with my mare and then brought her back to school with me in the fall. I joined the IHSA team and had two great years riding and showing. My mare and I did well, but not well enough to even make it to any AA shows. I became president of the IHSA team and the coach and I started to quibble. I was spending all of my time in horses, trying to compete my mare, trying to improve for IHSA and to make some money, I was also working at a polo facility.
Warming up a polo pony for my owners.
The polo facility taught me how to pony horses, how to gallop, ride fast, wrap, treat horses like horses with lots of turnout. It was great. When the disagreement between the IHSA coach and I finally came to a head, I dropped off the team, sent my mare home to Dad (again, thanks Dad!), and stopped riding. I started playing ice hockey. I was burned out of showing, of having a mare so talented I could never live up to her, of the complete inanity of the hunter judging.
I went to grad school and flirted with the idea of bringing my mare up and riding again in New England which HAD to be better than Texas. I ended up winning a scholarship to go to school in England, so I had to shelve that. I continued to play hockey in England but didn't ride. I went to a few yards while there and it was hard to be around horses that were so inaccessible. I was very, very poor.
When I left England, I returned to Texas and brought my mare out of retirement. I gave her to my dear college friend who was with me on the IHSA team. She used her as a lesson horse and practice as she got her own lesson program off the ground. I continued to live without horses for another five years until I could convince the SO it would be a good idea. I wanted to be back into horses, but I was still bitter about competing. So I thought I would just get a nice trail horse, a big solid fellow, with so little talent I could never be held unworthy.
I am not kidding. I seriously looked for the most unremarkable horse I could find.
And I found Brego for the price of meat.
The rest is written many times on this blog. As for Hobby, I eventually got her back from my friend and now at 19, she is the schoolmaster for my up and coming SO. The mare continues to have amazing talent, but now it's someone else's responsibility to live up to it. :)
As for Ben, he passed away in December 2006 at the age of 27. He was with my family for 25 years and my Dad still can't talk about him without choking up. That's how my family feels about horses. I do realize every day how lucky I am to have the family to support my horse crazy youth. Hobby is still my Dad's favorite (although he is starting to appreciate Brego).