Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Off Topic: A Brief History of Daun

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.  

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).


dp said...

Wow Daun, what a lovely post. I rode competitively through high school, but didn't have the money while doing my undergrad. I did, however, continue playing hockey. One of the few sports where my...er...sturdy build comes in handy. I've been out of it for the past five years because recreational women's hockey gets CRAP ice times around here. Are you still playing at all?

Daun said...

dp, I hear ya on the sturdy build. I was the grinding center, ala Adam Graves. Couldn't score for shit, but drew lots of penalties.

I haven't played in years. In Texas, the women's ice times were also crap. And now I KNOW there's good hockey here, but until I get settled into a city, I can't commit to play. I have my skates and most of my equipment, so I might venture back, if the times are right.

sylvia said...

great post! thanks for sharing your story with us. i, like you, was born/meant to be around horses! i didn't even have to be riding..it could have been cleaning stalls, smelling muzzles, walking a horse for hours due to colic, being a show slave, etc...and happily!(i am a self proclaimed great at wrapping!!) i can't wait to be a re-rider!
p.s. would you mind if i linked you to my blog? it's nothing freaky...so no worry about attracting wierdos! let me know! thanks. oh and my husband went to high school with john leclair...not a female player of course, but a well known nhl player! LOL!

manymisadventures said...

Great post. And it's awesome that Hobby came back to you.

So Brego's a nice, plain, untalented horse, eh? ;)

Daun said...

Oh, no. Brego's got serious talent. That is the delicious irony. Once again, I have a horse more talented than I. :) I just didn't go LOOKING for a talented horse.

Daun said...

No problem linking to the blog!

And Leclair is a personal enemy of mine. Mark Messier all the way!!!

allhorsestuff said...

you and Brego ae totally made for one another Daun!
You are his talent mirror I DO BELIEVE!
Your reflections of one another... are currently being viewed by so many in person...and all of us reading/and watching of your times of clinic and hunt and schooling.

Thanks for the history..loved every line of it!
Yours truely,

dp said...

I'm with AHS on the mirror theory.

I play(ed) defense. The best place for a great skater (also figure skated competitively) with a CRAPPY shot. My boyfriend through most of the hockey years was a Messier fanatic. I am an Iginla girl myself, but don't pay much attention until the playoffs roll around these days.

Sometime in grade 11 it dawned on me that my agility with numbers was probably going to pay the bills so I took some effort out of the horses/skating/hockey and refocused on getting into university on scholarship. Growing up kinda sucks. But at least I can afford horses now!

sylvia said...

don't hate! LOL!!!

Bev said...

It WAS a lovely post. Knowing you are quite private in your other life makes it all the more special you shared your story.

I must admit I'm feeling kind of sad. I didn't have the chance to play hockey when I was in college because girls weren't allowed to play hockey back that long ago. We had to make do with figure skating and I, for one, sure didn't enjoy wearing the skimpy outfits and panty hose with my sturdy build. I wasn't fat but have always been broad shouldered, muscular, and athletic. That and I had 3 older brothers to boot! Dang, I think I would have liked smashing someone into the boards and wearing all that padding.

There was one line you wrote that has stayed in my thoughts. "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." Did your coach lead you to believe you were not doing all you could or all you could do was not good enough to match the talent of your mare? (Please ignore my question if it is something you are not comfortable answering.)

Anonymous said...

love this post. Thanks for sharing. loved hearing about each of the horses you have loved.

Girls with hockey gear make my eyes tear up..girls weren't allowed to play, even on the shinny pond in the middle of nowhere... I love seeing them.

Daun said...

I am swamped at work today, but I will respond to your emails.

To briefly answer your question about feeling unworthy. I am sure it was unintentional, but my coach made me feel like I just didn't have enough talent to ride my super awesome mare. How much I worked didn't seem to matter. Obviously, I am not an equitator, and even now, I am learning things that I SHOULD have learned under her and would have helped me tremendously to ride. So I think my coach had an amazing "feel" but was not a great communicator and so there is a lot of lost opportunity there. Plus, it's pretty obvious by my bimonthly existential angst, that I am continually haunted by the feeling that I am not doing right by my horse. Even now.

Daun said...

As for the hockey, my company gets season tickets to U New Hampshire men and women's teams. I am DEFINITELY going to be there when the ladies take on Harvard!

Bev said...

I am relieved you have gained a realistic perspective regarding the situation with your coach. In my mind, a truly great coach is a rarity. Too many choose to be one for the wrong reasons, more often than not it shows, and people get hurt in the process.

Isn't it funny how, all too often, someone in a position of authority over those trying to learn have either 'always been a natural' or been doing it so long they've forgotten what it is to learn it? Typically they do not make great coaches. They fail to inspire those of us who are less natural and more ordinary.

I once heard the results of a research study regarding the difference practice makes in the ending proficiency of children born with 'true' genius (in mathematics or music) and children born with more average natural ability. To make a long story shorter, they found that children with average natural ability having a strong work ethic they applied were in the end more accomplished than children of genius lacking a strong work ethic. They also found practice to be the great equalizer, even when comparing geniuses who practiced to more average individuals who practiced.

So the moral of my story is.....

You're in it for the long haul and clearly intend to do right by Brego as well. Given time, imagine what you two can accomplish!??!!! I believe you to be your own harshest critic which is a double-edged sword for sure. It is bad when dealing with the angst you mentioned but good when it drives you to continually push for improvement. It all balances out in the end.

SunnySD said...

Go Dad! Great post, and love the pics.

Maybe Mae said...

I too LOVED this post. So much of the awesome. Hurray for old pics!

Serena said...

I totally agree with Mae. Your mullet is too cute! Reminds me of myself in 2nd grade--my mullet was PERMED!! *gag*
Also i love that you invented the term "equitator." :-)

Strawberry Lane said...

What a wonderful story, lucky girl, great family and very fortunate horses to belong to all of you.

Great photos!

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