This will probably be the hardest post to write. I hate talking about myself! But I think it is important for you to have a little background on me to put my writing into context. I plan to use this blog to share some of what I have learned about horses, riding , dressage, etc. I am by no means an expert! If it means that you know everything there is to know about a subject, then I hope I never become one! I am learning every day, usually directly from the best teacher there is-the horse. I invite discussion and questions!
I have been horse crazy since I remember. It came out of no where. My family does not have horses, nor do they really get the horse thing. I think someone just showed me a horse when I was 2 and it was all over. I had one friend growing up that had horses, but she lived a ways away and I only got to see her a couple times a year. I spent as much time as I could at her house in the summer riding her horses. I learned a lot, but it was just an introduction. The rest of the time when I wasn't riding, I was drawing horses on anything I could get my hands on, and reading absolutely everything. I subscribed to magazines for horse owners even though I didn't own a horse. I took every opportunity I could to do any kind of riding possible, but it wasn't much.
I didn't get lessons until I moved out of the house and started college. I had a friend that helped out at an Arabian breeding farm, and the owner let us ride. She encouraged me to take lessons at Madison Dressage. I didn't know much about dressage at the time, but after just a couple lessons, I was hooked. I wanted to ride more than once a week in my lessons, so I joined the Hoofer Riding Club, and soon became their president. It wasn't long before I was checked out to ride all the club horses at any time I wanted, and became certified to take out groups on the trail.
I started leasing my instructors horse, Erin. Erin was a grey thoroughbred gelding that had once been a rodeo bronco, but had been turned into a dressage horse. He was very sensitive, so I began learning to ride with tact. Erin was the first horse I had to ride that was not a school horse, so he was special because he was not ruined by kids pulling on him and bouncing on his back. I learned how to get a horse round on Erin. What an addicting feeling! I remember riding around and around getting it and then losing it, then getting it again. I was determined to really GET it. I also learned that trying too hard in riding often has the opposite effect.
I ended up dropping out of school to pursue riding full time. Not the best decision ever. I had always done well in school, but I was having a hard time picking a major, and I was riding so much that my grades were suffering anyway. I figured it was best to put school on hold until I had a better idea of what I wanted to do. I went to work as a working student at the barn of an FEI trainer who also imported horses to be sold. She was already doing very well, and she was younger than me. But she had been riding her whole life, and her parents gave her the barn. That is a good way to get ahead in the horse business. She worked very hard though, and deserves all her success and more! I had the opportunity to lease a sales horse to take lessons on, and that worked out well until he was sold. He was a beautiful Moresian (Morgan\Fresian).
After he was gone, I bought a beautiful young Oldenburg mare. Dazzle. The idea was that we were going to train her and resell her so I could get a better horse for me to continue learning on. I think I only had her a month or two before she tore a suspensory ligament. Now I had a horse, but was not getting lessons anymore, so I moved her to my friends barn to rehab her. Rehab took a year. Towards the end, I was hand walking her for an hour each day. I was lucky during this time that I had friends that would let me ride their horses. Otherwise I would go crazy being at the barn every day and not getting to ride!
I was still pretty green myself, and did not have much experience with young horses by this time. When it was time to start her back under saddle, I did a lot of things that I would do differently today.
She was a hot, sensitive mare with a penchant for bucking, but lunging was prohibited by my vet due to the suspensory. We weren't supposed to do circles, and were supposed to take the corners big. It was spring, and I had a few successful rides on her, but I was still uncomfortable getting on her when it was cold and windy without lunging her first. I did it anyway, until one fateful day. Our barn and riding arena were under the same roof, and the arena was in the middle, so there were stalls on both long sides. I started out fine, but then I rode too close
to one of the stalls and my foot got caught in a halter hanging up. The lead rope swung back and hit her and she took off bucking like a bronco. I knew I wasn't going to stay on so I bailed. I landed flat on my butt and hit the back of my head on the ground. I went to the hospital, but they did not take x rays, and it wasn't another two days before I found out I had broken my back. That was 10 years ago now.
I was given 6 months of no riding. I was in a back brace for 3. I started riding again 6 months to the day of my accident. It wasn't as much fun as I rembered. I think I was scared
but didn't want to admit it. But I figured that maybe this was a good time to pursue other hobbies. Maybe I would like something as much as I liked riding, and my family would be a lot happier. I tried biking, hiking, rock climbing, scuba diving, etc. I really gave it a go. Nothing gripped me like learning dressage. When I wasn't rock climbing, I wasn't thinking about it. But I constantly think about horses!
I started leasing a cute gruella quarter horse to get my confidence back. He was perfect, we had so much fun. Not only did I get my confidence back, but all those months of visualizing myself back in the saddle seemed to make me a better rider. People started asking me to exercise their horses for them, and give them lessons. I was helping as many people as I could around working a full time job. At one point I actually had the horses owners tacking the horses up and leading them to the mounting block for me, so I could ride several horses in one night. I really liked that!
Then I met Sara. She was one of those people that jump into your life, change it, and then promptly jump back out. I think she does that for everybody. Her first words to me were, "Are you a dressage trainer?" I wasn't, but I liked being mistaken for one! A few months later she told me she was moving to Florida to work at a large farm there. I didn't know her very well at the time, but I was curious so I went to visit her. This was Valhalla farm, home
of USDF gold medalists Jean Brinkman, Erin Brinkman, and Iris Eppinger. Before the end of my visit, I had lined up a working student position for myself, and moved down there a few months later. It was time to leave Wisconsin.