My heartiest heart horse is my horse, Rusty. He came to me when I was sixteen and just finishing my junior year of high school. I wanted a horse for forever, and this time, my parents couldn't turn me down. I started looking. And then there was this red dun gelding who had experience in a little bit of everything about 15 miles away from me. He was still for sale, so I went to see him.
Rusty was just perfect. Walked right in the trailer, was great to ride, great to saddle, stood for grooming. Most perfect horse ever. We bought him on the spot. He had to stay at his old owner's for a few weeks while we got fencing up. And then he came home 2 weeks before fair.
Rusty was a completely different horse. He wouldn't load into the trailer to go home, he was rushy and pushy under saddle, and he liked to bite. I thought I had a lemon. It took us 3 hours to get that darn horse into the trailer for fair. It took us another hour to get him off. He didn't want to back off and finally managed to turn himself around, getting a minor cut on his fetlock on the way out. Things didn't bode well at the fair, either. He reared up in his stall when I tied his show halter and leadrope to it, breaking the halter, after he wouldn't stand still for halter class. He wouldn't halt in our English class. In trail class, he gave a rear threat when I tried to get him to sidepass, and then wouldn't ground tie. And of course, the egg fell off the spoon right away for the egg and spoon game. To get him home, we had to borrow a stock trailer instead of our straight load, and that darn horse still wouldn't get in. WHAT a bugger.
At the next fair, Rusty did a little better. We somehow got him there. He did well in the games classes. But when the other horses left because we were the last entry in trail class, Rusty freaked out and did some rear threats and just misbehaved the entire class.
We took Rusty to a few other local shows too. We never could master the sidepassing in the trail class. He jumped the canter poles and I almost fell off. And he never, EVER made out as a pleasure horse. His canter was too big, as was his trot. And as for how we got him to those shows, I don't know.
Our next feat was a 24 mile ride, Albia to Ottumwa, dubbed as NAGBRAI. By this time, Rusty had a pasturemate, Bonnie, to pal around with. Bonnie and Rusty went down to this jig. And Rusty was just a bugger. He spooked at the railroad tracks, got dancey and rear-y when Bonnie left him, and he splashed everyone within a 10 foot radius of him in the creek. At the end of the ride, though, nothing fazed that horse. Semis, cars, trash...you name it, no spook. It was great until we couldn't get them loaded that night and had to stay overnight to try and load the horses the next day *grimace*.
I was still convinced I had a lemon. Rusty took off across fields with my friends. He had rear threat issues. Biting issues. Was girthy. Tried to kick my dad when he was brushing him. The only thing he never tried was bucking. And to this day, Rusty has never bucked me.
Over the winter, I got to thinking that MAYBE Rusty wasn't too bad. After all, I wasn't afraid to ride him down the roads bareback by myself, even the busy blacktop. I rode him in a halter sometimes, too. And although he was herd sour, he never tried to bolt back. And I worked on that. By the spring, we were going out alone a lot. But there was still a major problem: What was Rusty's calling? He wouldn't turn on a dime, didn't have western pleasure gaits, and had never seen a cow. So I went back to the only thing I knew: English and jumping. I started up lessons again, and tried some things on Rusty at home. He'd happily pop over barrels, tires, and poles. Sometimes. Sometimes, he'd duck out. But that summer, we bought a new trailer, figured out that a lunge whip behind Rusty's butt equaled a perfectly trailered horse, and went to a few shows. He jumped up to 2'6" for me at fair. And that's when I started taking him to lessons. My trainer was convinced he had merit. But I wasn't so sure. He ran out of jumps all the time, was super heavy at the canter, and seemed more "project" than anything.
^^This is what happened the following summer. Rusty piloted me over all the jumps at the rated and schooling show. We won 2nd in the Non-Thoroughbred Hunters on the Flat, placed in some jumping classes, and were the only crew from our stable to finish the Hunter Derby. He took every fence in stride.
Rusty was also a great companion on the trails. My friend and I rode into town with him and her horse, under a concrete bridge and past many scary town objects. I rode him in a parade. He was the only horse in that part of the parade, and we never had a problem. I rode him 2 miles back to parking by himself. No fuss. Of course, this was after he tried to kick me after I tried applying horse paint to his butt earlier that day.
Unfortunately, Rusty's great career came to a halt when his own love for jumping got in the way. In a wind storm, our trampoline flew into our pasture, spooking Rusty. He tried to jump the pasture fence and fell back, breaking the top of his tibia. He probably won't be ridden ever again. But he's still here, and I'm thankful. I miss riding him every day. I could trust him, in the middle of a corn field, to trot without my hands on the reins. I could ride backwards and sidesaddle on him. I stood on his back. We opened gates, picked up stuff, and jumped weird objects. He was my #1. When my friend and I got lost on the trails after dark, bareback no less, it was Rusty and her horse Sunny that got us back to the trailer safely, after riding on a public highway in the dark. I miss riding that darn horse everyday. He's my love.