I've had my half-Thoroughbred gelding for six years, ever since I was sixteen and he was not-quite two, and we've been in love the whole time. We've had a good partnership and he's been easy as pie -- I put all the groundwork on him, started him, and put his initial training on him almost all by myself. He had a few rough patches (he's a very powerful horse, and I was quite a small rider) but we worked through them and I had high hopes of making him my four-star eventer or mini-prix jumper!
However, three years ago, I went to college, and my horse proved to be too much for my mother. She took a bad tumble trying to jump him, and pretty much stopped riding him except at a walk and trot in the arena. Because of money issues, she also was unable to hire a professional rider or in fact any other rider except whoever would hop on him for fun, so my horse pretty much got to "chill" for a while.
Fast forward to now: I've quit college and want to get back into riding. The problem is that I'm pretty much out of riding shape, and my horse is too. He's also eight years old and quite green. He still has all of his good sense and near-perfect ground manners, he's still pretty easy to ride in the basic sense, and he still has a talent for free-jumping everything he can leap in the pasture or arena ...
I can throw a tarp over his back and hang a cooling sheet off his ears, put a novice rider on him for a supervised walk-trot lesson, and perform pretty good lateral work and walk pirouettes on him ...
But he's hesitant to take contact from the bit, move off my leg, go outside for more than a hack down the driveway, consistently pick up the canter (much less his right lead ... ), or jump even so much as a crossrail.
(He doesn't duck out or refuse, he just declines to actually jump ... he either trots right up to the jump and then breaks to walk long enough to step over it, or he -- and this is embarrassing -- trots right through it. It's not from lack of talent or training ... before I left, we trotted poles and little flower boxes in the arena, and jumped small ditches, banks, and even a fallen tree on our trail rides. In my assessment he's just worried because of the time he jumped too eagerly and my mother fell off.)
I think I've missed my window of opportunity for making a four-star event horse. But I still have hopes for eventually developing a solid Prelim competitor... I know my animal very well, and I know he could be a flatwork packer in a matter of months and a successful Novice eventer by next year if we could just get his confidence up.
The problem is that I need to get my confidence up too. I schooled Training and Prelim on my first horse, but that was a long time ago, and I've had a bunch of injuries, a bunch of naysayers, a period of inactivity, and a terrible stint on a very unsupportive college riding team in between then and now.
The point of this article is: I need to work with a trainer ... but I have literally no money (due to a few personal emergencies and misfortunes). I know I am very good at working with young horses, especially Thoroughbreds (I've worked on the back of racetracks and reschooled ex racers in their new homes as well), and thanks to a time spent working at an A-show barn I have almost endless patience for mundane tasks like cleaning buckets, polishing tack, mucking stalls, and grooming and braiding horses ...
But I'm not sure if those skills and traits alone are enough to make me a good candidate for working-studenthood anywhere.
I can ride, but I was mostly self-taught, instinctive rather than by the book, and all of my boldness depends on the horse underneath me.
It's also not like I have an expensive or mind-blowingly talented horse (I've seen him jump four feet with scope to spare, but he's no Theodore O'Connor, and even with a lot of training his dressage will never be Grand Prix quality) ... or even an incredibly outstanding horse in any sense other than he's beautiful, easygoing, and I love him.
So I wonder ... is there any chance in Heaven that a young, self-taught, moneyless rider could find a niche with a good, patient, and understanding trainer who could help her average-sized, rather quirky, and slightly self-conscious horse become the kind of animal I think he could be?
Thanks too for your patience in reading this little novel. : )