Yesterday evening turned out to be a very busy one, but now - on to the next part. The Beginnings
When I decided to take up riding I did a lot of reading to understand, what style I'd enjoy the most. We don't have any Western riding in Latvia, which is a shame, because I'm really interested in cutting, so it was English all the same, but exploring the equestrian sports field in my country left me disappointed. All I saw around was just gaping mouths, sore horses, human ambitions above horse needs. I also thought back then that bits are evil by default - yeah, I knew no better as a complete newbie. So I found a local NH barn, the only one here at that time, and thought it was paradise, although I later learned of how bad my riding habits from those times actually were.
But NH was not the only thing why I chose to go to this barn. It has a homepage with pictures of their horses, and this is where I first saw Him.
Snickers was described as a freshly backed 4yo with a unique, cheeky and intelligent character. I fell in love instantly, although I even hadn't touched a horse for years at that time, and I fancied myself by fantasizing of meeting - or even calling this little guy my own. Funny, though, as I had always thought, that I'd dream of an impressive, flashy horse, a Friesian, a Trakhener or an Arab at least, and DEFINITELY not a bay.
The first months, however, I didn't meet him, as he was sent to a pasture boarding place far in the countryside to grow and mature a bit. After that, he was given me to learn groundwork with. I was ecstatic. And it was a disaster.
I was uncoordinated, lacking timing and body language. He was dominant, pushy, easily distracted and easily annoyed. We were too green for each other and I didn't get him for lessons for several more months. In the meantime, I petted him in the pastures, visited him in the barn and generally speaking, continued on dreaming. Others didn't understand me - you see, Snickers wasn't really his owners' favorite horse. They hated his curiousness, called him "the Jerk", chained him in a small standing stall for nights to make more room for more favored horses, fed less, ignored minor health problems and considered him worthless, although they still kept his price unreasonably high. Snickers wasn't doing good in this atmosphere and gradually gained the fame of a horse "who always walks with his eyes closed". He was apathetic, got slower and slower, and his character was getting broken day by day.
Later, as my skills grew, he was again assigned to me for several riding lessons and we met more often in groundwork. My dreams grew bigger, although I didn't even hope for ever buying him. Getting and keeping a horse seemed like a seriously expensive business, out of my limits. Then, rumors started that he could be sold soon to a riding school in Sweden, and for that summer Snickers was sent to a riding camp far away from the barn. I tried my best to oppress my emotions for him, as I believed it would be worse for me if I get attached to a horse I could not hope to afford...
The camp eventually ended. Snickers came back. And my heart leaped, all the emotions, the dreams, the hopes were still there. After a few days potential buyers were booked to come and try him. I spent that time almost frozen in fear that he could leave. He didn't get bought, though, and I, knowing I have to take at least SOME action, made a full lease agreement with the barn owner.
The morning we were going to sign the contract, I went to the pastures and met Snickers, who was just standing there as always, with his head low, eyes closed, completely uninterested in what the day could bring. I told him what I was going to do and that he is going to be mine, at least, for a while. Although he was a "hard" horse, he seemed to enjoy my company nonetheless.
This is what he mostly looked like at that time, October 2011:
When I came back to the pastures after signing the contract, a completely different Snickers was waiting there for me by the gates, away from all the other horses, the Snickers I always believed in and waited for to emerge from behind the thick walls he had built around himself. His head was up, his posture was proud, his eyes were wide open and bright, and he neighed his heart out. At that same moment I realized I'd regret and suffer for the remaining life, if I ever let this horse go again.
Two months later, I had arranged a loan, made the necessary payments and Snickers, then a scruffy 5yo, was finally mine. I moved him instantly to a temporary barn, and not long after to a very nice, private, strictly NH place where we spent a happy year. He started opening up and soon the horse who always had his eyes closed looked like this:
This April we were forced to move again due to an increased boarding fee and reside in a more traditional showjumping barn, but are happy nonetheless and have learned tons an heaps of valuable skills.
So, this is our "Black Stallion" tale, which I would not believe in if I hadn't experienced myself. :) From the next post on, I'll just tell about our daily progress and, of course, adventures, because a day with Snickers does not go with at least one new thing to explore. :)