Saturday, October 17, 2009

An Equestrian Journey

When I first bought Bandit, my horse of 13 months, I knew that it was going to be a challenge. I had just recently grown out of my old pony, who had taught me so much over the years, and was feeling ready for a younger, bigger horse that could take me up through the levels. After five visits to Seattle, 34 horses, and countless disappointments, my mother and I decided to go out on a limb and look at a super green, just recently turned 6 year old horse. It was pretty much love at first sight. I think that I knew when I got on him an immediately started picturing us running around a prelim course, that he was the one for me.

For the first 5 months he probably had a total of 4 days off. I couldn't wait to go out and ride him. He is one of those horses that if you have a good ride it will make your day, but if you have a bad one your day is ruined. I love the feeling of the good days, it is what I ride for. Once school started it was hard to fit everything in. You had your homework and ski training, oh and also you wanted to go see that football game, but I would get up at 5:00 am and ride until my mom would come out on the porch and yell at me to get ready for school. I would arrive to class dirty, sweaty, and beaming(most of the time). Over the winter he went into training in Seattle with a really good rider who allowed me to persue my skiing goals. Not to say that I didn't lay awake often and wonder if he missed me. When spring came around I was thrilled to realize that over winter he had just gotten better, and more consistent. The later spring however was very difficult. I struggled with behavioral issues, and the idea of selling was brought up. This scared me so much that it then became vital in my mind to ride him with high quality and make it known to everyone with doubt that this horse was worth the wait. It was hard, but was worth working for.

Just last weekend we traveled to Whidby Island, and competed in our second sanctioned horse trial. We had our best dressage yet with 37 penalties. Also, I was awarded the honorary Raspberry Pie, by Annie for having such a good ride. He was fabulous out on the cross country course. We got into a good rhythm and it just felt as if all the loose ends were coming together. I don’t know if there is a better feeling than a good cross country round. You don’t want it to ever end! He refused nothing, but unfortunately was too fast. Due to “Intentional Delay” at the end of the course, my bright idea to add some time on the clock, we received 20 penalties. I didn’t mind, it just told me that I should move up a level to where the you can go faster and still be in the optimum time. We had yet another great ride on the last day, show jumping. It was a cold and rainy morning and I was worried in the warm up that he would be a little stressed. The second we passed through the start flags however, we both got it together to ride a clean show jump round!

Bandit and I have had a very difficult/rewarding relationship so far. By no means are we even near perfect, but I have tasted the potential he has and the pure joy that comes from knowing that you have had so much influence on one horses training. I can see myself loving this sport forever. It is probably one of the most rewarding things I have been a part of and hope to be a part of for a long time. Building not only knowledge but a bond and growing together has so far been wonderful!
by Jacqueline O'Keefe, 15, Winthrop ... product of MVRU horsemanship programs and Sport Rider

More Summer Horsemanship Camp!

In mid-July a dozen lucky 8-10 year olds had fun and gained skills in our third summer horse camp. Practicing skills of grooming, tacking up and riding English, Western and bareback, they got to ride up to Moccasin Lake for a swim !