When I’m out and about with Jet – my big, bay, and rather handsome (if I do say so myself) TB gelding, people often ask the standard questions – how long have I owned him, what do I do with him, how old is he, and so forth, which I answer with – 4 years, he’s been in work for almost 18 months and we’re just starting our competition journeys (3 so far), and 8.
More often than not – my answers get a few strange looks and further questions – 8 years old, you’ve owned him for four years and he’s only been in work how long? You’re only just taking him out? WHY?!?!
Don’t get me wrong – I completely understand where these questions come from – my boy is, without a doubt one of the biggest smoochers you’ll ever meet…but he – like all of us – has a history….and while four years to work towards doing a level four HRCAV dressage test at Werribee Park may seem like a lifetime for some – it was one of my proudest moments and another huge step in our journey (a journey I’ll probably still be blogging about in a decade!).
When I brought Jet – he wasn’t in great condition – in fact the vet that I had come out to look at him said “he’s going to cost you a whole lot of money to rehab – I hope you’re not paying any more than dog money for him” – and I understood completely why she had that opinion…he was 3yrs old and nothing more than skin and bones – which was why I couldn’t tell her I was paying about 7 times more than what she hoped.
The third or fourth time I rode him, he got one serious fright – and I got a small skull fracture…and a few people said he was dirty….but I knew there was something in there, he wasn’t dirty – he was just plain scared. And I needed to work out how to “fix” that.
Training a horse is all about trust – and here was a horse that was by all rights trained, but he really hadn’t learned to trust….and honestly – I couldn’t blame him. So this was my challenge, and continues to be to this day.
There have been ambulance rides, fat lips, sore backs, bruised hips and then some…but with every one of these “episodes” there’s also been a chance to learn a lesson, build some more of that trust and move on. Meeting Fiona and becoming her student has helped a lot with that too (though having to call an ambulance during my second riding experience with her may have made her wonder what she’d gotten herself in for). Not only does she get Jet, she also gets me – and has made me not just a better rider, but a better trainer…as Jet is a horse that I can never just “ride” I have to spend each moment thinking like a trainer – leading him, teaching him, rewarding him.
It’s taken a whole lot of time, a whole lot of love, and a whole lot of patience, but we’re still going, and interestingly, now our steps forward seem to fairly consistently outnumber our steps backwards – so we are (to borrow a neighbour’s slogan) “moving forward”, which funnily enough is also something my dressage coach regularly yells at us from across the arena.
Oh and that Dressage test – it wasn’t anything to do with the scores that made it an amazing day – it was my once scared little boy out in the big wide world and hustle and bustle of the Top Teams Dressage event, his first time ever at the National Equestrian Centre, not even batting an eyelid as we wandered around it all, and worked out in a world we’d never seen!
Bec Jackson has been riding and training with Fiona since May 2011. Aside from her ponies, two beautiful boys (of the two legged variety) aged 6 and 9, a full time day job and obsession with politics, policy and popular culture – she also manages to dabble in social media and web design in her spare time….