After taking my outdoor senior pictures with some of my horses this fall, I began to reminisce about how I first got started riding horses. As of right now, I have currently shown in western pleasure, trail, hunter under saddle, jumping, and most recently, contest classes.
I first started riding at the age of five because of the influence of my sister, who was ten. At the time, I was just sitting on our horse, Baron, while my sister took lessons on her horse. When I turned six, my parents got me an extremely lazy horse that was ironically named Superman. I took lessons and showed him in walk-trot at open shows. My favorite class was walk-trot barrels, but I could never get Superman to do anything other than walk. Although Superman was quiet, I was terrified to ride.
Finally, I was eight, and able to show in 4-H. My parents realized that Superman and I weren’t a great match of personalities, and we tried a pony from Tennessee. My pony’s name was Sammy, and he is the reason I’m no longer afraid to ride. In fact, I became so brave that I would run him around the yard bareback. I showed him western pleasure and trail, but we would occasionally run a barrel class or take a few jumps for fun.
While I wanted to keep Sammy forever, I was ten and beginning to grow out of the 12.3 hand pony. My sister was getting more serious about showing, and I figured I should too. That’s when we got Chip, my western pleasure and trail horse. Chip and I clicked right away, and our first year was extremely successful. We qualified for the state horse show in showmanship and pleasure. Our second year we qualified for our favorite class, trail, and we made the top five at states.
Between the two years I showed Chip, I showed my sister’s horse, Henry. I decided to try something different and teach him to run so we could go in contest classes. It was an interesting year, but I was glad to go back to Chip again.
My next horse was also a hand-me-down from my sister. When I was thirteen, my sister aged out of 4-H and went to college. At the time, Otis was a 16.3 hand four year old appendix. He’s a beautiful horse, no one wanted to part with him yet. With him being so tall, it was obvious to me that it would be best for him to be shown hunter under saddle. So, that winter I spent the majority of my time learning how to ride hunter well. After the first few years of riding in circles on rail, we both became bored with it. I decided to try some jumps with him. Otis was a natural jumper, and never refused a fence. We both loved jumping, and we’d spend hours at our lessons but never be too tired to take another jump. We were even training with a world champion jumping coach, and I thought we’d be jumping at least until I went to college. Sadly, one summer Otis refused a jump. We later found that his front hooves were too soft to be jumping anymore. I decided that I didn’t want to go back to riding on the flat, and we ended up selling Otis.
I didn’t want to completely stop riding for my seventeen and eighteen year old years, but I didn’t want to buy a new horse as I’d be going away to college soon. My cousin offered her horse, Taz, who lives in my barn. Taz is nineteen years old, but he’s still one of the fastest and most experienced contest horses I’ve ever seen. I took her up on her offer, and although I always got anxious before I ran him, I had a great year. He’s one of the few horses that walk calmly into an arena, but when he sees the barrels, poles, or especially the keyhole, he takes off. It took me a while to trust him, but once I did, we were doing great for our first year. Taz is quite the opposite of Superman though. I couldn’t get Superman to do anything but walk, and I can hardly get Taz to do anything but run when we’re at a show. I took Taz into a practice pole class at a show this summer. As he calmly walked into the arena, I informed the man working the gate that I was going to try and make Taz trot the pattern for training. The man laughed and said, “With him, that shouldn’t be difficult.” As soon as I let up my grip on the reins slightly, Taz took off running. I slowed him down, but I never got him down to a trot. Our time wasn’t actually too bad considering it was a practice run and I was holding him back. When we left the arena, the man at the gate said, “You were trying to trot him?!” I simply smiled, Taz definitely knows what he’s doing, and it can be a lot of fun.
Horses have taught me a lot in the last thirteen years. They’ve been a huge part of my life as long as I can remember. Not only that, they’re also the reason I started 4-H! My horses aren’t just my animals, they’re my friends too.