I could hear the crying from our apartment attached to the arena. I made it a point not to watch my daughter during her riding lessons as her fear and tears were typically worse when I was present. Yet, something about the lesson didn’t sit right with me. I reminded myself that I am not a trainer and that sometimes the best way to get over fear is to look it straight in the eye.
The events of that day still haunt me. My very timid and nervous daughter, taking a lesson on her Quarter Horse mare with a trainer who had become so frustrated with her fear that he put her in a situation that could have ended very badly. You see, there was one horse in the round pen, one horse being lunged and one horse being ridden in a rather small arena. My daughter and her 20 year old mare trying to navigate the craziness was scary enough. Add to that stupidity, her trainer took her reins away. Well, not actually “away” but rather told her to drop them and NOT to touch them for any reason. To allow Mocha to go where she pleased and to kick her if she stopped. A combination that left my timid daughter completely traumatized. I believe it traumatized her horse as well. I had trusted that this trainer had her best interest at heart and that was why I chose not to watch or participate in her lessons in any way. That decision still haunts me. I had no idea the danger he subjected her to in an effort to punish her for her fears.
That was the last time Kodee rode Mocha. She has hopped on a few times since, but the lesson caused both of them not to trust one another. There was a new trainer at our barn that I had just begun to get to know. I was weary to go to her for help because she was an “Arab Trainer” eek gads! What if she tried to get my daughter on one of those crazy horses? What if my daughter actually got hurt?
I had watched Kodee’s fear all but destroy her love of horses. I had been there outside the show ring with a crying kiddo pushing her to go into the ring because I knew she would regret it if her fear got the best of her. I could see the look on the other mom’s faces. I was “that mom”. I knew what people thought of me. I knew that they assumed my daughter didn’t like horses, that I was so wrapped up in my own agenda that I refused to see her pain. I could see the looks of, “ugh, another crazy show mom” written on faces while my daughter melted down.
There was something inside me that knew they were wrong. I had my own horse and my own show goals, I didn’t need to live vicariously through her. Yet, I was still pushing her. Why? Because, I needed to know what was beyond the fear. If we could remove fear then what would we be left with? A confident horse woman or a girl who just wasn’t that into them. I was honestly ok with either option. The worst possible outcome for me was that she let fear ruin a love of horses and strip her of the one of a kind joy that comes from a relationship with one.
As I got to know the new trainer, I was confident that she could help Kodee and Mocha become a team. Sadly for Mocha, it was not meant to be. I think it was a combination of intermittent lameness and the terrifying no reins day that Mocha decided that she was not going to be the confidence builder we had hoped for. Kodee had saved her money and purchased Mocha. It was the second horse that Kodee had purchased with her own money and the second that was not a good fit.
Melinda introduced us to her lesson horse, Honey. Honey had been enjoying the life of semi retirement as she hadn’t had any kids to teach since she had became a mom a few years earlier. Melinda literally ran home from the barn, grabbed Honey from the field, threw her in a trailer and brought her to us. “This is going to be ugly for a minute” she said as she cinched up Honey and hopped on. Oh man, it was ugly. Honey was snorty and mad and even threw a buck or two. Eek!! My first thought was, what did I get my daughter into? Not only was I about to trust her on a big blowey snorty Arabian, but I had only just started this relationship with this new trainer and it caused issues with our old trainer who was standing there watching this big yellow Arabian try her best to unload her trainer. Ugh!
I could see the smug looks on the faces of our old trainer and his “assistant”. They seemed to delight in the fact that I was about to put my super timid kiddo on a “crazy Arabian”.
What I saw next shocked me to the point where I never looked back. That snorty yellow mare went from having fire in her eyes and springs in her legs to calm and nice as could be the very second my nervous girl swung her leg up there! That single lesson took my daughter from terrified to walk to fast to trotting all over the arena. Melinda had told me that Honey was the prefect kids horse because of her ability to sense the fear and bring herself down to the level of her rider. If I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I never would have believe it.
That was the beginning of an incredible relationship for Kodee and Honey. It took a few months of regular lessons for Honey to truly ignite Kodee’s fire. She had not only found a deep love of horses, but had found a profound connection to the Arabian breed. It was a big blow to this Appaloosa loving mom.
It wasn’t long until we were leasing Honey and Kodee had begun to have dreams of neck ribbons and high point trophies. She cut a deal with Melinda to work as her groom in exchange for training.
It was challenging work for Kodee. Many of the horses she handled were young and very green. She very quickly became skilled in assisting Melinda and handling young and/or nervous horses.
Show season was a series of giant accomplishments for Kodee and Honey, aka Team Blondie. Her first A rated show found her in second place in Ranch Riding and securing a spot to the Region 4 & 5 championships. She had only just begun to lope two weeks before that show. They managed to place 7th out of 15 at Region 4 Championships. With merely a month at the lope they were beginning to make their mark.
The show season saw many 1st place ribbons. Team Blondie tried out jumping (Honey was not a fan but gave it her best shot), dressage, hunt seat, western, trail and even reining. She secured firsts in everything but trail. I would frequently watch the two of them with tears in my eyes knowing that this darling yellow mare had indeed made a horse woman out of my kiddo.
We loved Honey with all our hearts. I wished on more than one occasion that she was a permanent horse and not a lease. I agonized the day that Kodee would say goodbye to the mare that changed her life. My heart broke for my kiddo that as much as she loved Honey that they would never truly have that horse/girl relationship that comes from having a horse of your own.
The show season wound down, summer turned to fall and it was time to let Honey enjoy a little time out of training. Kodee and I were both sad that the year had come to a close and neither knew what would come next. Would we lease Honey another year? I prayed that we would find an appropriate horse for Kodee that could fill Honey’s shoes. I wanted Kodee to have that connection with a horse of her own.
I had no idea that my prayer would be answered so soon, but Melinda pulled me out of earshot of Kodee one day and said, “Do you want a horse for Kodee? I know of one if you want to check him out.” Of course, I had to get my husband mildly tipsy before I asked him if we could go check out the horse.
I am one of those strange spiritual people that has a strong connection to random coincidences. I believe in meant to be. I believe in miracles and perfect timing and divine blessings. When I heard that his name was Gene, my heart skipped a beat. Kodee’s middle name is Gene, could it be a divine blessing? Then I found out that his registered name is ThirdTimesACharm SF…what? Kodee had twice saved her money to buy a horse and twice had been disappointed. One was crazy and the other lame. Could the third time be the charm? I think so.
This horse was a half Arabian show horse who’d had a rough go recently. Half starved, he had been rescued and brought back from the brink and was ready to be loved on by someone who would give him a good home and finish out his show career. It was a bit of a battle to get my husband to agree to look at him, but once we did we knew that he could definitely be the charm. Graycyn Farm’s, Jill Andrews, was kind enough to let us come meet Gene and ultimately trusted us to give him a good home. Kodee was a bundle of nerves when she tried him out but he never so much as moved a muscle out of line.
Team Gene is now working toward building that once in a lifetime relationship. Gene has a girl who loves him to the moon and back and Kodee has a horse that will definitely pick up where Honey left off and take her to the next level.
It is funny because I used to be that guy. You know the guy….the, “oh you raise Arabs? Ugh! I hate those crazy horses.” Yes, the guy who would roll my eyes when someone would try and convince me that Arabs are great kids horses. The guy who instantly judged the mental stability of Arab people. I was all those guys and so much more.
If someone had told me 2 years ago that I would not only let my daughter have an Arab but that I would adore him, I would have never believed it. I encourage anyone who feels the way I did to visit an Arabian farm or take in an Arabian show. Watch them with their kids, they are so gentle and careful. I was blessed to see these horses through a different lens. Through the eyes of a scared little girl who’d found a kindred spirit in a breed that is often misunderstood. She is a huge advocate for Arabians and frequently feels it is her duty to show the world why she fell in love with them.
I don’t know what the future holds for Team Gene in the show ring, and I don’t care. She loves him and he her. I just wish he had spots!
**Check out my other blog dedicated to my super awesome kiddo, Dear Horse Crazy Show Kid**