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August 5, 2014

Why I Am Lucky

AliBoo's "Wilbur" behaved like a gentleman in a crowded schooling ring, thanks to an educated upbringing. Photo by Brianna Butler Photography.

The other week as my sister and I were packing up from a two-week show at Showplace Spring Spectacular (Lamplight, Ill.) to come home, it hit me again how lucky I am. 

Beyond the obvious reasons of that I get to show so many nice horses and I have amazing  parents and clients who support me, I was thinking that I felt lucky to know how to pack up from a show and how to haul the horses home ourselves.  

It was just us, and one of our very special clients, the Holsteads, who wrapped up our show activities. These wonderful clients not only helped us set up for the show, but also helped us pack up; you do not find that often, and I am always grateful to them for being such amazing and generous people. 

The majority of our horses had gone home Friday, but we still had all of our equipment and five horses to get home Saturday evening. That day, I recognized how my parents have made me self-reliant—we can do any job that needs doing. This really ran through my head as my sister and I were pulling out of the show in a total traffic jam; semi-trucks coming at us, cars milling around us, and trailers crowding behind us. The freedom that comes from knowing that I willing AND capable to do whatever it takes to get the job done is like no other wonderful feeling I have ever experienced!  That coupled with the gratitude I feel towards others who lend a hand reminds I am lucky, indeed.

Lately, I have met some young adults who have expressed their desire to be professionals; many who are showing at the higher levels, yet I realized they have little knowledge as to how to actually facilitate the care of their horses. Although they may recognize a problem—a horse with a “tummy ache,” for example, often they do not know how to provide the remedy and care without the presence of a veterinarian. When it comes to loading and/or hauling a horse, this is sometimes viewed as overwhelming and maybe even in some cases, beneath them. 

Old-school professionals were taught how to be horsemen, and they could take care of their horses when and if they needed to. In my opinion, these people are the lucky ones. What they have learned and subsequently passed on to those who have been willing to work, is something akin to the fountain of youth… a knowledge and power critical to success.     

I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by these types of people in my life; those who have taught me tremendous lessons. Candice King is someone I truly admire for this exact reason. She had to make her way up the ladder and while doing so, often took care of her own horses.  Now as a result of her experience in caring for her horses, she has learned even more about working with them. Even when one is acting up, she is patient and firm, while also being understanding of the horse.

If we want to develop top riders, we need to acknowledge that the riding should come after they have learned all of the aspects of horsemanship from the ground up. Shouldn’t they have to learn how to calm a horse down and handle one when it is a bit fresh instead of just riding it to death? This to me is a true rider.      

At Lamplight this summer, we had 12 horses under the age of 6, and four of them were stallions. Of course, at the beginning of the show, it was a bit nerve-wracking having so many babies and young stallions, but I could not have been more proud. People probably thought we were crazy; until they all started to remark what nice youngsters they were. In my eyes, they all acted beautifully.

One day it poured overnight, and there really was only one good schooling ring to ride in. When I took my 4-year-old stallion Wilbur (Diamant d’Heure) up there to flat, there were a good 40 horses in there plus ponies. He had never been in an environment like that before, and I am not going to lie, I was terrified. But I should have known I had nothing to worry about, he behaved like a perfect gentlemen. I have spent so much time raising and working with him and the others and it is now paying off.

Yes, another one of them was a bit wild in the schooling ring and bucking a bit; he is a 4-year-old, and this was only his second show. He settled down and was clean in each baby jumper class he went in; he did his job perfectly. To me, that is all that matters. He rode great in the ring and jumped beautifully.

I think that is my greatest joy in working with young horses, watching them progress and being able to start with a clean slate. I truly love my horses, I am much more a horse person, than a people person and I want to give them the opportunities to be the best they can be while still enjoying their life and job.

They are babies and are allowed to be a bit nervous or excited. I don’t want to take that out of them now, I want them to love their jobs and settle into it naturally. I did not have to lunge or medicate any of them, and they will only settle more with time.

And, just like young horses have to learn the basics in order to be the best they can be, young riders should have to as well. At AliBoo Farm, we want to create horsemen and women. That is why, when we loaded up Saturday evening, 12-year-old Taylor Holstead was right there with us, loading her horse, and learning the ins and outs of horsemanship, for it will only make her a better rider.    

Chronicle blogger Taylor Flury rides out of her family's AliBoo Farm in Minooka, Ill., and competes primarily in the jumpers. She also runs AliBoo's breeding program. Flury's top mount is the U.S.-bred Role Model (Roc USA—Darling Devil), who claimed U.S. Equestrian Federation Horse of the Year titles in 2011 and 2012 in the 5- and 6-Year-Old Jumper divisions.  

Read all of Taylor's blogs here.

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