Eventing is a life-long sport. And as in life, partnerships change, circumstances shift, and you just write the story as it unfolds.
As I wrote about earlier this year, I have been in a debate over the best path forward for my horse Trance. Trance has been back in work since early May, which I have taken incredibly slowly. He began to canter mid-June, and will be cleared for full work this week. I always thought that the right path forward would appear when the time was right, and it has.
This is a tough sport to catch a break in, and for a lot of people a break is all they need. I see the army of young riders that are coming up in this sport, all with unique circumstances and various levels of talent. I have personally always felt that dedication and discipline will get anyone a lot further than deep pockets or natural talent.
When I was debating Trance’s future, I knew it was either to make a go at advanced (again) with me, or that I would lease him to a young rider. I wanted a rider that would appreciate him the same way I do. I wanted someone who didn’t see him as part of their string, or a ticket to a blue ribbon, but rather as a unique horse with an incredible jump and a heart the size of Texas. I was more interested in finding the right match than finding a paying lease. I wanted someone who I could trust to put his welfare in front of personal ambitions, and to scratch at a show if he felt the least bit off. It isn’t easy to come by those types of riders, much less at a young age, but I found one.
Little Alina Theriault is a good young rider. She has a horse she has brought along herself, who had some serious behavior issues and limited scope, but she has worked so hard and won novices left and right. She home-schools so she can focus on her riding, and she works at the barn six days a week to get a lesson here and there.
Alina reminds me a lot of myself. I have never heard her complain—not once—even though she is surrounded by many with more means and less work ethic. Alina came with us to Aiken and worked insane hours with no days off, and always… always… with a smile. She had hopes of going training this spring with her horse before selling him, but little issues here and there have prevented that.
I realized I would not be doing anything with Trance this summer except dressage boot camp, as I don’t want to run a prelim or intermediate in the summer on the hard ground. I am still unsure I want to make another attempt at advanced, so I had the idea that Alina and I could work something out.
I met with her and her mother the other day and offered for Alina to take over the ride on Trance. She could take charge of his rehab, and then when he is cleared fully, she could compete him this summer at novice and training. I left it open-ended, as I might decide if he looks amazing to take the ride back in September, but for now this is right for him. If he seems happy and content, they will have the option to extend the lease and perhaps aim for prelim/one-star mileage and maybe Young Riders. If anything goes wrong, I am always happy to take him back.
She was very excited—in fact so excited that she took him two days later! I thought she might wait until his rehab was complete, but she snatched him right up. I saw her ride him the first day, and he was turned out as if it were the World Equestrian Games, with sparkling browband and white boots and a gorgeous tail. I could only smile, as he seemed thrilled (and huge with her little frame!) and I think he will have a great summer.
Meanwhile, my focus has been on bringing Lizzie along. I took her to her first overnight show at the Virginia Horse Center at the end of May, and she stormed around all three phases to bring home second place in the Novice. I felt the time might be right for a move-up to training level, but wanted to test the waters (literally) first, so entered her at the Waredaca Starter Trial at training on June 9.
She was WONDERFUL. She put in a great dressage test (although I had an error) that had her only a few points behind first. In stadium she was a little green and almost jumped me off twice.
I realized she can be coordinated and she can be powerful, but not both at the same time. She sailed over every fence but often landed in a heap. All I could do was laugh. She had one rail in a combination when she dove left in midair to avoid a puddle and we were in quite the predicament to get out. We got it done, and I was so proud of her. She is sorting out her balance and power, and there is SO much potential there.
I then went to cross-country warm-up and popped her over a couple fences, including angling one since there was a big angled brush combination on course. She was spot on, but I felt her pause on landing then saw her shoe go sailing by my face. The mud had sucked off her front right and I had to be in the box in a few minutes. I booked it over to the farrier who tacked her shoe on, then galloped her into and out of the box as the last pair on course.
She was green over the first (probably a bit confused over what was going on!), but then was a beast from there. I had just finished the coffin at fence 9 when I saw the same shoe go sailing off again. I pulled up, stood there for a second debating retiring, but then thought I would just gallop the next table and see how her footing felt since it was so soft. She got right back in stride and sailed over the table. I didn’t feel anything off, so we kept going. Trakehner, coffin, drops, horizon jumps, combinations, angled brushes, jump into water, the whole nine yards! She just grew in confidence the whole way around, and left me laughing that I ever doubted whether or not she was ready for the move up.
So my summer begins with two new chapters. For Trance, I cannot wait to watch Alina learn the ropes on him. If she learns one millionth of the information from him that I have learned, she will be a changed rider forever. For Lizzie, I enter the summer completely confident with her in all three phases. She is solid and competitive across the board, but I want to spend the summer working on her strength and balance. I don’t plan to compete this summer, but rather am hoping to solidify the partnership so we can have a great fall season at training. I consider myself blessed to have such a talented young horse, and I just want to keep it fun and produce her right.