I can't remember my last ride on Clairvoya. It would have been winter 2009-2010, but beyond that, I don't recall. I know that the last person to ride her (at any other gait than the walk - she's spending her retirement being a haughty, but fairly civilized trail horse for my brave aunt Jane!) was my mother, and I remember that ride, the heartbreaking realization that the injury she sustained just after the Brentina Cup (where we won the Young Rider Grand Prix) made her such that she couldn't continue to work even at the lower levels, and that retirement was the only option.
I choose not to think of that ride.
What I choose to think of when I think of Cleo was her unbelievable connection, the way her ears flopped when I made pirouettes or her 9+ extended walk, the way she gritted her metaphorical teeth, dug in and reached deep within herself for piaffe and ones, the way she attacked everything with a song in her heart and a smile on her face. Jane tells me that when she takes her out on trail rides, she just lifts and carries herself like no other trail horse Jane's ever sat on, and this doesn't surprise me. Cleo is a Queen, through and through. She's kind and magnanimous Royalty, but Royalty nonetheless.
Her oldest daughter, Fairvoya, turned three last month, and after spending almost all of those three years under the dutiful ministrations of my exceptional baby-raiser friend Jennifer Coyle Johnson of JC Andalusians, Farrah shipped off to my exceptional baby-starter friend Renee Carter of Carter Dressage to be started under saddle. (The best part of all this? Renee's barn is quite literally down the street from me. It's about 5 miles. I can bike there!)
Jenni's program does a lot of ground work; all of the babies there (including Farrah and her 2-year-old full sister, Goya) learn to pony from another horse as well as from Jenni's carts; they lead through obstacle courses, wear tarps, stand for hosing, learn voice commands, get on the trailer, the works. They also live in a herd, something I am a HUGE believer in, because as awesome as Jenni is (and she is!), she'll never be as good at being a horse as other horses are, and no one teaches horse manners like other horses.
Farrah proved such an adept student that, one day, Jenni and Hannah, her baby jockey, decided to give her a lean. And then a sit. And then a trot around, cool as could be. Farrah was so good that, well, they just kept going.
And I kept thinking back to meeting Cleo at age 5, this gorgeous, buxom creature beating the hell out of her stall at Sorensen Park Equestrian Center in the middle of nowhere, Wisconsin, ridden by her then-owner, a little pixie of a trainer named Deanna, who saw in this huge, cocky, steel gray Athena the demure, delightful Grand Prix horse Cleo would grow up to be.
How did her daughter turn out so charming? Or, conversely, what am I about to get myself into?
I see a lot more of Cleo's She-Rah side in Goya, her 2-year-old daughter. Goya's got something to prove to the world at this point in her life; she certainly thinks she's the greatest thing since sliced bread. Farrah is more confident in her Royal Status. She's great, and she knows it, but she doesn't want to rub it in anyone's face.
Come what may, I see them both as a second chance. A second chance to ride a big gray mare to success at Grand Prix, the success that Cleo was right on the brink of before the cursed accident that ended our career together.
And for Farrah, that journey starts now.
(No pressure or anything, Renee.)