I invite you to come back to Saratoga. The year: 2009. Season: dead of winter. Please, walk in to the arena. See that blonde and brown flash go by? That’s me hanging on to Skeeter as we rocket around the arena. Now, stick around for an hour. You’ll see us fly by about 10 to 12 more times. Somewhere in between the bolting we’ll get in a leg yield or a walk-canter transition. By the end, you’ll be saying to yourself: That was an absolute disaster! Yep, it was, you’re right.
That was how the rest of the spring semester played out. Skeeter and I had out of control lessons and by summer, my instructor said the following: I think you should sell Skeeter. He’s reached his zenith in dressage and you should get a horse that will take you were you want to go.
Let it be known that at this point in my life I don’t blame her for what she said. What, in fact, does one do with a giant, crazy horse that races around the arena like someone lit a fire under his butt? She didn’t know. And frankly, I didn’t know. So, what next?
Well, we floundered for about a year and half. I baked Skeeter homemade treats and he got the equivalent of an equine beer belly. But then we found Lazy Acres.
Skeeter arrived in Brandon, settled for a few days and then I had my first lesson. I didn’t know what I was in for but I soon found out. Haltering. Michelle and I spent the whole lesson in the field, in the rain, putting a halter on him. The whole lesson introduced a simple idea: Skeeter, when you see us coming, it doesn’t mean the end of the world. I left that lesson wet, first and foremost, but surprisingly hopeful.
It would take over a month to get on him. And the first time back in the saddle we just stood there. We didn’t even take one step. But in the coming months we did take steps. Lots of steps. In fact, we played games seeing just how many steps we could take. We took steps in walk, trot, canter. We took steps out of the arena, in the arena, in the woods. Now, for any of you who may have known Skeeter pre-Lazy Acres, let me just say that there ARE pictures of this. There is PROOF that we did go OUTSIDE the arena. And, most recently, there is proof that we JUMPED -- yes, you heard me -- JUMPED over three jumps. In other words, success was an inevitable part of being at Lazy Acres.
So, now that you’ve read part of Skeeter’s story I’ll get down to brass tacks. Before Skeeter and I came to Lazy Acres we couldn’t ride out of an arena. We could barely ride in an arena. He bolted. I hung on. He was scared of everything. I rode him with a draw rein. In other words, we couldn’t do anything. We couldn’t have the kind of partnership we wanted to have, the kind of partnership we had in the very beginning, before riding messed everything up. Somewhere along the line, we lost ourselves. Lazy Acres brought us back. When I brought Skeeter to them I felt like finally, for the first time in a long time, we were in the right place with the right people. The Lazy Acres team brought love and life and happiness back to us, back to our riding. I can’t thank them enough. Skeeter and I are partners again and it wouldn’t have happened without the help of everyone at Lazy Acres.
To finish, I have a bit of advice for any readers who related to the phrase “giant, crazy horse that races around like someone lit a fire under his butt.” A great instructor told me to sell my horse. I didn’t listen. I can’t sell my best friend. Friendships don’t work like that. We can’t give up on the ones we love most. Instead, find a way to rebuild your relationship. Find a team that helps you, supports you, and encourages you no matter what. Do whatever is necessary and when times get hard, take a deep breath. Everything will be okay in the end. Skeeter and I are jumping for God’s sake so that should be proof things will be okay in the end!
I’ll leave you with a quote from perhaps my most favorite story. When Skeeter and I have moments of difficulty I think of this and it gives me strength. Take from it what you will.
“People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you’ve tamed.” --Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Wow! I'll admit, when I received this.....I cried. That quote is perfect! I too remember Skeeters first days with us. I remember that first lesson all too well. I was less excited because I had not planned to spend our first lesson on haltering and catching, but that was where Skeetie needed to start. If you are 17.2hh and weigh as much as a truck, you can probably end a lesson whenever YOU want. We had to convince him to WANT to participate with us.
Juliet made me cry another time. It was recently, when I walked into the arena and she was taking a lesson with Don Jessop. They were jumping a course and it was beautiful! I knew what it took to get to that point and (for me) that lesson was the victory. I was so proud of them!
I was privileged to be the first person to ride the new and improved Skeeter outside of an enclosure. I remember that day, knowing he was ready, testing, retesting and finally just committing to a short, simple, safe hack. After it was successfully complete, I called Juliet to ask her how long had it been since he had been ridden outside of an arena....her answer.....8 years! (and never in a halter and lead rope, which is how I had done it!) Luckily I had known to ask AFTER we had been successful.
Skeetie has some amazing gaits and is a pleasure to ride, not words Juliet ever expected to hear, I'm sure. The reason he is successful is that Juliet is his owner. She decided that his mental, emotional and physical well being were more important than her goal. She was willing to reintroduce things to him. She is a great rider, who was willing to start from the beginning, or wherever was necessary. I'm sure she would have enjoyed showing and moving through the levels, but she insisted that Skeeter was the priority, and HE would not have enjoyed those things. Juliet did her homework, she trusted me, and she loved her horse. I'm sure that teaching her horse to be caught was not what she wanted to start with....but it got her to success!
My dream is that every horse would find his/her own Juliet. Well done!