While I’m busy driving my truck full of books to New York, several of our regulars have generously contributed Guest Blogs. Here is our first, from Blob!
When my family left California to move to the South, my biggest, and, well, only, concern was that I find a place to ride. After trying several lesson programs without much luck, my mother found what she thought was a perfect fit. She liked what she thought was good, thorough instruction, the fact that the barn was 15 minutes from our house, and she especially liked the ‘breathtakingly beautiful’ lesson horses there. My mother doesn’t know much about horses, but the horses that filled this barn had her completely enamored.
I was more skeptical. For starters, this was primarily a dressage barn. At age 11, I didn’t even know what dressage was. But I knew what it wasn’t—exciting or daring. I also wasn’t so sure about these horses—they were tall, shiny, rippling with muscles, regal, and the exact opposite of the multi-colored, fuzzy ponies I was used to—they were almost all Thoroughbreds; they intimidated me. But, I agreed to give it a try for two months.
My first lesson put me on an older mare, one of the OTTBs currently at the barn, and the first of many I would ride, work with, and train over the years. She was the smallest horse at the barn, a petite 15hh, bright-eyed and sensitive, and even the inexperienced rider in me could feel the little spark of ‘go’ underneath all of her careful, well-trained footsteps. She was nothing like any other horse I’d ridden before, and I loved her instantly.
I was hooked. Forget the warmblood schoolmasters, the hard working quarter horses, and the various other nice horses available to me, it was the OTTBs that I connected with time and time again. Partly because I was better at channeling and refocusing energy than generating it, but also because these horses were smart, incredibly sensitive, and constantly engaged themselves in conversations with the rider. If I did something wrong or tried to muscle a point across, they let me know. They were rarely push-button. But they taught me to really ride, to adapt my aids to each horse, and were rewarding, time and time again. They also brought me to love and truly understand dressage (but that’s another story for another day).
Once I became the one to bring home new prospective lesson OTTBs and train them, my appreciation for them only continued to grow. I learned to ride on them, I taught lessons on them, and I learned, and continue to learn, training theory on them. I know OTTBs aren’t the most conventional lesson horses. And certainly there were difficulties, especially given that so many of our horses were saved from auctions and so vet-checks weren’t really an option. Instead we picked ones that had sound conformation as well as we could see, and that would pick up their leads, or sometimes ones that just called to us. We ended up with a roarer, 2 non-sweaters (who were colic-prone because of it), a few with unnecessarily expensive shoeing needs, and a couple we had to find new homes for because they just simply needed a different environment.
But we also found horses with incredible talent, who didn’t let their riders cheat and just look pretty, horses that wanted desperately to please their riders, who loved what they did despite un-dressagey giraffe necks, horses that sometimes came to us skin and bones, scared, and on occasion sway-backed, and blossomed back into those incredibly beautiful, regal horses they were on the track, and that had my mother practically breathless when she first saw them.