The Great Horse Trade, Part 1

The purpose of this blog is to be my personal tribute to Ellie. In the last 5 years of owning her, I imagined so many exciting things with her.  I broke her at 5 for the breeder, and I still know the moment that she became “my” horse.  Day 1 and 2 in the round pen, were…. expressive! I’m sure you can imagine how entertaining it is to break a big, alpha, opinionated mare at age 5. It was on day 3 in the round pen, I stepped backward to invite her to turn to me and it felt like there was a golden power connecting us, and maybe some heavenly harps played along.  She linked up to me in the round pen with all the focus of a horse who found her alpha. I got chills, teared up at the weight and sincerity of the feeling and promptly called the breeder to buy her.

Oiselle

 She was the first horse that I’ve ever owned that had the mental ability to throw down a perfect dressage test in the most electric atmosphere. I could imagine trotting into the Kentucky arena and her flipping an ear to me to ask:  “Are we ok, and what would you like to do next, Mom?”

She also has the scope to jump the most imposing of oxers. She has the rare ability to get excited and still listen to me as we navigate a round. She kicks me out of the tack over even a moderate sized jump and makes me gasp when she is impressed over a big one.

But, what she lacks is the heart of a lioness on cross country. 

When she was competing at Novice, I knew that we had an issue at banks and ditches. But, at that level you are exposing them to the most inviting of questions, so the problem never got truly tested. I listened to the logical side of my brain and pocketbook and sent her to a trusted friend who does jumpers to sell.  I didn’t get the offer I wanted, and took her home. Allyson Green, my assistant trainer, convinced me that I just need to double down on the training at home over ditches and banks and overcome the hurdle. We mastered ditches after doing them every single day – on the way to a trail ride, in hand on the way to the pasture, coming back from a dressage ride… the exposure worked and she gained confidence.

But, not so with the banks. And definitely not when it was a bank into water. She is just too careful and suspicious to throw caution to the wind in that situation. Her HUGE jump also made me not want to put my leg on and ride her hard to a drop. She would only jump bigger when I put pressure on her, to the point where I got a little apprehensive about my own safety and her health! 

Photo credit Jo Arlow Photography

Last summer, when getting ready for Rebecca Farm, she spooked over a jump and we both had a terrible accident on landing. I got badly hurt, and thank goodness she was unscathed. That was the final straw. No more eventing.

But what do you do with a horse that you have this magical connection with? I know that there are professionals out there who can sell horses without much worry. I’m not one of them. I deeply care for Ellie and found it much easier to just keep her and part lease her to a talented amateur rider in the barn. 

But, I knew that Ellie was wasted by not having another person in her life to bring out the best in her. So, I procrastinated making a decision.

Stay tuned for Part 2….. the solution.

2 Responses to “The Great Horse Trade, Part 1”

  1. Robin King

    Oh Meika, this brought me to tears because Jonny told me last year he was done with jumping. After 5 emotional years we stepped back. I too tried to have him sold, but it didn’t work. He’s now in my pastures getting ridden on trails, but I often wonder if he really just needs his own, more patient, more tolerant person. I’m following your blog closely.

  2. Mike Rankin

    Great article!!! Loved it!!! Moving. It is so good to read this stuff and to learn all the trials and tribulations and
    ” lessons ” Mikelann is going to learn is she stays in this sport. It is go good to read these real life experiences of a pro with this much experience.

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