But there were also a lot of horses that changed my life. Many of those horses were older, more seasoned mounts that helped me through different parts of my riding and horse-owning career.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from all the different horses I’ve ridden throughout the 25 years I’ve been riding. In my collegiate riding career, I was given the challenge of showing unfamiliar horses each week. Some were old show horses, and others were on the greener side having never competed in an event like horsemanship. The 2-year-olds I put first rides on taught me patience and communication. And the first horse I bought as an adult, an unshown horse I spotted in the pasture, reminded me to be confident in my ability when I was showing him against some of the top horses in the country.
But there’s something special about the older, or more seasoned horses that have come into my life. The first older horse I rode came early in my life and was a Paint Horse named Tommy that lived at my grandparents’ cattle farm. He was the first horse I ever really rode, and the first horse I learned to take care of. He taught me a lot of valuable lessons along the way. I learned to always be present when I’m in the saddle, because the minute I wasn’t paying attention he would wander over to the large sand pit that was in the pasture and try to lay down on me. When he spooked, and I came off him, I learned the valuable lesson of getting back on. Of course, the next time I got on him I had a cast on my right arm because I had broken it. (I also learned the valuable lesson of not using my arms to break a fall.)
The next older horse that came into my life was several years, and several horses, later. Sheza Zip Teez, better known as ‘Demi’ was a seasoned show horse in her teens that had already left a mark in the Quarter Horse industry with her previous owner before becoming my horse. This was my first big-time show horse and the first horse to take me to shows like the AQHA World Show and the All American Quarter Horse Congress. It was also the first horse I owned that had years of experience in the show pen. Even though I had probably five or six years of showing under my belt, she was the horse that truly taught me how to show. Because she knew all the events I competed in, probably better than I did, I could trust her to do her job, so I could learn how to do mine. Thanks to Demi, I had the knowledge and confidence to teach other horses how to do their job later in my all-around riding career.
More recently, I ended up riding cow horses. And while I’ve talked about the seasoned stud I rode on cattle for my first time in previous columns, he’s the reason I decided to venture into a totally different industry from what I knew. He knew what he was doing so I just had to worry about myself, which allowed me to learn my job and realize just how much fun it was.
The next horse I rode also ended up being the horse I showed at my first cow horse show. While I wouldn’t consider him a senior, like some of the other horses I’ve talked about, he was 11 at the time. And in an event as physically demanding as the cow horse, to still be showing at that age is a huge accomplishment. He taught me to be flexible in the show pen because you never know what you’re going to get when you work a cow. It forced me to set my perfectionist personality aside and be OK when things don’t go according to plan.
Each of these horses have taught me a valuable lesson in and outside of the show pen. Some of those lessons I’ve even been able to apply in day-to-day life and in my professional career. But thanks to all of these horses, I’m now prepared for the next part of my riding journey, which includes finding a young Western prospect to call my own.