So... What's Your Story?

A friend of mine sent me this little horsey questionnaire on Facebook, and I thought I’d post my answers here. I won’t officially tag anyone, but it might be fun if readers passed it on by filling it out and posting it to your blogs with your own experiences, and encourage your readers to do the same. Hope you decide to play along!  And if you do, leave a comment here letting us know :-)

1. How old were you when you first started riding? I think I officially started when I was 7, but I was one of those kids who was obsessed with horses since the first time I saw one, so I’m sure I managed to get on a horse before then...

2. First horse ridden: Don’t remember... my mom said I rode a pony when I was 5 – I went with my sister who was in girl scouts/brownies or something...

3. First horse trotted on: ???

4. First horse cantered on: ???

5. First Horse fallen off of: Probably “Jet” (our first horse)

6. Most recent horse fallen off of: Dusty, 3+ years ago – although I wasn’t on all the way when I fell off! Dusty came with some serious mounting issues; I used to get on her from the mounting block without using the stirrup or she would rear and flip over. I was swinging my leg over the saddle when she took off! The top of my half chap got hung up on the saddle so I clung there for a bit, hanging off the side and then I gave up and let myself fall. But, I didn’t let go of the reins and she got pissed that she didn’t get away, so she reared and stomped my foot as I sat on the ground! (My friend was nearly falling off her horse she was laughing so hard – she said it looked like Dusty thought if she stepped on my foot hard enough I’d stand upright like a rake!) Probably shouldn’t mention that after she reared and stomped on me (while i was still sitting on the ground, mind you) I instinctively took a swing at her and caught her upside the head with a good right hook, which stopped her in her tracks. I am hardly a horse abuser but, contrary to the NH gurus, I believe in swift justice for something like that. Dusty and I have had a sort of love-hate relationship, but luckily she’s over her mounting issues now and my mother really loves her :-\

7. Most terrifying fall: Lifegaurd vs 3’wall in indoor at Majestic Farms probably 15 years ago – we (ok, I) missed the distance, he caught his knee on the wall and flipped (a rotational fall.) I flew across the indoor and landed on my head (ripping a huge chunk of velvet off my helmet.) Everyone was shouting “stay down, stay down!” but I jumped up and turned around in time to see my poor horse lying on his back with his legs in the air. I thought I had killed him. He quickly got up, we jogged him for soundness, and I had to get back on and jump again so he didn’t lose confidence... that was the first time a horse had ever fallen with me, and it terrified me. I was freaked out but not badly hurt. Mostly I was worried about my horse, but not scared to jump again. We jumped a few jumps and I took care of Lifeguard, rubbing him down and setting him up for the night. Everything seemed fine but, when I got home that night, I just started shaking uncontrollably - my teeth chattered for hours! Guess it freaked me out more than I originally thought :-\

8. First horse jumped with: I think it was Justin, “Just in Time” (best school horse ever!)

9. First horse who ran away with you: Lifeguard – the first time I rode him, I think. He galloped around the top arena at Oakwood Farm like a maniac about 20 times before I finally jumped off. He kept galloping... I was about 10 years old. Who would have thought from those beginnings that he’d end up being the best horse I ever rode?

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: Not too many horses have scared me, though I did have a horse mow me down in the field once – My mother’s horse Erik, the sweetest, most gentle horse in the world was spooked by something and came galloping toward me (probably looking for help.) When it looked like he wasn’t stopping in time, I turned around to run out of his way but I was too late – he slammed right into the back of me, knocking me flat on my face. I got the wind knocked out of me and I sprained my elbow. Luckily, he didn’t step on me – he jumped over me!

11. First horse shown: Justin (I was champion!)

12. First horse to win a class with: Justin, short stirrup (I was 7 or 8)

13. Do you/have you taken lessons: I took lessons in the past. Even now that I’m a professional I’d still like to take some lessons, but I just haven’t found the right trainer yet....

14. First horse you ever rode bareback: Lifeguard. Not recommended – he had high withers and a bouncy trot :-\

15. First horse trail ridden with: probably Lifeguard. He loved trail riding, and whenever he’d get loose (which was often – he was a crafty one) he’d go out on the trails by himself for hours. No idea what he was doing out there.... He also loved the beach and swimming!

16. Current Barn name: Glenshee Equestrian Centre (yes, we have a home base!)

17. Do you ride English or western?: English (I suck at western)

18. First Horse to place at a show with: Justin – it was my first horse show and I ended up champion despite the fact that my crash helmet fell down over my eyes halfway through my course. Luckily, Justin was one of those amazing horses who knew his job and he finished it for me even though I couldn’t see anything! Guess the judge didn’t notice ;-) The first and last push-button horse I ever rode. I loved him :-)

19. Ever been to horse camp?: I don’t remember, but I don’t think so...

20. Ever been to a riding clinic? Yes. But I always seem to get more out of auditing than riding.

21. Ridden sidesaddle? Well, not on an actual sidesaddle, but we used to goof around and pretend on our regular astride saddles (it’s also the fastest way to fall off face-first when you lose your balance!)

22. First horse leased: Not sure if we ever did lease a horse before we bought one... Maybe Mikey?

23. Last Horse Leased: Mellon

24. Highest ribbon in a show: 1st, or champion.

25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: Lots

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: Yes, in the Junior Olympics

27. Ever fallen off at a show: Oh sure! Enough times for it to cease being embarrassing ;-)  In fact, before I actually learned how to ride him, I fell off Lifeguard at every show I went to until I was about 14!

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: Both; I prefer jumpers, but in addition to dressage, I’m thinking about inflicting myself on the hunter world a little this year ;-)

29. Have you ever barrel raced? Yes, once on my uncle’s horse. But not well :-\

30. Ever done pole bending?: Nope (unless dodging trees in the woods on a galloping horse counts!)

31. Favorite gait: I love a good canter – Lifeguard had a great canter, and so does Nate - I could sit them all day....

32. Ever cantered bareback?: Of course! Jumped too...

33. Have you ever done dressage?: Yes

34. Have you ever evented?: Not formally – I’m not a fan. Any sport where people find it necessary to grease up their horses in anticipation of slamming them into solid objects is just not for me... if you’re worried about your horse not being able to slide off of the fence you just crashed into at ramming speed, you probably shouldn’t be jumping in the first place, imo.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: more than I can count. I can do 50 in a day!

36. Ever been bucked off?: plenty of times. My favorite incident was while jumping Mellon in the indoor. We cantered up to a 4’6 oxer and he jumped so big I lost my balance on landing. Well, losing your balance on Mellon is like pushing the “eject” button; he cut the turn on the landing side and, before I could get my balance back, threw a huge, walloping handstand of a buck and catapulted me into the next corner of the arena. I’m not sure how far I flew, but I got up laughing. It was a pretty amazing buck!

37. Ever been on a horse that reared?: Yes, lots of them (it’s kind of my specialty ;-) My favorite rearing incident was in this hilly field we used to use for jumping and hill work. I was on Mellon at the top of the hill and I wanted him to collect before I let him canter down it. He was apparently insulted – he jammed on the brakes at the top and reared. Only trouble was, the footing was damp grass and he started to slide... I think he was so stunned that his plan backfired, that he just froze in that position - he slid down the entire hill in rearing position on his hocks. A friend of mine was there riding her horse and she said it was the most hilarious thing to watch!

38. Horses or ponies?: horses – I was always too tall for ponies, even as a kid. I think I rode one or two briefly and went right to horses.

39. Do you wear a helmet?: Always. I’ve landed on my head and trashed helmets enough times to be careful. I get annoyed when people say, “If you know how to ride, you don’t need a helmet.” I have ridden some hairy horses, I can sit just about any buck or rear a horse can dish out, and I’ve jumped some huge fences in my life, in and out of the arena. I’m pretty confident in my security on a horse. But I don’t care who you are, how well you ride, or what you’ve won, no one is infallible. And more importantly, horses fall down sometimes, or they run into things, and then it doesn’t matter how good you are at staying on. I always wear a helmet. It’s not an admission of defeat, it’s just good sense!

40. What's the highest you've jumped: 5’ was the biggest jump I ever measured, but there may have been bigger. I’d jumped that big a few times on purpose with Mellon, Erik and Nate and once by accident with Erik; I was riding on the flat, cantering Erik between two jumps when something on the left spooked him. He dove right, but there was a 5’ wing standard right in front of him and, much to my surprise, he jumped it! I didn’t fall off, but it was pretty wild! He was an amazing jumper...

41. Have you ever ridden at night?: All the time. I’ve even shown at night. There’s nothing like jumping a course by the light of car headlights parked around the arena! Or riding in the summer when there is a full moon....

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: Once in a while...

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: I once crushed my nose landing on my face (one side of it caved in and I needed surgery.) I think I may have mangled my neck in the process – whenever I go for x-rays of my now arthritic/ crooked neck (it curves the wrong way) they always ask me “oh my! were you in a horrible car accident?” Do horse accidents count?

44. Most falls in one lesson: can’t remember, but probably 1 or 2 (most falls at the same horse show, however... ;-)

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: when I have to – I prefer to hack out or ride in the field

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: see #10

47. Have you ever been bitten?: Yup

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: Yup, lots. Lost a few toenails, too :-\ See also #6

49: Favorite riding moment: For a single moment, probably the jump where Mellon saved my ass... there were so many great – or just funny – moments with so many horses, it would be hard to choose the best. Winning multiple year-end awards and finals with Lifeguard would be up there, or our perfect round at the Hampton Classic in the Jr. equitation that even the non-horsey spectators in the grandstand all cheered after - we only got 10th out of about 80 horses, probably because paints were unfashionable then, but I had total strangers and even other trainers come up to me after and tell me I should have won, which was better than ribbons. And I was so proud of Mellon on his first hunter pace. And swimming at the beach was amazing. Or hacking Nate out through the Scottish countryside... a life with horses has too many great moments to count!

50. Most fun horse you've ridden: All the horses I have ridden have been fun in their own way but Lifeguard was by far the coolest horse I’ve ever ridden (I miss him so much!) and Mellon was probably the most exciting (I miss riding him too...) Nate is also a blast, so I hope he makes a full recovery this year and we can get in some good riding!

Horsemanshipjm elliottsurvey