Our 5th Anniversary

Today is October 5, 2015. That means that I’ve had Destiny for 5 years. I’ve known her for 5 years. I remember how it all began. The first time I heard about Destiny was when my friend’s sister was thinking about buying her. I also apparently misunderstood her colour, because I thought my friend said she was “grey,” not “bay.” They do rhyme, after all!

                       February 23, 2008: “She might get…an Arabian…a grey (white) and she…Allison says…is SO beautiful but SO
scared of humans!”

                       May 4, 2008: “I hope we can go to Allison’s house on Saturday, because she was going to buy a western horse
instead of Destiny, the mare. But she is getting Destiny instead!”

My cousin used to own a tall Quarter Horse gelding named Dante, but she sold him around this time. In September 2010, she started boarding a small red roan pony named Cash and a big bay Anglo-Arabian gelding named Monte. One day, she sent my mom an email about a horse she’d found online, one she thought might be a good first horse for me, and offered to board her if we bought her. This came out of the blue. Days earlier, my mom had told me she didn’t think we’d ever get a horse (even though I had begged her for years). Still, we called the owner of the horse to get more information.

                       September 6, 2010: “We’ve decided, almost definitely, that we’re getting a horse!… We’ve already called someone about a Paint tobiano mare named Juno, but her owner said Juno has problems at the lope/canter.”

Even though the first prospect didn’t work out, we kept looking. I had finally convinced my parents and we were horse shopping! I was eagerly looking for horses for sale on various online websites, noting the ones I thought might be good for me, and we visited a few. Still, none of those worked out, either.

                       September 6, 2010: “There’s this Appaloosa—leopard—mare named Phantom though, maybe, or a red dun/chestnut solid-colored Paint mare named Mataya, who is 7 or 8 years old, 15.1 hands high, a great beginner horse (I’d prefer a spirited horse, but she may be spirited enough for me) with great conformation. She is supposedly good on trails, not spooky, doesn’t require shoes, and is great with farrier/vet and being handled. She’s used to dogs, too, and motorized vehicles. She’s BEAUTIFUL as well! She could be the one!”

Clearly, I did not take “spookiness” seriously enough in my search; that was just a bonus mixed in with other good traits. Had I known what it was really like to ride a spooky horse, I would have considered only horses who were “not spooky”—and I would never have gotten Destiny. But it worked out for the most part anyway.

                       September 9, 2010: “Then we went to see Phantom, a beautiful leopard Appaloosa mare, 6 years old. She was interesting. I led her around a bit. She followed me. Her owners tacked her up. Besides fidgeting and sidestepping away from the saddle, she was good…I rode her English. She walked very well. She trotted quickly, but it was so bumpy! In that English saddle, I couldn’t sit to it. I was bouncing around a lot. She would halt and back easily though, but they had a hard time picking out her hooves…I didn’t lope her, because it was raining and I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I don’t think Phantom is the right horse for me, though I loved her so much! But I will keep looking.”

What I forgot to mention that day, is that the stirrups were also too long and didn’t go short enough for me. It wasn’t really a fair trial, but my cousin (who knows more about horses than I do and had come with us) didn’t really think we’d be a good match either. So, we kept looking.

                       September 10, 2010: “We went to see Mataya today at 7:00…She does have a dorsal stripe, and a redder darker shade on her lower legs, making me think she may be a red dun…She is excellent to be groomed and saddled. I helped brush her. She picked up her hooves easily. I didn’t try bridling her, but her owner said she accepted the bit “like it was candy”…It was raining, and Taya didn’t like the water puddles. She refused to walk in them…Her trot was fast, but controlled…It was hard to lope her. She veered away from the puddles and I had a difficult time controlling her…I’m going to try riding her on a sunny day so she won’t be sidestepping away from puddles.”

                       September 13, 2010: “At riding lessons, I rode Belle to try her out. She is being sold. She is a chestnut mare with a long, beautiful flaxen mane. She is a bit Arab-like, and has a star which also runs down past her eyes a ways in a triangular shape. She is really a Paint, and has one blue eye. She has a nice walk. Her trot is quick and bouncy…When I tried to gradually slow her trot, she stuck out her nose, pulling against the bit, then settled into a walk though I had only barely touched the reins…Her lope is bouncy and fast, but she wouldn’t stay in it…We switched horses after a while. I rode Sierra, Belle’s full sister, a bay mare with a star…She has a slower trot…She stays in the lope better, but near the end, she knocked over a cone and it spooked her. She refused to walk past that cone; she backed up when I trotted her near. I just walked her up and halted her in front of it so she could see it was nothing to worry about. Then I circled her around it and she was pretty much OK…A bit greener in steering and kept trying to veer to the center of the arena…Belle is 5, and Sierra is 4. I want to try Belle outside, but I don’t know if either of those horses are right for me. If any are, it’s Belle…I still love Mataya, but we’re worried about founder…as the last time she was on pasture, she got a problem in her hooves. It’s gone now, but we’re still worried…if it WAS founder, it could return.”

                       September 16, 2010: “Mataya’s owner has Tay’s health record! So we’ll know if she had founder or not! Also, Tay hasn’t had her feet trimmed, but we’re going to go try her again when it’s done!”

                       September 18, 2010: “I’m so excited about Taya! I can’t wait to see her again!”

                       September 19, 2010: “Mom talked with my friend Allison’s mom about a horse for me. They want to sell—or lease out—Destiny for a while. They don’t actually want to sell her though. Still, she’s only 14.2 hands. And she wouldn’t really be mine. They say she’s real nice though…I don’t want to take her away from her owner. She’s a bit short anyway. And then there’s Mataya. I love her!”

                       September 25, 2010: “I’m so excited about going to see Mataya! Her hooves have been done, so if it’s not raining on Monday or Tuesday, we will go visit her and try her again when there aren’t water puddles. Hey, maybe she’ll be my horse soon. I don’t know how we’ll get her to her new home, or how I’ll get to be able to saddle her. Or where we’ll get a saddle. Or how I’ll get to be able to bridle her (she’s good with the bit. It’s me that’s not good at bridling). But I’m sure something will work out.”

                       September 27, 2010: “We went to see Mataya today instead of going to lessons. For some reason, today fell apart…She wouldn’t lope for me, and even without the puddles, she kept turning to the center of the pen. I know it’s just because she’s testing me, but…I must have been trying to get Taya to lope for ten minutes at least…I guess she’s not the right horse for me. I thought she was, but I guess not…In the meantime, I am going to riding lessons tomorrow. There is a 16 hand TV mare for sale, and I’m going to ride her. See what happens.”

                       September 28, 2010: “I rode Bryer, because the Thoroughbred was sold on-the-spot this morning. She is beautiful, but I’m glad she found a home. We rode outside…partway through the lesson, we switched so I could try Belle again. She was great!…She slid to a halt a couple of times…She stopped so fast I almost flew over her head!…I liked Belle. Maybe she IS going to be the horse I will call my own.”

                       September 30, 2010: “We aren’t going to see the black QH because he has been sold, but we might go see a black and white paint instead. There’s also a palomino QH mare that we have asked about.”

                       October 3, 2010: “It looks like Destiny (Allison’s sister’s horse) might be sold. I mean, going to be sold. We’re going up to ride her on Tuesday, see what she’s like, after we visit the black and white paint…Belle, I’m sure, will be an awesome horse—or Destiny, or any other horse, any horse that we may buy.”

                       October 4, 2010: “Belle was sold…”

                       October 5, 2010: “We went to visit the black and white Paint named Cricket. She came up to us at first, but when the woman’s daughter went out with a lead rope (the woman wasn’t there), she was loping around and bucking, not wanting to be caught. She saddled up easily and I got on, but the pasture is uneven so I could only walk/trot. She was hard to steer, but she went pretty well. And then we went to see Destiny. She is a beautiful bloog bay purebred Arabian mare with a white stripe and at least one sock…It was dark by the time I got on, like, pitch black. Jessica rode first because Destiny hadn’t been ridden in a week or so, and jumps were set up in the arena. She was spirited, and she trotted when I told her to and loped easily. Although I was on an English saddle, I did pretty well…So, Destiny might be going to be my horse…I can free-lease her for a month and, if all goes well, she’ll be mine soon. She follows Jessica around, too, by the way. And she jumps. And she picks up her hooves easily…She’s a real sweet, people-loving horse.”

I was so excited, and so I knew I’d found the right horse. I was also overjoyed at how our first ride had gone: in the dark, with only the headlights of a car’s headlights to light our way. And so the next few chapters of our lives evolved.

                       October 16, 2010: “We went up to get Destiny today…Destiny loaded for Jessica…She stepped up the foot-high climb into the trailer and they tied her in the back…She was moving around a lot because, because she hadn’t been trailered for almost 2 years. But she was good…I didn’t even get to touch her today. But tomorrow, I’ll get to go see her. My horse.”

Soon after, I decided I loved her too much to send her back, and she became mine for real. Those first few months with her weren’t easy, but I’m glad I never gave up on this one.

When I first got Destiny, she was a little ball of fire—a firecracker waiting for a spark to set it off. In the barn, she danced around while I was trying to groom her, and bridling her was even more difficult. She spooked a lot at, well, almost anything to be honest; and sometimes she bolted while I was riding and refused to listen to reason. I fell off a lot, and I became more and more nervous. I had been used to riding bombproof lesson horses in an arena and always having someone around to help me; I wasn’t used to being shoved around by an antsy horse, riding in wide-open areas (we didn’t have an arena at the barn), or on a horse who seemed to think every animate and every inanimate object was out to eat her. More than once, I considered giving up and selling her to someone who she was more suited for. But somehow, through the tears and the pain and the bruises, I kept trying; I rode every day I was able and started doing ground work as well. Despite being spooky and high-spirited, Destiny was the sweetest, most respectful horse I’d ever met. Eventually, things started to work out. Over the years, she calmed down. She spooked less, and when she did it was a less severe reaction. With more work (and eating less high-energy food…) she became almost lazy and docile. As we worked more on trust and respect on the ground, she started to listen to me more and stay out of my personal space. It took probably 2 and a half years before I felt completely comfortable and confident riding her, but it was worth it. She turned out to be a better horse than I could ever ask for. We’re still working and improving, but getting in the saddle isn’t a chore anymore—it’s fun, and that’s the way it should be. We’ve grown together and learned from one another, and I’m so proud of the progress we’ve made!

As you can tell, I was a lot less experienced and knowledgeable back in 2010. I’ve learned a lot in 5 years! What I didn’t understand at the time, was that most of these horses I tried would probably have been a much better option, from any wise horse person’s perspective, than the crazy one I chose. It was truly a miracle that it worked out for us like it did! But I am so glad that I chose Destiny, and that things worked out as they did. No other horse could have taught me, encouraged me, and inspired me like Destiny did. Had I chosen any other horse, my life might be completely different now. But through it all, with Destiny, I grew, learned, and persevered with her. Now she is my best friend, and I can’t imagine living without her. Happy 5th Anniversary Desi! <3

Now, for anyone going horse shopping, I have some suggestions for you. These are only a few good ideas to ensure your search will be a success.

  1. Take an experienced horse person (your riding instructor, a friend who knows a lot, family, etc) with you. They can suggest things, check the horse’s conformation (good conformation=less health problems=less money spent), and maybe even do a physical examination for any health issues (you might take a vet along if you’re seriously considering the horse as well).
  2. Only buy a horse if you have taken lessons and feel confident you know how to take care of your own horse, have enough money, and a place to keep it. Know that the real expense is care, not the actual price of the horse; and taking care of a horse is a lot of work. Likewise, buying even a beginner horse is not going to help you if you have never taken a lesson or been near a horse. Know when you’re ready. This is meant to protect you, not discourage you.
  3. Always watch the horse’s owner tack up and ride the horse. Never buy a horse without riding it first. Just because the horse is good for its owner, does not mean it will be good for you. Also try picking up its feet and grooming it.
  4. Learn the horse’s routine. If the horse is used to being loose in the field all day, and you keep it in a stall, it may grow restless and its behaviour could change. If you are not an experienced rider, this can be dangerous. Also know the feed schedule. Changing feed quickly or to something with more protein/oats can cause a horse to become more unpredictable.
  5. Know what you’re looking for. If you are a beginner, do not consider green or spooky horses. It’s usually best to go with a calm, quiet, bombproof horse (maybe even one that has been previously used in riding lessons) as a first horse, even if you are confident and experienced. Also, you want a horse that you can learn and grow on. If you want to start jumping, choose a horse that has been shown or at least seriously jumped. It’s not a good idea to train the horse and yourself at the same time. If you want to trail ride and have an all-around horse you can do anything with (as I did), then I cannot stress enough “Bombproof” as a good quality for your horse to have!
  6. If possible, free lease the horse for a week or so. Some horse sellers will be open to this, as it will let you see if you and the horse are suited for one another.

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