The Year of the Horse
Comes to a Close
I blinked, and it’s suddenly the end of November.
Which means I have just one more month left in my lease with Duke. Which sucks a lot.
It was always the plan to lease for one year, and do as many events as I could. And it was an awesome year. Combined with getting married, it was maybe the best year.
In honor of these past twelve months, here are twelve of my favorite things that happened:
1. Duke started nickering at me every time I approach his stall. Every time. It melts my heart.
2. We actually met our stretch goal of qualifying for the Area IV Championships at Novice. And though it didn’t end as we planned, we made it there and had a blast.
3. We went double clear around every cross country course we tackled. And had the most fun doing it. This is our helmet cam video from our first Novice and I think it’s my favorite, purely for the running commentary:
4. I spent a lot of hours grooming Duke, and have found his favorite itchy spots that the curry comb can scratch. The weirdest one? Inside his ears.
5. We worked really hard on connection and throughness. Our progress had peaks and valleys, but each time we got a little stronger, a little more balanced, a little more supple. And right now we’re having a lovely time during our dressage rides.
6. We tackled the Training table in the jump field at the farm. At the beginning of the summer, it looked enormous. By the end of show season this fall, it looked perfectly do-able and didn’t even feel that big when we jumped it.
7. 80% of the way through the show season, I finally figured out how to make his white spots actually white, as opposed to a light tan color. Including his knees, which are ALWAYS yellow. The secret isn’t surprising. It just takes like half a bottle of shampoo, about three consecutive baths, and a certain level of fearlessness about accidentally turning him purple.
8. I found out just how much Duke likes to lay down. He loves it, maybe even more than food. Just kidding, he doesn’t love anything more than food.
9. We had some adventures in bitless riding after Duke has a molar removed. It did not go great and we were both relieved to have a regular bridle back after he healed.
10. We went to FIVE horse trials. That’s way more than I thought I’d be able to do and it was awesome. And since I only competed after my June wedding and honeymoon, we fit all those in from July to September. It felt like a full season even though we only competed for half of it!
11. I discovered that Duke is OBSESSED with mini horses. He loves them. There was one at a show this summer as a companion to another horse, and Duke dragged me across a field to get to it. I felt like I was waterskiing across the grass behind him. (After that he had to wear a chain while being led around at shows. He’s too friendly for his own good, that Duke.)
12. We built a partnership based on trust. I fully trust Duke, and he trusts me. We have each other’s backs. It doesn’t mean I can sit back and let Duke do all the work. Oh, no. He will put in exactly as much work as his rider. But I know that if he hesitates at a scary jump and I tell him it’s okay, we can do it, he will absolutely go for it. I don’t know exactly when this happened, but I know I trust him fully, and that’s probably why the Training table didn’t look so big, why we had a clear cross country season and why I’m so, so sad that my future with him is uncertain.
I will still ride, of course. I think I’m likely to continue riding Duke in lessons and such. Hopefully it’s not a full-stop ending. But I’m going back to catch-riding for now. Thankfully I have a wonderful barn family and I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunity. But I sure will miss those nickers and snugs from my favorite paint boy.