Here's a quick recap of the first 10 years of my life:
Years 1-3: Not really a conscious being, learning how to human.
Years 4-5: I like ponies! And dinosaurs! And making things! And memorizing infomercials!
Year 6: Saw Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron, I need a horse; preferably a mustang.
Years 7-8: Please! Just one more chapter of The Black Stallion book 64! Also, I still like making things.
Years 9-10: Overnight horse camp, *yawn* my parents won't catch me reading just one more chapter of The Black Stallion book 342 at midnight, engineers make things? As a job?
Then, Year 11 hit. This was the tail end of elementary school, and I had finally convinced my parents to let me start riding lessons.
This is also when I met Heyleigh.
I actually met Heyleigh by answering a call for help put forth by one of my 4H leaders. She had gotten hurt by one of her horses, and needed some barn chores done. I volunteered to do the work, along with one other girl in my club. I realized right away that there were some problems with her barn. There was an incredible amount of clutter, cattle panel stalls, and over 20 horses living on only a few acres of property. I helped out with some barn chores, and met Heyleigh, a yearling who had never gotten over being orphaned at 2.5 months, who was cooped up in her stall every day with absolutely no turn out. At the end of the day, my 4H leader suggested that Heyleigh be my "leased" training project horse. The other girl from my club got the same deal with Heyleigh's half sister, Babe.
When I met her, Heyleigh was terrified of people. It took days before she'd let me touch her and weeks before I could brush her readily. It took about two years of twice-weekly visits before I could get a halter on her without complaint. (keep in mind, her owner didn't do anything at all with her; my "training" was absolutely all she was getting) Over the course of three years, I saw my 4H leader's barn deteriorate. The other girl and I eventually became the only ones to ever muck stalls, despite horses staying in them all day, every day, hay was fed less frequently, and there were several visits from the humane society.
Then Babe died.
I could go into more detail here about how Babe and several other horses died, but it's painful to think about, and, I'm sure, not pleasant to read about either.
Eventually, I decided I had to get Heyleigh out of there. I sold a ridiculous number of Girl Scout cookies, auctioned the high seller incentives on Ebay, and used the money to board Heyleigh at a nearby barn over the summer between my 8th and 9th grade years. I visited her nearly every day, did some ground work, and started her under saddle. I'm sure that I made many mistakes, but it turned out pretty well considering I was a 14 year old with only 3 years of riding lessons to go by. I thought that she'd have to go back to her owners in the fall.
Then my parents bought her for me.
We had some issues with her old owners, and ended up paying far more than an untrained backyard breeding experiment was worth, (keep in mind, this was in the middle of the recession; people were giving away well trained horses left and right) but then she was mine.
I've continued to do all her training. This was a questionable decision at best, but saved money at a time when money needed saving, and allowed me to pass all 6 levels of the Minnesota 4H horse training project.
For reference, the final level of the training project involves demonstrating passable turn on the forehands, turn on the haunches, flying lead changes on the straightaway, side passes, and half passes. All trained solely by the 4H member without any adult help or training whatsoever.
After that, we've messed around with lots of things. I'm still a hunter/jumper, but I think Heyleigh's proudest moment was winning High-Point in gaming at a tiny local show ( Everyone else kept getting disqualified for knocking barrels, but I let her think she earned it.) I brought her with me to college, and she's currently getting spoiled rotten at a fancy Indiana stable where she gets to be a pasture potato for a couple of months.
She's stubborn, difficult, and refuses more jumps than not, but she's also the intelligent, goofy, caring horse who I love more than anything.
This brings us to the current day. Will I be able to get my horse to be a willing hunter/jumper? Will I concede to her wishes and become a gamer? Stay tuned and find out!