Looking back on my life with horses, I have a soft spot in my heart for “That horse”. I was 16 years old and he was the horse that gave me confidence, not just in the show ring, but also in my own abilities. He was not my horse, but a horse someone let me lease. My well-meaning father had bought a horse that we could afford but didn’t have quite enough training for my inexperience. The leased horse let me feel what was right. He responded and acted as a partner. I never doubted him to carry me around the show ring while I got experience. I owe that horse everything. I was able to take those skills on to my horse, and then, develop more skills. Each horse was a professor in my continuing education, even today. But it all started with “That Horse”.
Many years down the road, as I sit here, a small business owner, a horse trainer and an instructor, I now own a horse who is “That Horse” to countless students. Her story is priceless.
I met KiKi on a lovely day in May. My husband and I were climbing out of the recession, business was growing, but I had put a hitch in our business by switching disciplines and changing to Dressage. Although I had been training professionally for many years, I became a Dressage devotee overnight, stopped showing in the Arabian show ring, and basically alienated all my clients. We were building a new client base, but times were hard. And, as anyone who has ridden a different style knows, Dressage is a huge learning curve, especially stepping into it as a professional.
One day I received a call from a woman who owned a Half Arabian mare that she was having difficulties with. The horse had put her in the emergency room twice. When she searched the internet for Arabian trainers and Dressage in Iowa, my name came up. After we chatted, she decided to bring her naughty horse to me. She asked me how many months it would take me to decide if she should keep her current horse, or to look for a new one. I knew her mare wouldn’t take very long to tell me who she was; it would probably take a couple of weeks; no need to waste a couple of months
As I suspected, her horse told me that she and her owner needed to part ways. So, now I had a client with destroyed confidence, who had been hurt by her previous horse looking for a new horse.
Enter Kiki. Another client sent me a video from a website selling horses. Kiki was a 12-year-old mare who had been trained Dressage by her amateur owner. When I called the seller, I knew we found the right horse.
Kiki had been trained beautifully. Her owner had loved her and kept her well. Kiki was even registered and had all her USDF/USEF numbers. Little did we know how lucky we were to find her.
When we had bought Kiki home, that year we showed in rain. We showed in heat. We showed in mud. Through all of it, at every show, no matter what, Kiki did not care. She trotted into the ring and did her job. Every. Time. She built confidence in her rider, my client, more than any trainer could have.
Through the past 10 years, I have put my nieces, who do not ride at all, on Kiki. I have given lessons to children learning to ride. She is safe. She does her job. Ironically, she has the personality of a snake, which is why I relate to her. She will approach every job in a business-like manner; she will tell you when you are riding her correctly; she will tell you when you are wrong.
I have many adult amateurs. They all have their own horses. At some point in time, almost all of them have ridden Kiki to gain confidence. Many times, their horses weren’t quite trained enough to be an amateur horse; maybe they fell off their own horse, or maybe they needed Kiki to get their confidence at the canter, or they needed to feel lateral work. She has faithfully served every time.
Kiki even boosted my confidence. When I met her, I was new to Dressage, and was pretty sure no one would ever employ me as their trainer. I showed Kiki at an Open show a few months after she came to my barn. The judge’s comment in the collective remarks encouraged me to keep working. She wrote, “Horse is correctly trained and beautifully ridden.” My first year at Arabian Sport Horse Nationals, Kiki and I were Top Ten First Level Open. I love this horse.
Although I could have sold this horse many times for well over her purchase price, Kiki will have a home with me forever. Kiki isn’t the fanciest mover; she isn’t the flashiest horse at the show, but she is priceless.