I met Ava through a trainer I was using. She casually mentioned that she had a horse that she needed to sell and no one was interested enough to buy her at the $3,500 she had her listed for. The trainer described her as a 15.2h, 7 year old, Friesian/Paint cross. I wasn’t a fan of Friesians at the time. They seemed pretentious. And I wasn’t sold on the Paint part either, having never seen one that was built well enough to excel at dressage. But no one else was riding Ava so I said I’d like to take a lesson on her.
Back when I met Ava I was really scared of horses. I’d already been tossed off several times, kicked at, bitten several times, and run over more times than I could count. It really damaged my confidence and made me extremely fearful of horses.
The first time I saw Ava I saw a fluffy horse that looked pretty but had a bit of a straight shoulder, was downhill built, and had hind legs that were too straight. Top it off with the blue eyes that made her look perpetually startled and to say my interest was cool would be an understatement.
I couldn’t afford the horse anyway, so whatever. I decided I’d ride her til someone else bought her.
The trainer brings the horse in and starts brushing her down. Every time I get near the back end the horse cocks her leg, pins her ears, and swishes her tail a bit. So I stay near the front. I start walking around her front to get to the other side and suddenly all I see is Ava lunging at me with teeth bared. I’m terrified, I’m frozen in place, and those teeth are coming straight for my face. And then just as quickly as it started, it stopped. I moved back quickly and starred at Ava. She starred at me. Trainer made noises about this never happening before. I’m thinking “Great, the horse hates me”.
I still want the lesson so we finish tacking and the trainer lunges her before I get on. The horse seems a little out of control on the lunge. I’m seriously second guessing riding the horse at this point. I wasn’t a very good rider, my balance was bad, and I was terrified of horses. But I’m stubborn, so I climb on anyway.
I ask Ava to walk off. It felt like sitting on a billowy cloud of fluffiness. The long mane bouncing against her neck, cute little ears poking out from the fluffy forelock, her rhythmic sway beneath me.
My trainer tells me not to put my calf on her, and explains the horse doesn’t like it. I can’t NOT ride with calf, and kept putting it on. Every time I do the horse kicks out at it. Sometimes violently. Sometimes it scares me badly, but she never gets violent enough to off-balance me or make me feel like she wants me off.
We end the lesson and I vow never to buy this horse. But I’m intrigued, and I can’t stop thinking about this little mare with so many issues.
I ride her again later that month and this time another boarder touched her side while walking past. The mare kicked out so quickly at the lady that we were all shocked and stunned. The lady wasn’t hit, but we were shaken.
I ride the horse a few more times and each time is better. It seems like there’s a smart brain in there and she honestly wanted to do what was asked, she just didn’t have much balance or coordination to do what I asked.
I get home and tell the hubby I want to buy this horse. He reminds me the horse tried to rip my face off. I know, but I liked her!
I talked to the trainer about buying Ava and she agreed to do a payment plan. I would take over board and maintenance of the horse, make payments, and after 6 months I would finally own the grumpy little mare. 🙂
The day I made the final payment was the happiest day ever! After 6 months of consistent work she was really starting to gain confidence and strength. You could just start to see the glimmer of the horse she’d become.
It’s been 3 years now, and I utterly adore this mare. She’s always willing to give me her all when I ask, she never quits, and she’s game to try anything at least once. She teaches me to be lighter and softer with my aids, and that I can get so much more from her by whispering instead of shouting (which we all know, but she forces me to put it into practice). She’s taught me tons about what it really takes to help a horse stay balanced. And she’s taught me that even a horse with so-so conformation can excel at dressage if your consistent, patient, and willing to find new ways to approach things.
** Side Note: The first thing I did when I agreed to buy Ava was have the vet out to check her over for a reason she was so reactive to having her flanks touched. The first vet found nothing, so I got a vet that specialized in reproductive health. He also found nothing wrong.
If you’d like to participate in this blog hop, add your blog url below and post your story about how you met your horse. 🙂