January 2010. Gem has settled into the barn and has had a week to adjust to knowing me. I hadn’t ridden her yet choosing to get acquainted on the ground through grooming, hand walking and being present instead.
This day was the day though. I grabbed her from the icy, muddy paddock and brought her into the barn. Her shaggy fur was brushed, curried and brushed again. I rubbed MTG into the bald spots on her butt. I ran my hands over her ribs wondering when the weight would go on so I could no longer feel them so easily.
The ride had already been played out in my mind a dozen times. She’d stand still to be tacked. We would walk into the indoor and I’d mount while Gem waited patiently. She’d walk off when asked and carry me around the arena. We would trot. We would canter. We would work towards learning to jump.
The reality hit hard and hit fast. When I went to put the bridle on, she reared and flew backwards down the barn aisle. I had to corner her in her stall to bridle her for months.
She wouldn’t lead and instead I had to carry a dressage whip to keep her from digging in and planting her feet.
Mounting was an exercise in acrobatics as she swung around, dashed forward and jaunted back.
Once mounted she stood still. I thought this was a big win, but Gem would prove me wrong yet again. Nothing I did made that mare move. Clucking, kissing, squeezing, digging in my heels, pony club kicking, using the whip. She stood there, ears back to me and told me where I stood with her. Then, once I was in near tears and ready to get off, she bolted violently forward and galloped around the arena throwing in a small buck here and there.
Nothing about that day went right. I left dejected. I thought about selling her. I cried. What had I bought? What was I going to do?
This ride to begin all other rides made me buck up. I reached out to a local trainer and began lessons. I learned was being a rider and not a passenger was all about. This ride may have killed all my day dreams of that magical heart horse that did everything perfect just because they loved me, but it also built the foundation of hard work and earning it.
Gem never gives me anything just because. I need to earn it every ride, every stride, every time. This first ride set the stage for all the blood, sweat and tears that has come since then. It was a ride I could have walked away from, sold her on and bought a new horse. Instead I dug in and showed Gem I wasn’t going anywhere and that I could be more stubborn than her. It was the best thing that could have happened to us.