They say horses come into your life for a reason. I don’t think this was ever more true for me than in the case of a little chestnut quarter horse mare named Q.
When I first met Q, I was a working student for dressage trainer Michelle LaBarre. Q had been recently purchased by the stable, and became my “summer project”. In a former life she was a western horse, a reiner to be exact, and my job was to retrain her to be used in our dressage lesson program.
You know how sometimes people say “reining is the western dressage”? Not true. Not even one little bit. How do I know this? Because for the first month I rode Q, I had to ride her late at night, or early in the morning, when nobody else was in the arena. Not because she was bad, but because she was trained so differently than a dressage horse (or any english horse I’d ever sat on), that I didn’t know how to get her to go.
She had so many buttons installed, and if you accidentally hit one, you never knew where it was going to take you. Sometimes she would fly backward as fast as she could. Or sideways. Or she’d just stop dead. Since I never knew in which direction she would go, I was afraid to ride her in the ring with another horse.
After months of hard work, Q became an amazing addition to our lesson program, and I was even able to use her for my “little kid” riding school, where she helped students as young as six years old fall in love with horses and riding.
As Michelle often said, I had resurrected her. She had become a solid, dependable citizen who enjoyed her job, and did it well. I was even using her for my own lessons with Michelle, and we were ready to start showing first level together.
Through an unfortunate twist of fate, Q and I were forced to part ways at that point. I never forgot that little mare. I thought about her every day, and cried myself to sleep many a night wishing I knew where she was, and that she was safe.
Then one day, years later, I was invited to come to the Atlantic Equestrian Centre to judge a schooling show. Part way through the day, during one of the breaks, I was wandering along the row of paddocks, and a familiar chestnut face caught my eye. I couldn’t believe it was true. It was my beloved Q, and she was right in front of me!
To make a long story short, I got in touch with Q’s owner, and made arrangements to come and ride her once a week. That riding arrangement not only reunited me with my old friend; it was also the beginning of a new friendship, with my coach, Wylie. Which, of course, has changed my riding life.
Q and I are now a regular item. I ride her a couple times a week, I take her out to shows (where she often wins), and I ride her in clinics. She is turning twenty-four this year, but she’s still going strong, and usually comes out into the arena like a four year old, snorting at the scary back door and playing like a youngster.
Finding Q again changed my life. It gave me a horse to ride ‘just for fun’, with no pressure, no expectations and no fear. It made me realize that the old saying is true, about loving something, setting it free, and trusting that it will come back to you. And it taught me to never stop looking for what you want, because someday you might just stumble across it standing in a paddock looking back at you.
“I was walking along looking for somebody, and then suddenly I wasn’t anymore.” -A.A. Milne