Sometimes I think I should be really embarrassed about where Lilly is in the grand scheme of things. She's 9 years old, I've had her since she was 3 months old, and she doesn't know her leads yet? Really? What the heck have I been doing for the past 7 years anyway? Sometimes folks will ask me certain questions about her, like "are you doing western classes too?" and I say, "no, we haven't got that far yet". We aren't doing any western classes this year because she's just not ready. Not ready? She's 9 years old! What's the hold up?
I compare Lilly a lot to the "boys of my past", so I'm going to introduce you to them.
I had AJ first, and we know all about him already. Love you, Boo!
Once AJ's arthritis was too much to manage, I showed my 4-H leader's horse, Rock. He had a very strange way of going at the trot... he dragged his back feet forward and then kicked them out sideways. It was bizarre. And it hurt him in halter for sure. He was a lot of fun to ride, though, and drew a lot of attention. He was trained, but not show trained. I worked with him all summer and we won high point that year at the fair. I had a lot of fun on that horse.
Rock was temporary so I got another horse, Jack. Jack was a 4 year old QH/Morgan/Who Knows What Else horse with giant ears and a face only a mother could love. He was a free lease and belonged to a friend of my father's. I think he was thrilled to get some free training on Jack and my parents were thrilled that they didn't have to purchase another horse. He was still quite black when I first got him, but he was well on his way to turning gray by the time we gave him back. He was short, scruffy, and knew absolutely nothing, but soon Jack was awesome. I believe I showed him from '93 till '96, and we did everything. We showed at open shows, the fair, the equestrian team... we did showmanship, hunt seat, western, dressage, trail, reining, saddle seat, barrels, driving, western riding, and hunter hack. We did disciplined rail classes and versatility classes. He was a machine. He made me feel good as a "trainer" because he really excelled in everything. If you pointed him to it, dressed him up in it, or asked him for it, you got it. Flying lead changes, sliding stops, rollbacks, even egg and spoon and bareback classes! He did it all. Never a hiccup. Automatic. A machine. Going from knowing nothing, to high point at the fair multiple times, all in a few years?
While I was still showing Jack, my mom and I went in on a Paint yearling named Dodge My Deemer (The Redeemer and Dodger's Playboy on his dam's side). Deemer was my first Paint. He's where it all started! I showed Deemer in snaffle bit classes during his two year old year and we did fairly well. He would walk, trot, and canter. He knew his leads, and we showed in western and english snaffle bit classes. Jack went back home when Deemer was three and Deemer became my full time show horse. I showed Deemer for two more years at open shows, the fair, and on the equestrian team. We didn't do as much as Jack and I did because of Deemer's age, but he was really good at the events I showed him in. We even won high point at the fair. I sold Deemer when I went to boot camp and he brought a pretty penny even though he went to a non-show home. The lady still has him and loves him to death. :)
So these successful geldings are why I ponder...
I got Lilly in 2000 when she was a weanling and I worked with her a lot. I taught her to load, trot with me, pivot, to stand for the farrier, baths, and clipping. We were well on our way. We even went to some shows when she was a yearling. Then, in the spring of 2002, I trained her to walk/trot/canter, and then she went from NC to Michigan to live with my parents while I finished up my time in the Corps. I got out in November, and not much riding goes on in Michigan in the winter. By the time April came around I was on my way back to NC to escape the cold and my joblessness. I ended up with a job in Virginia and brought Lilly down in August of 2003. She still needed more training, but I had another horse at this time too and I was trying to find time to ride them both. During our time in Virginia, we did a lot of trail riding, camping, and no showing at all. Nothing structured at all, just fun on the trails. In 2006 I moved back to NC, but the horses stayed in VA for a while, then went to a barn where they weren't fed, and finally to the wonderful barn they're at now. They've been there since 2007.
Lilly has been moved around a lot, and many of our boarding situations haven't been ideal, or I've been in a different state, but I can't help thinking that she should be farther along than she is. When I rode the boys, we just did it. They just did it. We did it all and I didn't even give it a second thought. My training with Lilly has been in slow motion. I'll work on something for a month before moving on to something new. With the boys, they got 3 new things a day. There are a lot of things she doesn't know how to do and there are a lot of things I don't know how to teach her. The boys were so easy to teach.
She is very different from the boys. They were hard headed but easily convinced. She is emotional and needs a lot of patience. They were strong and steady. She lacks confidence. They were ok with whatever was thrown at them, and I didn't take any crap. She anticipates, gets hyper, and is easily frustrated. I was harder on the boys than I'd like to admit, but I was using the only methods I knew. I was taught to teach them that way. I baby her... boy do I baby her.
I have felt the need to take things slow with her because of the reactions I've received from her. And I see a huge difference in my mare compared to my geldings. She needs things to go slower, more steady, consistent, and with a gentle hand. But does that mean it's ok that she doesn't know her leads at 9 years old?
Don't get me wrong... I am SO proud of her. She has come so far in the past two years, but with the boys, in two year's time, we were rockin' and rollin', whereas Lilly and I are just getting situated in the rockin' chair... I did have more time back in the day because I didn't have to work for a living and my horses were in my back yard, but I ride pretty darn often.
Good examples are "our first canter class ever" and "our first equitation pattern ever". Why did it take me so long to do these things with Lilly? Why are we just now getting around to things I would never have thought twice about with the boys? And the thing is, she won her first canter class, and she did way better on the pattern than I expected.
Maybe she's more ready than I think? Or maybe we're chugging along at just the right pace?
I'm just thinking out loud...