Oh My, My Horse Can Jump!

Bay horse headshotBuying a young, unstarted three-day eventing prospect raises the questions: Am I taking a gamble? Or making an investment? Either way you look at it, taking on a young horse is a big responsibility and a journey of hard work. There are no “sure things” with horses.

When I purchased my Paint gelding, Joey, in 2013, I was excited about his prospects as my next three-day eventing and jumping partner. Standing 16.2 hands tall and built as wide as a rhino, Joey has athletic appeal. He also has 50% Thoroughbred blood running through his veins. And he has a natural curiosity and boldness. Indeed, his previous owner mentioned that Joey does everything like he’s on a dare–the perfect personality for eventing!

But I know as much as anyone that horse training is not a linear, straightforward process in every case. And Joey’s development was everything but straightforward. We had to grow him a new set of hooves, overcome ongoing immune issues and skin fungus infections, and try to protect him from his self-destructive antics in the herd. These minor but ongoing physical challenges interfered with a consistent riding program. Before I knew it, my three-year-old became a five-year-old and maybe, just maybe, he was about ready to be a real riding horse.

Earlier this year finally came the moment that I got to really jump Joey for the first time. Not a single, small crossrail in the arena or little log on the trail here or there–but two actual deliberate jumps set in a grid in the arena.

And I fell off.

Yes, Joey jumped me clear off. He jumped the first jump easy and smooth, but instead of following up with a reasonable-sized effort over the second, he sat back on his haunches and launched up nearly over the height of the standards. Then, with perfect technique, he tucked and kicked his back hooves clear up at the sky at the peak of his jump. I was so unprepared for the height-plus-shape of the jump that I popped straight up out of the tack at the top of the bascule and gravity pulled me right straight down to the ground in an uncerimonious heap.

I was thrilled: MY HORSE CAN JUMP!!!!!

After all those late evenings of care, all the expenses and groundwork sessions and rides and feeding and products and brushing and everything that goes into turning a young horse into a trained horse, finally comes the moment of truth… The moment you line up to that first jump, grab a little mane, and put your leg on. In that moment before takeoff, you’re riding just another unknown potential talent or lack-of-talent. But once all four hooves hit the ground on the other side, you know whether or not you have a jumping horse. And I have a jumping horse!

Joey has absolutely no hesitation and no inclination to avoid the jumps. He is sure of the game and happy to play. Though he needs to sort out his technique, coordination, and strength, I know he’s got the building blocks of a good jump.

Expectations for our horses don’t always line up with what is best or realistic for them. Not every horse can fulfill every dream. Because of that, it’s a true privilige when a horse delivers on your hopes. I’m excited to continue Joey’s training over jumps this winter and get him out and about to some shows in 2016!

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