Chapter Four: Taming the Dragon
I started fostering Eve October/November 2007. I’d basically just go up to the rescue and groom/ride her once a week. The first couple weeks, I didn’t ride her. I’m almost positive I was the first one on her when she came back. Since she had been there so many times before, I’m not sure they even bothered to do a riding evaluation on her to see what she knew/could do since they kept a training log and had her training sessions recorded for the past 7 years.
The first day I rode her, I tacked her up and walked her down to the ring. She’s a huge 16.1hh Thoroughbred especially when she holds her head up, and I was barely 5ft tall at the time. I was a tad nervous getting on her even though I had ridden bigger horses before. I wasn’t sure how she was going to be once I was on her back. I walked her over to the mounting block to get on, and she pivoted her body to the right so I couldn’t get on. I got off the block, walked her around again. She pivoted. We tried a third time. Nope. Fourth time. Nope….At this point she was just walking around the mounting block and refused to let me on her back. I was so annoyed. If I had known her better, I would’ve just put a foot in the stirrup and jumped for it. But she was so big and so angsty, I was not going to attempt that.
I was going to give up when one of the staff members who was a really tall girl (like 6ft) came over and was like “Is she not letting you on?” I was super frustrated and just said “Yeah….” So the staff member, bent over the saddle and put her hand in the far stirrup and took the reins in the other and made her stand (because Eve was still walking in circles). Once Eve was calm, the staff held Eve for me and made her stand while I got on.
Once I was on, I truly realized how big she actually was. It was a bit intimidating. I didn’t do anything more than just walking to start because I was nervous. You probably didn’t think it was possible, but this horse took off with me at the walk. She had zero brakes. I’m not sure if it was because they had her bridle with a bit or what. But we practiced walk/halt transitions because I could not get her to stop walking. The only time she would stop walking is if she walked over to the arena gate. Then she’d stop and wait for me to get off. And she was a lot of horse too. I probably weighed 100lbs at the time, and it took my entire being to get her to stop. She would just fight with me. I would pull back to halt, and she would pull forward away from me and we’d be in this tug of war. And she’s 16 at this point. She’s been professionally trained years prior. She is broke. She knows exactly what halt means. She’s just being extremely difficult (foreshadowing our future together I’m sure).
I’m not going to lie. Once our ride was over, I got off and was close to tears. I was so frustrated. I complained to my mom on the drive home “She won’t listen to me!” And my mom was like “It was your first ride. You just need to be patient.” And my bratty teenage self just rolled my eyes like yeah whatever.
The next couple weeks, literally all we did was walk/halt transitions. Until we got it to be “good enough.” Where I guess she realized if we worked together, the ride would be over faster. Eventually we got to the point where we had enough stability in our riding together that we could trot. This horse had no brakes, but had a very sensitive gas pedal. You didn’t even have to move your legs at all. Just a soft verbal command and she’d be off trotting. If I squeezed her with my feet, she would trot almost instantaneously. So I was very careful to stay balanced because if you bounced a little off rhythm, she would speed up. And since this horse had no brakes, it was in my best interest to keep it together.
Once we trotted, her gait was sooo bouncy. She pretty much just flung me into the air every step. I have videos of me trotting her, and it looked like I was standing in my stirrups. I’d go so high. I’m not sure if that was the horrific footing that arena had at the rescue (it was stone dust underneath then for some unknown reason they put like 2ft of wood chips over it). So the arena used to be hard as a rock with the stone dust and then when they put wood chips over it, there were holes that just sucked you in especially after it rained. Or it could’ve been the fact I did not yet possess the skillset of what some would call a “good” rider. Probably a combination of both.
After we conquered the trot, I asked her to canter (I had gotten brave). The arena was smallish, so when I asked her to canter for the first time, she had the longest stride. It took her like 4-5 strides to get down the long side of the arena. It was very smooth though. I loved it. And she was very, very good. I remember that day being a good one. Probably because cantering requires more effort than a trot and she didn’t want to do more work than necessary. We didn’t have any trouble with her brakes that day. Her trot slowed down after a while too. She became fun to ride once we learned how to work together.
Chapter Five: Selling the Beast to the Public
So a few months in, the rescue put Eve up for adoption on their website. I’d been riding/working with her for a few months at this point. I was bummed to see her listed officially for adoption. I didn’t want to see her go. I knew she had already been adopted and returned three times, and it was pretty depressing to see her go back into the system as a foster kid essentially just to have her new home fail again. It seemed like a vicious cycle she was stuck in.
I had tried to convince the rescue to keep her as a permanent resident. They used these horses for pony rides, fundraiser events, educational seminars and training demonstrations. The management did consider it, but I think since she was always getting hurt – to be honest…they didn’t want her either. I was really upset when they decided to put her up for adoption, and I was mad about it for a while.
People would schedule adoption visits to see/ride Eve. I don’t think they ever went well. People would come try her out because they see this little 14 year old mediocre rider on this huge off the track Thoroughbred thinking it’d be like a Sunday morning drive. When in reality it was more like the Indy 500.
One guy who came to test ride her almost got bucked off. He left and didn’t come back for a second ride (shocker). Another woman I talked to – and I had actually tried to be nice and talked Eve up a bit – was so hung up on her scar leg being an issue that after seeing her in person, she didn’t come back again. Deep down, I was pretty happy that nobody wanted her because then I could keep her (muahahahaha). But then I realized I was being pretty selfish…
Chapter Six: Living in the System
It was a bit later when I realized Eve needed to get out of the rescue. Before I say anything, let me clearly state they did a fantastic job at rehabilitating this mare. They really saved her life in terms of fixing her scar leg. They went above and beyond to get her back to good health. It was after she had been rehabilitated and became just another horse on the property where she was kind of thrown on the back burner.
Now…I’m not really a fan of animal rescues today because I’ve volunteered with many and found that most aren’t that great once you see what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve seen a horse with an infected leg have to get put down because it was left untreated at the rescue. I’ve seen a rescue restrict their feed to their horses in order to save money and then their horses were skinny…Like what? And Eve’s rescue wasn’t a ton better at the time – keep in mind this is over 10 years ago and is under new management, so I’m sure it’s much, much better now.
While Eve was at the rescue, they took off her shoes. And this may seem like a “dude whatever” kind of thing. But it was pretty bad. I actually took photos of her hooves at the time because they were god awful, and I figured nobody would believe me when I said they were actually that awful. Like growing out at all angles, cracks everywhere…My farrier today would scream. And if you watch my stories you know that Eve is a founder case because she has horrible hooves thanks to genetics. She currently has two front shoes with shock absorbent pads and that gel pack stuff that goes in between the pad and her frog for that ultimate memory foam experience – not because she’s a spoiled brat but because she needs it.
So to put it not so lightly, removing Eve’s shoes was a potential death sentence for this horse. I complained to management like hey, have you seen her feet? Wtf? And they said something along the lines of “Yeah, they do look bad, don’t they? But barefoot horses are more likely to get adopted.” Like ok but do limping horses get adopted because that’s what this one is going to be. We even agreed to pay for the shoes to be put on her, and they still refused.
Eventually she did get shoes back on, but it was little decisions like this that made me mad. I had no say in her treatment or farrier or anything. To be fair, the rescue had a ton of horses to deal with, and that’s fine for easy keepers. But Eve is one of those horses that needs constant one-on-one care because she is high maintenance.
There was one really cold, windy, stormy day. Eve – unsurprisingly – was acting like a fool in her field and had ripped her blanket completely off, and it landed in a mud puddle. The only blanket available was one that was 2 sizes too small. Eve was soaking wet, shivering. We put her in a stall and dried her off as best as we could then put the blanket on her. And it just made me kind of sad. It wasn’t the rescue’s fault she ripped her blanket like a buffoon. But if she had a home, they’d have a spare blanket for her. I just felt like she deserved better than a hand-me-down blanket that didn’t fit, living in a herd of 20 horses that don’t get along with her. And this wasn’t her first time around either. She’d dealt with this for years.
Sure there’s ton of volunteers that come and groom horses and give them attention, but volunteers come and go. Even the staff members come and go. There’s no consistent person in her life, no anchor, no stability. It’s just a flood of new horses and new faces in the same location she keeps going back to.
Chapter Seven: Foster Kid No More
I was about 15 in 2008. My parents knew all about Eve and our struggles. I really wanted to adopt her, but my parents were like board is crazy expensive for a horse. If you can find one that’s not that expensive, then we’ll consider it. And I was like yaaaas. I must’ve researched 40 different barns, calling what their prices were, amenities, how far away they’d be. I finally found one that was about 45 minutes away from me which was kinda far, but in our price range. We went to go check it out, and it was…fine. No grass in the fields, small fields, right by the road (like literally right up on that road), but it would be alright. There weren’t any boarders there yet. It was just someone’s private barn.
We adopted her officially in July 2008. It was pretty exciting. The barn we had originally planned to move Eve to kind of fell through. Because – I’m not going to lie the rescue and I had a bit of bad blood between us from way back when. They just started doing – to put it bluntly – some shady ass shit. I won’t go into detail because it’s old news and doesn’t matter anymore. But I heard about it and kind of rocked the boat because it wasn’t ok. It pissed a bunch of people off, and there was drama. The barn we had wanted to move Eve to didn’t want to get involved in the drama and ghosted us – like straight up stopped replying to our messages. And we were like uhh ok. But it was fine because we had a plan B.
And plan B was our in-between farm. It had 2 other horses, self care, half hour away from us, huge lush pastures and streams (Eve loves water). It wasn’t going to be her permanent residence because self care (which means we have to go up everyday and feed her, etc.) But it would do until we found something else. It was literally just some guy’s land who was like “sure, you can leave your horses here.”
And leave our horse there we did. Eve walked right on the trailer, and we took her to the farm. We set her free in the field alone first. The grass was so tall and lush. She just took off galloping around. She was insanely happy. Like she was glowing. I have video of her just cantering all over. She loved it. She got along great with the other two horses as well. But like I said, she couldn’t stay there even though she loved it. It’s good she was used to change because her life was really about to change.
To be continued in Chapter 8!