Chapter 8: New Barn, New Judgment
The barn Eve first stayed at was such a gorgeous property. If it was a full care barn, she would’ve stayed there forever. But unfortunately, the place didn’t even have a barn or anywhere to ride. If I wanted to ride her, it was in a field on a slight slope. The only flat places were on top of a really steep hill, so that wasn’t happening. Plus, the other horses on the property were also there as an in-between farm and were moving soon, so Eve would be there alone.
We eventually just ended up keeping Eve at my schooling barn I rode at since I was like 8 years old. We knew the staff really well, and it was pretty much like a second home. It was pricy, so I agreed to pay a portion a month towards it. This new barn I was taking Eve to was huge. Like absolutely massive. There were 3 outdoor arenas, one indoor, the driveway was a mile long with like 50-60 horses on the property. It backed up to the state park so it was surrounded by woods. It was definitely unlike anything she’d been to in recent years.
There were more people, more horses, shows going on. It was overwhelming for her, but she was excited. Her roomie was an older appaloosa mare and her neighbors in the field next to hers were 3 boys (and she’s boy crazy so this was a win). It didn’t take her all that long to settle in.
It was kind of different with more people around. At the rescue, people saw a bunch of horses with weird injuries/scars/whatever. So when they saw Eve’s scar – obviously she’s a rescue. But at this barn, some people didn’t really see horses like her too much if at all. What surprised me the most is the fact that a lot of people saw her calcified, grey/white, hairy scar and were like “oh my god! What did she do to it?!” Thinking that it was a new injury. And I’m like yeah. This is a new injury, and I just let her live her life out in the muddy field and roll with zero protection.
And then there’s other people that want the really cool backstory about how she got it. Like she could’ve been body surfing in the Bahamas and been bitten by a bull shark. Or she could’ve been poked with a stick. Either story could be true to the best of my knowledge. The one that’s more likely true is really not interesting. And then there’s the sympathy card. “Oh, my god. Poor girl.” And we’re like…well, at this point she’s had her scar longer than without so she probably doesn’t remember what it felt like to not have a scar on her leg. She’s really not torn up about it.
Then there were other people that were disgusted by it and told me I’d have to cover it with a polo if I wanted to take her to shows. And yes, we did cover it with polos but it was per our vet’s recommendation to protect it while riding/jumping since it was more susceptible to injury. But we weren’t covering it up to hide it. That’s just a toxic, shallow mindset to have. If you’re worried about how your horse looks to other people based on their imperfections, I genuinely feel sorry for you.
I rode her in my one hour lesson once a week. I was so excited to ride my own horse and not a school horse in my lesson. I was even more excited to show my friends my new horse. We would have so much fun riding in our lessons together and showing off! I absolutely loved it!
Just kidding. My horse was a literal cow for the lessons. Like every effing week. This was her first time officially in consistent work and by god she hated it. For some reason she thought that the other horses in the lesson were her competition, and we had to be stronger and faster than them at every turn. I don’t know what it was about having 4 other horses ride in the same proximity as her that turned our lessons into something straight out of Need for Speed. She just wouldn’t stop. My instructor was always like half-halt, half-halt. And my poor arms. They were always sore. Not only because she wouldn’t stop, but she always rooted. ALWAYS. If you don’t know what rooting is – it’s when your horse stretches their neck out and yanks the reins out of your hands constantly. It’s probably the most annoying thing ever.
By 2009, I still wasn’t the best at riding, but riding her in my lessons definitely helped. My instructor told me to just let her pull the reins out and then slowly gather them back and just ignore it. When I stopped playing tug of war with her, she did it less, but still occasionally. When I rode her by myself and the other horses in the ring weren’t doing the same patterns as us, she was actually pretty perfect. I would just ride her with the loosest rein like right on the buckle, and she’d just chug along at a solid pace. She would be really sluggish actually when we rode solo.
She was a weird horse for sure. Nobody ever believed me in my lesson when I told them that she’s not horrible to ride when I ride by myself. They were like wow she’s so high strung and crazy. But it’s not what it looks like! But that’s what everyone saw unfortunately. Especially on this particular day…
We had a lesson where we jumped a ton – like way more than we normally did. And Eve was pissed off. She was tired, it was late. I usually didn’t jump her that much because she was 18 at the time, and I didn’t want to risk her getting hurt being as accident prone as she can be. Well, after the lesson, this one girl decided she wanted to lead everyone down to the barn by walking on the road. And it was really dark, there’s cars. I was like, nah, we’re gonna take the trail. Nobody wanted to come on the trail with us. As soon as I made Eve turn down the trail, she immediately threw her head down and just straight up bucked me off. Not one buck. It took 3 bucks to get me off because she wasn’t going to stop until I fell. I was shocked. It was unlike anything she’s ever done. And she definitely learned that move from watching the bad ponies in our lessons because she hadn’t ever done anything like that before. Everyone saw, and I just cried.
And you guys know those riders who see a horse acting up and they just scoff and go “If I was riding that horse, it wouldn’t misbehave.” Like they think they could ride the horse better than you. Like Eve would even give them the option of staying on. This wasn’t a “naughty buck.” This was a “Ok. I’ve had enough of this. I’m forcibly ejecting you from the saddle, so remember to tuck and roll upon hitting the ground” bucking frenzy. It was non-negotiable. I literally had someone say to me afterwards that “Eve wouldn’t be naughty if I rode her.” If this was a casino, I’d bet she would.
Despite our setbacks, I enjoyed riding my horse. I just dreaded riding her in my lessons sometimes. I could ride her the day before and have her be so chill with not a care in the world. Then the day of our lesson she would just run around everyone, yank my arms out of their sockets. The girls riding little ponies were scared they’d get trampled. And to be honest, I thought they’d get trampled too. But thankfully Eve had mercy.
Chapter 10: Our First Show
It was summer 2009 when we decided to participate in our very first show. Our barn had schooling shows on the property so we didn’t have to trailer anywhere. I had walked her up to watch a show earlier that season to see what she thought about it. She seemed to not care.
I was like great! Let’s get some ribbons! We had practiced for it. And we were gonna own that shit. I was 16 at this point, and with video proof, I was a much better rider than when I had first started riding her. The lessons helped a ton, and we also rode bareback a lot because I was too lazy to tack up. But riding bareback definitely helped too.
So the day of the show comes. She’s all shiny and pretty with lime green polo wraps we still have to this day. I was a bit stressed about it, but that’s why I had entered us into the easiest division in the whole damn show. Could we have competed in the 2ft division? Of course we could. We’re not some amateur team out here. Our vet at the time had done a pre-purchase exam on Eve and cleared her to jump 3ft. Would we win anything over in that division? Of course not. We’re not here to strengthen our character and grow as a horse/rider partnership. We’re tryna win some ribbons. Unfortunately, my instructor made me move one division up because I wasn’t a “baby.” So I entered us into the Leap Frog division. One step above the oh so elite Grasshopper division. (Both were for babies if it wasn’t clear from the division titles.)
The jumps for the Leap Frog were probably like 18in which is barely off the ground. But who’s counting? The whole show was a test run to see how Eve reacted to it. I didn’t know if she’d ever shown before or if she even liked it, so I just wanted to see how it played out. Our division consisted of a walk/trot class, a walk/trot/canter class and 2 jumping classes. The kids we rode with were on ponies. Small to medium sized ponies. I entered the ring with this massive Thoroughbred. Some mothers had worried looks on their faces and rightfully so because we all know how our lessons went…
We were already waiting around for the division to start, and she was getting antsy. The first class comes, and she did surprisingly well. We ended up with a 2nd place out of 6-7 horses. The next w/t/c class went a little worse because once she started cantering, she got really excited and wouldn’t chill. She also used to favor her left lead and had trouble getting her right. We got 3rd place in that class.
The third class went way better. Our course was just one line straight ahead and then halt. And she did it perfect. We would’ve gotten 1st place, but the pony in that class was like a robot. We got 2nd place instead, but I was proud.
The last class is where the shit hit the fan. We had been waiting for other people to jump, so I guess she thought after our last course we were finished. And nothing pisses this horse off more than thinking we’re finished and then being told “No, sweetie, you have to jump something else.” So she was enraged. We had to jump 2 lines twice. So it was just two jumps going up one side then we turned and had two jumps coming down the other side. And then we had to turn and jump it all again and halt at the end.
Well, nobody told me we had to do all the jumps again. So I just did it once. And so Eve bolted over the first 2 lines, and she was going so fast she almost crashed into the fence when I asked her to halt. The spectators jumped back, and I just laughed nervously like haha sorry, coming in hot. That’s when they said hey you have to jump it again. And I was like alright, but you better stand back. And she again took off and bolted over everything. And honestly that was my fault. She was already angry when she found out we had another class. Then she got even more pissed off when she had to do our last course a second time. Not surprising that we got dead last in that one – which happened to be a fourth place so not exactly what we were hoping but we could say it was a big class if anybody asked.
Chapter 11: Maybe a Career Change…
After the show, we took cute photos with our ribbons then it came time to walk back down to the barn. I might as well have just let her run down to the barn by herself. The barn was a 10 minute walk from the arena, and this horse half jogged/power walked sideways the entire way down. I’m pretty sure she threw in a couple bucks too because I wasn’t going to let her just gallop down to the barn. You would’ve thought I had subjected this horse to 15 hours of pure, unrelenting Syrian prison torture tactics. When in reality it was a 2 hour ordeal in a division with 10 year olds riding ancient ponies. It was like the beach resort division every horse would prefer to compete in.
That day in 2009 was our first and last traditional show. Somehow, I just got this weird feeling that she maybe – JUST MAYBE – didn’t want to be a show horse? I can’t quite explain it, but I got this vibe so I decided to retire our showing career. Like her racehorse career that lasted 2 weeks – her showing career lasted one day.
I didn’t really care. I didn’t want to make her do something she didn’t want to do. And if she didn’t enjoy showing at literally the second easiest level known to man and was going to pull that crap every round, then I sure as hell didn’t want to show either. And I preferred riding bareback anyway going on the trails.
So I decided to make her my trail horse.