Thanks for checking this out-I’ll try to keep introductions brief! My name is KC and I’m a 29 year old amateur rider. Discipline? Hopefully in the near future I’ll be eventing with my HSO (Horse Significant Other) but for now we’re
careening bopping- along around 20 meter hexagons circles and over cross-rails. No complaints here- Pilgrim (hence the name of this blog), is only 4 so we’re in no real rush.
I’m your true definition of a “re-rider”, so I’m going to use this first post to talk about how I got back into horses, starting with the horse that got me to this point, Jester. I started riding really young and after being on and off horses, since my parents fully believed this was “just a phase” and I would “outgrow horses”, I am now back and fully committed to advancing my riding.
After a pretty bad xc accident 10 years ago, I didn’t ride for 6 years. Life happened and I graduated college, met and married my husband who was in the Marines, started a big girl job at a non-profit and had our first son. Then, one August day in 2010 while my husband was deployed to Afghanistan, the horse bug hit me after talking to a girl who rode dressage. She was the first person I had met where my husband was stationed in North Carolina that rode and all the memories came flooding back. My husband called from Afghanistan, and through the crackling and constant call-dropping that those lovely satellite phones are known for, I explained that not only did I need a horse, but I needed one NOW. Better yet, I needed one YESTERDAY.
My poor husband is originally from Buffalo, NY and completely clueless about horses. I had met him a little over a year after my accident and rarely spoke about my time with horses because I was determined to move on. So while he was completely supportive, he had no idea what he was actually agreeing to.
So after that phone call, which I’m sure he only actually heard about 25% of what I said, I hopped on equine.com and searched for my next partner. I came across an ad for a 9 year old Paint/TB cross that was advertised as safe enough for an amateur. Guess which horse was delivered to me less than a week later? Yep. When I move, I move FAST.
His name was Jester and he was going to be my best friend. My husband came home from Afghanistan at 7 AM after traveling all night through various countries. I was there to see his bus pull in, his unit walked over, we took a few pictures, grabbed his bags and off to the barn we went!
But the thing you need to know about my husband is, well, he’s pretty awesome. So he completely went along with me, no complaints, and hung out at the barn for a good part of the day before I finally
allowed lovingly took him home to enjoy eating real food and not sleeping in sand.
Over the next few days, I gathered all the things I needed for Jester- saddle, bridle, clothing, etc, etc.
Then it was time to RIDE! Thing is, when I first hopped on this green, yet safe horse, I was TERRIFIED.
I thought his trot was going to launch me into outer space. When he looked at something I braced as if a grenade had just been launched at us. Forget cantering, that just wasn’t happening. I was…a weenie.
For the record, I had never been a weenie before. When I was a working student, it was odd for me to be able to ride a well behaved horse. I typically rode the horses no one else wanted to- and I loved it! Even when I was given a choice, I usually picked the horses that had something to teach me. And it never occurred to me that even after 6 years, that attitude would go away. But alas, it had and I couldn’t dig it back out. I was scared of my own horse and wondered what in the world had possessed me to want to own another one. So I did what most horse people do. I sucked it up and rode until it got better.
And it did get better. Jester and I went on trails, started jumping, went to shows…and we rocked as a partnership. He tolerated my husband bouncing around on him and even accidentally took him over his first (and only) jump.
He packed my son around and even helped him win his first blue ribbon. We would go to shows and clean up.
He was truly the horse version love of my life. We went through a deep digital flexor tendon injury and I was determined that he would be, at most, a walk-trot trail horse. Jester had other ideas, and let me know in no uncertain terms that he wanted to jump. When turned out in an arena, most horses will ignore jumps that are set up. Jester would jump them. So we compromised- he got to jump, but they had to be small. Still, he jumped those tiny verticals like a champ.
Our first show back
This was taken in November 2012. In January 2013 my husband and I found out we were expecting our second
ball of destruction bundle of joy. After my husband had anxiety attacks while watching me TROT Jester around, it was decided that Jester would go to training with an upper level eventer to stay in shape. So we hauled him the 2 hours away to her farm and settled him in. I cried buckets, but it was in his best interest so my husband was eventually able to drag me away and back home.
Meanwhile, I had been promoted to Executive Director of my non-profit back in June of 2012 so I had plenty to keep me busy.
WARNING: SAD CONTENT BELOW!!!
So I had a long weekend coming up and my husband and I decided to take a weekend trip to Raleigh to see Jester
and do other things. Then the Friday before, Jester’s trainer called about noon while I was in the office.
To sum it up, Jester had a freak accident the night before and broke his leg somehow in the pasture. They’d had the vet out and the way it was broken, there was no way to repair it. So I made the incredibly selfish, but necessary-for-me decision that they couldn’t put him down until I got there. Luckily, my amazing co-worker called my husband to come get me before I got into my truck and drove myself. We arrived and Jester was drugged but still attempted to walk to me. I was able to get about 20 minutes with him before the vet came.
Then I was able to get him to follow me out to the field where he’d be put down. I can’t properly describe how it felt to watch him be put down so I won’t even try. I will say that my ever so thoughtful husband was my rock and even got a big chunk of his tail which was turned into this.
The next 6 months were really rough. Then things slowly got better. Our son was born in October 2013, and although he was born with a heart defect and needed surgery at 3 days old, he was OK. We moved to the Charlotte area to be closer to family in December 2013 and have absolutely loved living here. I started taking lessons 2 days after we moved here in preparation for test-riding horses. Boy, was I out of riding shape! I’ll give myself a break- hey, I’d had a freaking BABY 8 weeks before. But I still didn’t want to look like an idiot.
I bought a horse in January 2014 from an upper level eventer. She was 3 and had recently been pulled out of a field after being trained to race but not ever making it to the track. She had amazing movement and a lovely temperament so I took a chance and purchased her. Things were going really well until about 2 months later when she came up lame. After some stall rest she was sound. Then lame. Then sound. And around and around we went until she was diagnosed with navicular. Bad on me for not getting x-rays of her feet before, but there was nothing in the pre-purchase to suggest that she had navicular. So lesson learned.
She came with a lifetime certificate of retirement from her breeder so while I didn’t want to give her up, she would never be sound for anything besides really light riding and I just couldn’t afford to board 2 horses if one could hardly be ridden. Her breeder was lovely and through the eventer that I got her from, we got her back to PA and she was able to be turned out with her mom and some half siblings in a huge green pasture. Last update I got was that she was being adopted by a local vet for his kids. She was the perfect horse for me after Jester and I can’t thank her enough for that.
So I was on the horse hunt AGAIN. Man, I HATE horse shopping. Every horse I found that was close enough to test ride either went lame right before (one DURING a pre-purchase exam. No, I didn’t need that $275 at all) or someone bought it right before my appointment. I couldn’t win. So when I got a message from my old trainer, recommending this one seller and to check out one of her horses in particular, I was intrigued. She was in Florida, so a bit too far to travel, but after talking to her, previous clients of hers and getting many many pictures and videos of this horse, Pilgrim was mine!
Oh, and after the most extensive pre-purchase exam I have ever had the pleasure of paying for. Many x-rays were taken on that day. And much insurance was signed for.
Now….to get him from Florida to North Carolina.
Shipping was just not happening. Two different shippers bailed out the DAY BEFORE they were supposed to pick him up. He sat at the seller’s farm for TWO WEEKS while I
cursed patiently attempted to find alternate transport. Finally the seller found an eventer who was on her way home and had a space for him. I met her about 40 miles away with my own trailer so that she didn’t have to go too far out of her way and we found an abandoned gas station to make the switch.
Luckily nothing went wrong and he hopped out of the trailer he had been in for the past 8 hours and then walked right onto mine.
We got him back to the barn and he settled right in, drinking and stuffing his face in the hay.
And all was right in the world.
Which brings us to the purpose of this blog- to chronicle the ups and downs and owning and training a young OTTB.
Thank you for reading!