Our friend Bernie swung the door closed on his cow trailer and stood by me at the fence, where we watched a Shetland pony trot across the field. We had just hauled her home for my daughter.
“I know a great trainer,” he said. Your girl could take some lessons.”
That’s all it took. I made the call and scheduled her first session the next week. Turns out that trainer had been a short-listed rider for the Canadian Olympic team. Overkill for a five-year-old, but Blake and I knew our sweet girl would be in good hands.
One thing led to another. Within a few months both daughter and her momma were taking riding lessons and I had a horse of my own—a green-broke Appaloosa who bucked me off within weeks.
Not so good, a green horse and a green rider. After I sold him to a girl with more experience, my trainer found Carlos, a retired 17-hand Appy with Grand Prix schooling. Carlos was what they call a schoolmaster. Now I could learn which mistakes were mine. Most of them were.
And so I began learning dressage—much like waltzing with a horse.
Fast forward years and years, many more lessons and, when Carlos grew too old, another horse. I learned a lot. Still, when Wild Weed came along, I wasn’t sure I was ready.
My trainer and I studied him in a pasture he shared with a couple of sheep. An American Saddlebred (and trained in that discipline, which is quite different from dressage), Weedy looked a bit like a giraffe: long-legged and narrow, with an elegant, stretchy neck that made him seem even taller than his 16 hands.
Abandoned to his stall after an alcoholic owner grew negligent, he was high-strung and—I learned after I bought him—had bitten two girls. His owners’ teen daughter was scared of him.
But as we put him through his paces, his potential shone. The boy could move.
And so, purchase complete, we brought him back to the barn. Unfortunately, he wanted nothing to do with me. He turned away when I entered his stall. Cooly tolerated brushing. Clacked his teeth and swiped at me when I cinched his saddle.
I rode him four days a week for a month before I could press my legs against his sides without him startling as if he’d been shocked. Five months later, he still wouldn’t look at me.
“He just needs time,” my trainer assured me when I spoke my dismay. “Look at his progress.”
In spite of his crankiness and worry, I had to agree. His muscles were developing, and his upright, hollow posture was softening to the the light, round lift and balance of a dressage athlete.
And then his heart came along, too. On a chilly afternoon six months after I first saw him, Weedy nickered at me when I walked into the barn. His head stretched over the stall door and and he nuzzled my outstretched hand.
From then on the horse followed me across the pasture. Stood at the fence when I worked in the yard. Met me when I came to the barn. Looked after me on solo trail rides and worked hard in the arena. When I rode him, we were so in sync I could hardly tell where I left off and he began.
“He finally said yes to all that love,” my husband said one day when I came in from the barn. “You chose him–and now he’s chosen you back.
His words resonated beyond my experience with the horse. I saw a parallel to my own life. Just as I had pursued abandoned, mistrustful Weedy, Jesus kept reaching for mistrustful, defensive me, even when I turned away a thousand times.
Until, one day, I didn’t. And life has never been the same.
Weedy died at age 30, and we buried him on the edge of our south woods. I still keep a lock from his tail curled on my desk.
And I remember how Love’s power transformed us both.
“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19
#dressageriding #besthorsesever #godinnature #watchingnatureseeinglife #viewfromgooseridge #godcalls #AmericanSaddlebred