By Terri Rocovich
I don’t know if it is old age descending or a mid-life analysis or what, but lately it does not take much to spark an old memory from the mental tapestry of my experiences with horses and they make me smile. Raised from a small child with horses in my life, like many of us, every childhood memory, every crossroad, every coming of age experience, all involved a horse to some degree.
Yesterday it happened again. I took a big group of my students to a local schooling dressage show and we had a great day. One of the younger girls who will soon be 10, rode a lesson pony of mine named Tahoe. Like many of the horses that I was blessed with as a child, Tahoe is a wise senior citizen of nearly 28 years who knows his job as a schoolmaster and guardian of horse crazy little girls. Tahoe has probably performed more dressage tests than I have in my career and probably, if he could speak, could teach more about the 20 meter circle and how to ride a test than I can.
So yesterday, Tahoe and his current charge rode Training Level Test 1 and ended up with the Blue Ribbon. You could have powered every major city in America with the light of that little girl’s smile as she proudly walked around the warm-up area with the blue ribbon hooked onto Tahoe’s bridle. Even Tahoe seemed to be smiling, or almost smirking, at the other horses as if to say “I still have it you young whipper-snappers; don’t count me out!”
As I watched Tahoe and his little girl with glee, I found myself thinking about the very first blue ribbon I ever got. As the youngest of 3 horse crazy girls, I was often trapped in the shadows of my two older sisters and was at times doomed to be the perpetual recipient of hand-me-downs, including the 4 legged variety. One of those second-hand equines was a retired thoroughbred named Luigi. Now Luigi was basically older than dirt when my Dad bought him for the family, so by the time he was passed to me, he was pretty much a living equine fossil.
At that point in my life, weekends were often spent at the local gymkhana shows where my sister’s and I rode. On this particular day, I was getting to ride Luigi in the show on my own for the first time. Luigi was more than just a little long in the tooth and a bit haggard looking, I think he was about 32 at the time, and had mastered the art of only expending the exact amount of energy that he needed to. So in between classes he would lower his head and snooze, even leaning on something solid like a post if there was one by him.
Boy did I used to get teased about this but I didn’t care. Luigi and I had a special bond and I think he knew that that day was important to me. So when I woke him up from his nap to ride my Single Pole class, something really woke him up and after slowly walking into the arena (to conserve energy of course) he flew down and back on the course like the former race horse that he was and we won the class to the amazement of everyone there. I can still remember the pride and pure joy and I still have that trophy to this day. I hope that every person whether they have horses or not, can experience that feeling of elation at some point in their life. I was 6 years old when that happened and can remember the details of that day as if it were yesterday.
What great memories do you have that always bring a smile to your face and lighten your heart? I am sure like me, that there are many. I would love hear them so please share.