Monday, August 31, 2009

The Horse that Taught me to Train

I am very pleased to announce the newest member of Equestrian Ink: Terri Rocovich. Terri is an amazing horse woman, trainer and also a dear friend. she is also an awesome writer, and I think you are going to enjoy reading her stories here on Mondays. Here is a little more info about who Terri is and what she is about:

Terri Rocovich is a Level IV (through A level) USPC National Examiner for Traditional and Dressage Specialty ratings and has served as the RIC for the Southern California region. She currently serves on the USPC National Testing Committee and has been a Pony Club instructor, Examiner and Prep clinician for nearly 20 years. Terri currently serves as the Head Instructor for the Rainbow Pony Club as well as an instructor for the Poway Valley Pony Club in San Diego County. She is a respected clinician for numerous pony clubs throughout the United States and has successfully prepped students up through the HA and A level.

A rider and competitor for over 40 years, Terri has competed successfully in Dressage up through 4th Level and Eventing up through Preliminary. Her experience as a rider, trainer and manager encompasses Western and English plus many other aspects of the horse industry. Growing up on a race horse breeding ranch, Terri worked with racehorses, breeding, foaling, and breaking young horses. She also competed in gymkhana and enjoyed a successful run barrel racing on the professional rodeo circuit earning CBRA Rookie of the Year in 1982.

Terri owns and operates the Rocking Horse Training and Care Center, a boarding, training and rehabilitation facility in Ramona, California. She continues to compete on her own and client’s horses at CDS/USDF recognized shows and USEA Horse Trials as well as coach juniors and adult amateurs in Dressage and Eventing. She still enjoys breaking several young horses each year and at times takes in rescue horse for training and rehabilitation. Working closely with several veterinarians, her facility also handles post injury and post surgical rehab cases. In addition to her equestrian pursuits, Terri holds advanced degrees in Marketing, Public Relations and Journalism and currently works as a freelance writer and marketing consultant. Terri is currently writing her first novel set in the world of three day eventing about three women whose lives intersect with one another, setting them on journey filled with life lessons.

Please welcome Terri to Equestriain Ink:

As a career writer, I come from a slightly different background than many of the published authors on this blog. I have ridden and competed in various disciplines my entire life, but my writing has been more in the corporate/marketing realm rather than fiction. Although I have been working on producing the great American novel for nearly a decade, most of my writing energy has been spent on the development of brochures, seminar material, grant proposals and website text which, of course, is a more reliable source of income. For the first 20 plus years of my professional life, I worked in politics and corporate America in various marketing roles and would ride, train and compete my horses in my spare time. My thought was always that I needed a “real job” to support myself and my horse habit. But in 2000, I took the leap of faith into self-employment, and made teaching and training horses my primary job and writing my extra source of income. It’s a decision I have not regretted for a second and my career as a trainer took flight without a single look back.

With that said I decided to make my first blog entry about the horse that taught me to train. As a life-long equestrian (I started riding as age 3, unless you count my Mom riding when she was pregnant) I have learned that every horse we encounter teaches us something. I have been blessed with many special horses in my life and one of the most extraordinary was a little quarter horse mare named Carrie.

It was a brisk morning toward the end of December that I awoke and meandered to the kitchen only to find it empty. All I found was a card that said “this is Birthday note #1; proceed to Birthday note #2”. This led me through a series of notes to a half a dozen spots on my family’s southern California ranch, finally ending up in the barn where before me was an amazing site. In the first stall stood a scrawny bay yearling filly with a huge red bow around her neck surrounded by my sisters and parents. My dumbfounded reaction was to ask “Is she mine?” To which my sister’s response was “of course stupid, it is your Birthday.” This was the beginning of a partnership that would span nearly 32 years.

Months before this eventful day I had declared that all I wanted for my birthday was a young horse that I could train and, most importantly, would not have to share with my siblings. As the youngest of 3 horse crazy girls, my previous mounts had been an array of equine hand-me-downs that were aging and half broken down by the time they were passed to me. Even then, at age 16, I was fascinated with the process of training young horses. I loved the bond it created as well as solving the puzzle of the best means of communicating what you wanted to the horse. So I wanted a young horse all my own to train, but in reality Carrie taught me far more than I ever taught her. Carrie’s gentle trusting nature, her willingness and tolerance taught me to be kind, consistent and patient in my training. Her incredible athleticism helped me learn the aids for gaits, leads and changes as well as how, by listening to her, my body could tell her when to turn, when to speed up, when to stop and keep us both in balance.

Like many of my fellow contributors to this site, I enjoyed a childhood filled with horse play, long trail rides, and horse shows. Carrie was incredibly sensible for a young horse, especially considering I had little clue of what I was doing. We were figuring it out together as we went along. After a year and a half of treating her like she was a dog, leading her everywhere, grooming her endlessly and on one occasion trying to sneak her into the house, breaking her consisted of simply climbing onto a fence one day and slipping onto her bare back and trotting off with nothing more than a halter on. Boy do I wish the thoroughbreds and warmbloods that I break today were as amiable.

Carrie also gave me my first taste of competitive success. Believe it or not, that scrawny little filly purchased at auction for a whopping $200, turned out to be one of the best barrel horses in our area winning a decent amount of money on the pro-rodeo circuit. Who would of thought? Many of my friends and fellow competitors used to joke, “Hey lady, I’ll give you double what you paid for the horse”.

But there was no parting me from that amazing mare. We were soul mates in every sense of the word and even though I have been blessed with a couple of incredible equine partners since, she will always be the first and most special. Carrie spent 31 of her 32 years of life with me and even today, her remains reside in a beautiful oak urn sitting in a place of honor in my living room. Perhaps I would have had my life long passion for horses even without her friendship and perhaps I would have still become a professional trainer even without the skills she taught me. But I don’t think I would have become as good as one and I don’t think that without her guidance, I would have the same respect and understanding for what horses teach us.

I know that without question Carrie was more than a 16th Birthday present; she was a gift from above perhaps intended to set me on my eventual path.

What have your horses or other pets taught you? What are your favorite lessons learned from animals over the years?
I look forward to reading your comments!
Terri Rocovich


A.K. Alexander said...

Good to have you here, Terri!

I have also been fortunate to have a handful of horses who have taught me quite a bit. I had a pony named Charlie as a kid who taught me the meaning of tenacity as he enojoyed bucking me off reguarly. Our horse Ivan taught me how to really laugh as he was propably one of the happiest horse I've ever known.

My current horse Krissy though is the one horse I have felt completely connected to, and she has taught me patience, as she has a knack for getting injured every few months! My daughter's pony Monty has taught me the real meaning of compassion and gratitude.

They do teach us so very much, don't they!

Jami Davenport said...

Welcome, Terri. We're so happy to have you here!!!

Laura Crum said...

Welcome and greetings, Terri. I guess my previous post says a bunch about what all my different horses have taught me over the years. I could never pick out one as the main "teacher", though. I learned to train horses (though I never called myself a "trainer") one horse at a time. My current main mount, Sunny, continues to teach me a lot. He needs me to be pretty agressive and dominant with him, but at the same time, he comes through for me like a real babysitter when we're faced with a tricky situation on the trail--its an odd and interesting combination of traits in a horse.