The Little Horse That Would

If you ask any equestrain, there is always that one special horse that sticks out to them. It may have been the pony that taught them how to ride, the patient schoolmaster that carted them around their first walk/trot class, the first horse that they trained, or even their current partner.
I’ve had a ton of horses come and go throughout my career. I started riding when I was 7, and have probably sat on hundreds of horses in the years since then. I’ve learned something from each and every one.
Buster, the huge QH that I learned to ride on, who taught me how to pick myself up from the dirt.
Jazz, the pony that really taught me how to start my own horses, and deal with all the problems that could arise.
Vinny, the schoolmaster that quietly packed me around courses of various heights, giving me the confidence to tackle fences of any height and width.
Mia, who taught me to deal with any kind of stupidity that arises like it’s not biggie.

Misti, who taught me how to sit a buck that matched that of the best bucking bronco.

Poika, who taught me that proper turn-out safety is a must!
I could go on and on, but today I realized that there is one horse that really sticks out in my head. He’s not a huge, blue-blooded warmblood. He’s not an FEI Level dressage star. He’s not a Grand Prix Jumper. He’s a 15.2 (ish) hand, chestnut QH gelding named Skippy.

When I first started working at Frog’s Leap a few years ago, my jaw dropped when I walked down the barn aisle and saw stall after stall of big (usually bay), beautifully bred warmbloods. Each one was more astounding than the next.

(Seriously… if any of you big-wig riders and trainers are lucky enough to stumble across this… you need to call B. She breeds BEYOND amazing Danish horses.)

Then at the end of the aisle was Skippy. He was all tucked into his little stall, snuggled in his purple blanket (it was February when I started with FLF), making this noise that I can only describe as similar to prisoner banging his cup aganist the bars of his cell.

B told me that I’d sit on him in the spring, when it came time to start into a lesson program. I was a little put-off. Here is this barn of amazing horses, and she was putting me on the little chestnut who was attempting to make my ear drums bleed. I wasn’t so sure about this whole thing.

As winter turned into spring, and I got ready for my first dressage lesson (former hunter/jumper kid here) on Skippy, I was still a little skeptical. I was cocky, I knew what I was doing in the tack (so I thought). I wasn’t some beginner who didn’t know inside from outside.

While I tacked him up, that crafty little bugger threw every trick in the book at me (and still does to this day!). He wiggled, he waggled, he held his breath, he refused to pick up his feet, he held his breath some more. I stopped and looked at him at one point, and raised my eyebrow. Maybe this wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.

My lesson progressed with no real issues, and I was lucky enough to go on to ride a few different horses in the barn, including B’s FEI schoolmaster, Wonder.

I still thank Skippy for opening up this wonderful world of dressage to me, and I’m forever in his debt since he packed me around so quietly while I muddled through things those first few disasterous lessons. He was always patient, always challenging me just enough without pushing it too far. He’s the one that really made me fall in love with the sport, and strive to do better. When I was asking him the right way, he floated, just like all those big warmbloods. When I wasn’t, be patiently waited for me to get my head out of my ass and get with the program.

When he got tangled up in the fence last year, the whole farm was devastated. Luckily his owners (who are an amazing couple themselves) went the extra mile, and after un-wrapping, flushing, applying ointment, and re-wrapping daily for months, we all jumped for joy when Skip was allowed to go outside and enjoy life.

As spring is upon us this year, I’ve been honored to be the one to pilot Skip during his (exactly 10 minute) re-hab rides, and after taking over 9 months off to have a baby, he’s the only horse that I’d sit on my first day back. He took care of me like I was made of china for our walks around the arena, and his second cookie was always well deserved! Now that I’ve gotten the thumbs up from my doctors to be back in full action, I’ll be getting Willow started for show season. I’ll still take Skip on his walks for as long as I’m lucky enough too, and hopefully he’ll be back in action before too long as well.

He’s even in love with Shannon, and snuggled with my belly often while I was pregnant. I would fill his water bucket and he would gently lay his nose against my belly and whuffle it. Shannon would kick, and Skip’s ears would come up and he give my coat a big ‘ole lick. When she was born, I held her up to see him, and he (just as gently) held his nose to her teeny tiny little face and whuffled her in the same way. She gave him a huge gummy smile. How does that NOT melt a Momma’s heart?! I went into the tack room and he tried to follow us. His owner had to stop him from walking all the way through the door. It’s really adorable.

I know that when it’s time for us to move away, I’m going to miss walking in the barn to Skippy’s ‘music’ of teeth raking his stall front, laughing at his misshapen water bucket, watching him babysit the young horses in the field, and sitting on him when I need a good ass kicking from B to go back to the basics.

He’ll be 21 on May 5th, and you can bet I’ll be bringing lots of cookies!

So here’s to Skippy! The little horse that would!

The cookie monster himself!

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