At the time, I cursed every snowflake in the forecast. Little did I know, that brutal winter would lead me to where I am today. It was over a decade ago and I had been taking lessons at a local farm. I had fallen madly in love with an Appaloosa mare, despite the fact that she had a reputation for making her riders cry. Myself a novice rider at the time, I asked my instructor if I could take a lesson on the spotted beauty. She chuckled a little and said, “Sure! Why not!” My instructor must have either had a sadistic side that I wasn’t aware of, or I had successfully shammed the poor woman into thinking that I knew what I was doing. A week later, I had the chance to ride my dream horse! I mounted up and we trotted gloriously around the ring as my heart swelled with adoration for this poor horse that had been mercilessly monikered “Mean-a Gina.” I wondered to myself how this perfectly behaved angel could possible have earned such a cruel nickname. As any smitten horse girl would do, immediately following that fateful lesson I marched up to the barn owner with my checkbook ablaze and asked to lease the glorious creature. The barn owner, with a twinkle in her eye, heartily accepted my offer (and my check) and I had free rein to visit the “Appy of my eye” as much as I wanted.
Over the next few weeks, I learned valuable lessons in horsemanship including: how to sit a buck (or three), how to hold on when your horse attempts to scrape you off on the arena wall, not to panic when your horse charges the arena mirror, and how beautifully a horse’s mane billows as they rear up at you while on the end of a longe line. You know, the basics. What my fiesty furry friend didn’t realize was that, no matter what she threw at me, I was too love-blind to see anything but her soft muzzle and her warm brown eyes.
Yet another snow storm was predicted and the unthinkable happened! The barn’s arena roof collapsed as the snow piled up. Luckily, the stall barn was safe and no one was injured. After shoveling out, I rushed to the barn to visit my beautiful mare and to help with snow removal. A day or two passed, paths were cleared to the turnout paddocks, and the long and arduous process of insurance claims began for the poor barn owners.
About two weeks had gone by and, every day on the way home from work, I stopped to check on Gina, groom her, and give her a daily dose of peppermints and carrots. Over those weeks, I noticed a deterioration in Gina’s affect. When asked about it, the barn owner indicated that Gina was too difficult to put outside due to a combination of her antics and the icy conditions. My poor girl hadn’t been outside in weeks and it was clearly wearing on her!
I went home in a tizzy and told my husband about the situation. I also, slyly added that I knew Gina was up for sale and reminded him that we had plenty of room at our house if we only had a run-in shed for shelter. Being a wise man, he recognized a loosing battle and simply said, “When do you need to have a barn by?” I lit up, reconfirmed that I indeed was seated next to the best hubby in the world, and said, “Next week would be perfect! I’ll order round pen panels for fencing and go to the feed store for hay and grain this weekend.” The next day, our carpenter friend had been enlisted for the weekend and plans were underway.
Being the prudent and cautious person that I am, I decided to seek the advise of the dear friend that I had met at the barn. I told her of my plans and the conversation that followed started an annual tradition- she gives me sound advise and I disregard every word. As any good friend would, she told me that this horse was not for a beginner and that I could buy a much better trained mount for the same amount of money. Again, as any good friend would, she also followed up her words of caution with, “I’m in! What time do you need me to be at your house to help?”
To make a short story long, Gina came home and turned out to be the sweetest, most reliable horses I have ever known. Now at eighteen years old, she is a rock-star lesson horse (we started a lesson program 4 years ago), can dance the hokey pokey (true story), and is a farm favorite with students young and old alike. It turns out, Gina knew what she was doing all along and it was me that had a lot to learn!