My name is Katie, and I'm a 27 year old horse crazy gal! I work full time as a microbiologist, and I am also about 6 months away from earning my masters degree in public health (if I ever finish my thesis...). I just recently adopted my OTTB, Kwik, and he is The Most Wonderful Horse in the World! I haven't ridden consistently in a long time, I'm a semi first-time horse owner, and most of the time I have no clue what I'm doing (thankfully I'm surrounded by horsey folk who are always willing to help!).
I've always loved horses, and it's weird because I'm the only person in my entire family tree with horsey inclinations. Mom loves to tell the story about the time she and Dad took me to a farm for my first ride. We rented a horse for Dad to lead me around on. I had a blast, but Dad ended up getting his foot stepped on. Mom also likes to talk about the time I ended up in the hospital from a bout of food poisoning. Apparently the first thing I wanted to do when I got out was to go ride the horsey (which meant the merry-go-round at K-mart). I've seen the video footage from the pony ride and petting zoo birthday party I had in our backyard when I was 3, and I refused to go to Girl Scout Camp unless it involved horses and riding. Mom signed me up for riding lessons when I was in the fifth grade, and I was hooked!
Girl Scout Camp- loooong time ago
After my first year of lessons I started cleaning water buckets in exchange for an additional lesson each week. Man that was hard work- that barn had like 50 stalls! It was totally worth it :-) When my favorite instructor left, my two barn buddies and I switched barns. I met Mary while volunteering at a summer camp at the farm, and she invited us out to her Aunt Fran's farm. This little farm became my home away from home. Fran let us take our pick of her 4 horses, and it was here that I really learned the joys of galloping in a field, splashing around in a creek on trail rides, and JUMPING! Now I had taken hunter jumper lessons for about 4 years at this point, but the farm's fields still had some cross country jumps set up from Fran's son's riding days, and boy did I have a blast! Fran and her husband even surprised us one day with an awesome wishing well jump they built and painted one weekend. Don't you just love (the good kind of) horse people? I think Fran and her husband really enjoyed watching two middle schoolers fall in love with horses and riding, and they were always willing and eager to teach us everything they knew.
The Wishing Well
A family friend of Fran's agreed to give me and my little crew dressage lessons. When it became clear I wasn't going to learn much on the little Appaloosa mare I typically rode, my parents said those magic words that every little girl longs to hear, "I think it's time you had a horse of your own." WHAT?!?!?! My dressage instructor pointed us in the direction of another student with a horse for sale, and the next week Jasper was waiting in the paddock for me to try on for size. All it took was one jump over that wishing well, and that horse was MINE. ALL MINE. Jasper was an 16 year-old OTTB. He was super thin and had absolutely no dressage training. But man could that horse jump!
Over the next couple of years, Jasper and I struggled to grasp dressage, and thanks to the endless patience of Jessica and another instructor, we finally managed some decent scores at local dressage shows, combined tests, and HTs.
We didn't show a lot, but I really enjoyed competing.
And then the unthinkable happened. I answered the phone one day after school, and the girl who was in charge of evening feeding said Jasper wasn't moving in his stall. Mom rushed her sobbing, hysterical daughter to the farm. My beautiful boy, my first horse, was gone. I was devastated. High school got hard, I got really good at playing the french horn, college applications were due, and I just didn't ride anymore.
I think perhaps most of us horse people lose our horsey way at some point, but we're never lost for too long. I was in the student rec center one day (I don't do gyms, so this really was fate), and I noticed a flyer advertising tryouts for our IHSA team. I hadn't ridden in two years, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to go to the meeting. Apparently I lost my mind because I ended up at the tryouts that Saturday. I remember standing at the arena rail waiting for the coach to call my tryout group. My heart jumped into my throat as I tried to remember how to check my diagonal, how to make sure I was on the correct canter lead, etc. What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I remember ANYTHING? This was a REALLY bad idea. She put me on a big grey horse, and I honestly don't remember much of anything else past that point about that ride. I guess it wasn't too terrible because, to my surprise, I got a call from the coach a couple days later inviting me to join the team. AWESOME! I'm BAAACCCK!
My first team lesson was a nightmare. I hadn't ridden hunt seat since I was in middle school, my stirrups felt like they were up to my armpits, and my legs felt like Jell-o ten minutes into the lesson. I definitely improved over the next couple of lessons. One day the coach said she wanted to see me in her office after my lesson. Oh crap- well I guess she's kicking me off the team. It was fun while it lasted. Apparently there is only space for about 10 girls to compete, and she wanted me to ride! WOW! But there was a catch. I was on a music scholarship (I wasn't kidding about getting good at playing the french horn), and I was required to play at every football game (which, if you're not a college football fan, are on Saturdays). I wrote an email to the band director as soon as I got home to see if there was any way for me to be excused on show days. I was able to finagle my way out of a couple of games, but in the end, money or the lack-there-of forced me to quit the team.
I refused to get lost again, and I began looking for alternatives. I stumbled upon a therapeutic riding program nearby. I began volunteering with the program, and the director, bless her heart, let me ride all of the little problem ponies. I just love ponies. Graduation came, and thankfully, I landed a job. I found a similar therapeutic riding program and volunteered for a while, but I decided I wanted to ride. I mean really ride. So I Googled and a week later ended up atop one of the farm's thoroughbred school horses. By the end of the lesson, we were jumping a small course. That's what I'm TALKING about!
This went on for about 5 months and was all fine and well, but I wanted to ride all the time. I thought about riding when I wasn't riding. I decided I would look into leasing a horse at my lesson barn. After a horrific near-lease experience, I decided it was high time I had a horse of my own. After looking at farm websites in my area to figure out how much it would cost to board a horse in a pretty big city, I broke out my Excel spreadsheet budget and moved things around. Over. And over. And over again. Well, technically I could afford it. I kept playing around with the idea in my head, and I finally decided to allow myself to look at Craigslist and some Thoroughbred adoption websites. I knew I wanted another Thoroughbred, particularly an OTTB. I didn't have the experience to retrain an OTTB myself, but I certainly wasn't in any hurry to be in the show ring any time soon, and I definitely wasn't too proud to enlist the help of a professional. I looked, and I looked. I came across a thoroughbred adoption group in my area. I called and explained that I was an amateur rider looking for a SANE event prospect. She gave me the rundown of the guys and gals, but no one really caught my eye. One day I came across a sweet looking chesnut on her site. I immediately called to inquire, and he had glowing ride reviews. And he likes attention. This guy could definitely be a possibility. I scheduled an appointment to visit him the following week.
I loved him. Frosty was a little thin, but he had a nice animated trot and an awesome rocking chair canter. He was a dream to ride, and I'm sure I had a big dumb smile on my face when I hopped off. The staff let me mess around with him after our ride, and when I turned him out for the night he walked away, turned around, and walked right back over to me. I knew I wanted this guy to come home with me. And so he did. A week later Frosty (or Finn as I had decided to call him) rolled up to my new farm. I was waiting to greet him with my shiny new halter and lead rope (I went a little nuts at Dover).
Long story short, things didn't work out with Finn. I ended up bringing him back to the rescue for resale, and then I met Kwik. He certainly wasn't a finished horse, but he was a safe, fun ride with lots of potential. He had wonderful ground manners and loved to be loved on. He was a ham, and I loved him. He joined my little family in September 2012. We've had some setbacks, but I'm proud of the progress we've made. Follow along as I try to fulfill a lifelong dream to compete in lower level eventing!