This week, I’m pleased to hand the blog reins over to my friend and fellow rider Holly. Like many equestrians, Holly was a horse-obsessed youngster who delayed her dreams until she was an adult. She’s graciously shared the story of how her life intersected with that of a curmudgeonly ex-police horse named Roscoe. You can find Holly’s own website with links to her scholarly work (plus photos of her Irish setters!) at www.hollykruse.com.
As it turned out, the process of the therapeutic riding center becoming independent of the university at which I work and becoming its own 501(c)3 non-profit created an opportunity for me to buy Roscoe. He became the first of the former Tulsa horses to be sold into private hands.
So, now I had my own horse. Roscoe! He was mine, and I was his. He moved to my friend Richal’s place in fall of 2014, where he has his own stall, he gets turned out on grass every day, and he gets full-care board. In the winter, someone puts his blanket on and takes it off. In the summer, someone sprays him with fly spray every day… and that someone isn’t me! I can ride him whenever I want. He actually has a buddy at the barn with whom he is turned out, an adorable bay half-Hanoverian/half-Quarter-Horse named Semper Fi. They are quite fond of each other.
With Roscoe at the barn, I was able to have all of my lessons on him. He still, however, had the same problems, and I wasn’t very good at fixing them. I missed being able to ride experienced lesson horses Sundance and Heza. But slowly, Roscoe and I became a better team, and I became more confident riding him: this, despite the fact that Roscoe has bucked me off twice in the past year. These days I am able to remember what to do when Roscoe tries to scrape me off on the rail, and we can canter without Roscoe veering into the middle of the arena.
I’m not sure when I decided that I might actually want to compete in a schooling show on Roscoe. It’s a fairly recent development. I’d competed and continue to compete with my Irish setters in almost every available venue – conformation, agility, obedience, rally, hunt tests – and I wasn’t interested doing horse shows. I think the change happened this year at an early spring schooling show when I saw a Prix Caprilli test, and I learned that there is a walk-trot test. Roscoe is easily bored, and he enjoys trotting over poles and low jumps. Maybe he would like Prix Caprilli? It seemed much better than just walking and trotting in circles and across diagonals. Two other developments might have contributed to my change of heart. First, although Roscoe doesn’t like wearing a bit, I’d been persuaded to buy him a dressage bridle. I found that he would tolerate a hollow mouth, French-link bit pretty well, and I discovered a blingy browband that Roscoe just had to have. For shows, I guess.
The second development was getting the results of Roscoe’s DNA breed ancestry test, performed at the Animal Genetics Laboratory at Texas A & M University. I sent in $35 and more than the minimum 50 mane (or tail) hairs that the DNA test requires. The results showed that Roscoe was indeed not the Quarter Horse that his police paperwork had claimed that he was. No, his big head, big feet, big bone, and big ears finally all make sense, because he is in fact a Warmblood. Well, with some Mountain Pleasure Horse thrown in, which I assume accounts for his smaller stature and his flaxen mane and tail.
Now that I knew that I owned (or was owned by) a Warmblood, I had to enter a dressage show. It’s the law, right?
I’d never ridden in a horse show, and Roscoe had never been in a horse show, so I wasn’t foolish enough to ride him in his first schooling show. I made Stephanie do it. You may recall that she wrote about the experience here. They did well! After watching them, I decided that I could probably ride Roscoe in a schooling show and not totally humiliate both of us. So I entered us in a show in late May.
I spent some of the day of our first (and so far only) show walking Roscoe around the arena and around the barn, and standing near the gate, so that he’d be familiar with the surroundings and maybe not be the whinnying baby that he was at his first show. Success. He behaved quite well, including during our ride – even though as with Stephanie, he had the first jump down – and we scored a 65!
I was hooked. Someone put the idea into my head that Roscoe and I should try to qualify for the Schooling Show Championships in the fall. We already have one of the two Prix Caprilli scores that we need, and hey, we could probably qualify in Intro B too. Plus, I seem to have acquired the entire wardrobe required to show in a real dressage show. I do not know how that happened. It’s kind of a blur.
After a late June lesson focusing on jumping low jumps (and plowing into a few of them – my fault), Roscoe is a little off in his right front leg when he trots, so he is getting a break from being ridden. He is not complaining.
I of course hope that Roscoe’s hiatus from being ridden is brief, because even if we never enter another show, this summer I’ve learned that Roscoe likes trail rides. I was brave enough to trust him to behave, and he was stellar on the trail ride that we went on in June. But whatever happens, I am thrilled to have this overly intelligent, very handsome guy and his loads of personality in my life. A guy who loves face rubs and attention from his public, who is bankrupting me, and who admittedly often tries to knock me over to see if cookies fall out. Everyone needs someone like that.