I’ve been thinking recently about how long it really takes to bring a horse along from track horse to show horse, specifically dressage horse. It takes a long time. And in our case, the journey was not without pitfalls. Three years ago this coming weekend, Jewel suffered a bout of colic that resulted in surgery at Purdue Large Animal Hospital. Its hard to believe that three years have gone by since that day. I often wonder where the time has gone.
For my horse, though, her recovery has been a long slow process, partly because I wasn’t interested in risking her life. I’m not a big competitor. I’m more interested in the training process. I show to get feedback on the training. But to put it in competitive terms, before her colic, we had been schooling 3rd level and had been registered to ride our first first and second level tests just a couple weeks after her colic surgery. Colic surgery forced everything to be put on hold. A near catastrophic hock injury almost exactly a year later put her on hold again.
Last year, I let other areas of my life interfere and didn’t ride nearly a much as I’d wanted to. But in the past 6 months, I have renewed my commitment to ride my horse (now that she’s sound and ready to work) 5 or more times per week. We showed first level earlier this spring with little preparation and earned scores in the low 60s. While Jewel lacks the strength to properly school many of the third level exercises we schooled at one time, she is looking better this spring than she has in a long time. Topline muscle is not just returning, but growing! And she’s got that spring in her step again. Its taken a long time. My goal for the end of the summer is to show 2nd level with our sites set back on third for some time in 2011. All the “tricks” are still there. Lateral work has always been easy for her. Now its just a matter of strengthening and increasing her carrying power. I find it to be a pretty exciting time. Of course, there is also my own improvement to consider as well. I’m not a third level rider, I am whatever my horse is on our best day. 🙂
I’m not sure what the future holds for us, but I’m thrilled to have a willing and able partner in my dressage journey. While I would really love to be able to show third level with Jewel, she has already given me a great gift. That gift is the skills and patience I learned by riding her. Ultimately, those skills have made it possible for me to ride, train and help find new homes for other track horses. That has been well worth the journey.