Gemini's Story ...
I have thought many times of writing my journey down. The journey that I took from someone who loved horses very much-but couldn't afford a horse of my own, to actually owning a wonderful gelding named Whisper. It was not till someone approached me that I finally decided to put it in words for others to read. Most girls at one point in their life want that pony to confide their secrets to, to cry in their mane, and mostly to feel the freedom that we often experience while riding on the back of a horse. I have fought long and hard, through the good and the bad to experience this joy. To be completely honest, looking back, I am glad I experienced what I did. It taught me to remain focused on that dream, to realize that the road to your dream is not always easy, and can be downright tough. By sticking with this dream, I got something so valuable that no matter what, I will always carry it with me.
I was like most young girls, and had always dreamed of being able to ride. Growing up in a single parent home, the option was not available. Sure, I had the pony rides at bay beach, but I kept going until the day they told me that I was too big. It broke my heart. Finally, for my 13th birthday, I got to ride! We went to this campground, and for my birthday, we went on a trail ride. Needless to say, I was hooked. I ended up going to a horse camp where we got to ride in three trail rides. Our second ride....it poured. Did it deter me? Nope. I wanted more. I began to beg people that I knew had horses to just let me ride. I got a few rides that way, but that dried up. At this point, I was so itching to ride, it was just killing me.
One day at my job I was searching through the local paper's classified ads and happened to come across an ad. There was a woman who was looking for hay in exchange for riding her horses. Of course I was intrigued, and gave her a call. This is how I met my good friend, Judy. I started taking lessons on her mare, Raven.
Raven was a blood bay 14.2 mare. And she was all mare! I started out learning how to catch a horse, and still to do this day I use her method to toss the leadrope over their neck before haltering. I then learned my balance and some skills while riding bareback and with just a sidepull-no bit. I stayed with her for a few lessons, but we eventually just became friends, and I had already felt like I needed something a bit more.
I knew that I needed something different, something and anything that I could do to be around horses. So I expressed my frustrations to a librarian at my school that I had gotten to know really well. She came to me one day, and told me that she had heard about this group that gives riding lessons to disabled riders. I was very intrigued and started to look into it. Unfortunately the closest group was about 45 minutes away, and I didnít have my license. So I settled for reading their newsletters, and longing for a group to be near me. One day I decided to do another search out of the blue, and low and behold there WAS a group. And it was 3 miles away from me! I was so shocked.
And thatís when I began to volunteer at B.E.A.M.I.N.G I would get on my bike and ride the 3 miles there, muck out stalls, be a side walker, and pretty much do anything I could to stay there. I would leave, exhausted, get back on my bike(in summer) and ride the 3 miles home again after 4 hours of work. This was in 80+ weather, and I was not in shape at all. But I absolutely loved it there. I learned to groom, tack up a horse, and even leading a horse properly. I was over the moon to be able to spend time with horses, that I didnít even miss riding. At first.
As time wore on, and I learned more about general horse care- grooming, tacking up and leading, I began to want more. I wanted to learn to ride. In 2006, my senior year, I created a "bucket" list. On the top of my list was to learn to ride. Not just ride a horse, but learn to ride. I got my license when I was almost 19. Now I could drive to the riding center! This was both a burden and a blessing. Now I didn't have to bike anymore, but it also meant that I could drive to other places.
So I started to call around and check out prices. Nothing was affordable to me! I worked at Subway, and could not afford lesson prices. I had moved out with a roommate, and was living on pennies as it was. So I settled back into being happy with B.E.A.M.I.N.G and started to get really down. I started looking at craigslist. Surely I could afford to buy a horse if I couldn't afford the weekly lessons, right? At least this was partially my mindset. So I came across a horse for lease. Now, I knew how to ride of course. After one horse, two lessons, and never trotting-I considered myself a beginner, but I could ride! So I contacted the lady and I went to go meet Joker.
Once at the stables, I had to be honest. I was a bare beginner. I hadnít even trotted yet! So the lady agreed to let me lease Joker for $80 a month, including two weekly lessons. Finally, a dream come true! Joker was an older horse, 20 years old, but very lovable. I signed the lease and we went our separate ways that day. She asked me to text her when I was ready to come out, so a few days in advance, I started to text her....and call her.... I never heard a response back. I was starting to get frustrated, and finally did create a new e-mail and e-mailed her...just to see. She responded to that email that very night. I told her who I was, and parted ways. I was heartbroken. My first chance to really get to ride was shattered.
On day I was talking to one of my coworkers...I found out her daughter had a horse! A real live, living breathing horse. I was so excited! We finally worked out a price for her daughter to give me lessons....$10!
So I started to take lessons on a wonderful appaloosa gelding named Topper. I learned a lot of things to do, and some things I should not do. That horse was the horse I started to learn to post on, as well as the first horse I ever cantered on. He was the best confidence builder in the world and really was an awesome horse. His "owner" was a teenage girl, and as the year progressed, the boyfriend began to take her further away from horses.
Gemini and Topper
One day it was a beautiful summer day, and the outdoor arena was finally open! It was a beautiful sight to see a nice raked arena just beckoning us on a warm summers day. I think that was the fastest we ever cleaned him up(this was not an easy task as him being a leopard appaloosa he was about 85% white...)! So we throw on a halter/leadrope, and run outside. Getting out to the outdoor, I asked the girl, "Should we do anything with the tractor in the arena?" She goes "No, there is plenty of room, he will leave it alone." So I was like, ok, and she decided to free lunge him.
Topper was let loose, and he FLEW! What a beautiful sight to watch him running free, tail streaming behind him, enjoying the freedom as much as we enjoyed watching him. Well, as horses do best, he decides to go near the tractor...and fit between the fence and tractor. First time he was ok, and backtracked. Then he decided to try again. As he was trying to go through, he realized he couldnít fit and again backed up. Then he caught his feet in the drag, and it was like slow motion as my heart stopped as I see his leg caught in a metal drag. He gave a tug, and bolted off. We both breathed a sigh of relief.
Then I hear the girl scream. A scream I can still hear in my mind today. I looked over at Topper, and my heart stopped again. When he was trying to get in between the tractor and fence, he had gotten himself caught on some part of the tractor, and gauged himself down the bone. It was pumping blood, running down his white coat and dripping into the dirt. He just kept running and running.
His owner was hyperventilating at this point and Topper finally came to us and let us put his halter on. His owner ran to the house screaming for the barn owners. They came out and called the vet. The owner also called her mom who came out. We brought Topper into the barn. This was about 6:30 pm. The vet did not come out till 10:30pm. We all took turns holding Topper, making sure he didnít lie down and get shavings into the wounds. When the vet arrived, I left the stall as I could not take it anymore. It took the vet about 2 hours to finish stitching him up.
It took about a month and a half for Topper to heal up, and he healed up without even a scar. Ever since that incident, I felt the owner slipping away. She started to make excuses about why we couldnít do a lesson, and started to bring her boyfriend to the barn while doing lessons, so I was pretty much left alone.
The 'lessons' were pretty much only a confidence builder as I didnít learn much for safety or proper 'form'. On New Yearís Eve, I was working at my job and I spotted the owner. On my last break, I texted her, telling her that I saw her there, and just wanted to say hi. She texted me back telling me that I couldn't ride Topper anymore. I sat there, stunned, and finally asked why. She told me it was because he was 'depressed' when I rode him, and she could tell he was because he never acted that way when she was there.
I went home that night and cried myself to sleep. She told me that I could go see him one last time, so I went out the next day when I knew she would be at school, and said goodbye to the horsey love of my life. I owed a lot to that horse and I knew deep down that it was over.
Towards the end of me riding Topper, I did often wonder if it was time to leave that situation, go to something new and better for me. I wanted to really learn to ride, and Topper was a wonderful confidence builder, but I really needed more experience. So I started to look at barns again for riding lessons. Again, I was shocked at the prices. How could I afford this? Working at walmart still, I barely made enough to cover my gas, food, and rent. I started reaching out to barns, asking if I could work off part of my lessons.
I found a dressage barn that was willing to let me work off part my lessons in exchange for cleaning tack. YES! Of course I would be willing. I got to work off part of the money, as well as learn about the other end of riding. The chores and upkeep of having a horse. I emailed her back and forth, trying to arrange a time to do lessons. She kept taking weeks and weeks to get back to me. So with a heavy heart I started looking again.
All I could find were darn saddleseat lessons. Coming from a stock horse background (riding at least) I was really not impressed with these high stepping flighty horses with the bug eyes. I really did not want to learn saddleseat. Finally, I had no choice, and contacted a barn and explained my plight. She agreed to figure something out, and invited me to come try a lesson. This was January of 2010.
I paid for the first lesson, $25. Their normal lesson prices were $35 an hour. I took the lesson on this gelding named Kheno. He was a good beginnerís horse, and also a well-seasoned one. I had not carried a crop at this time, and he knew it. That first lesson was a battle! Getting off, I was exhausted, and I wasn't sure about it. Then she told me the great news. They would allow me to work off the entire lesson cost....for one hour of work! I would clean for one hour, and get an hour lesson in return! There was absolutely no way I could turn something that good down.
So I began to take lessons on the saddlebreds. I admit that it took me a while to warm up to this breed. They were flighty, but yet they had a certain elegance and just spirit to them. Even Kheno, the king of laziness just had this pride them emanated from them. It did not take me long to love them too. Kheno taught me so much in such a short time. He was a "spooker" and spooked every single lesson. It was frustrating at first, and then I learned to basically ignore it. I was able to keep him trotting after a spook, and pick up my lead before long. We had our days where it was like banging my head against the wall, and then those days that had me grinning from ear to ear like a fool.
I learned inside an arena, outside arena, and even in an open field. The day I got to ride him out by myself in an open field was the day that I knew, for a fact, that I would own my own horse someday. We had our trials that day, but it was by far one of the best lessons. I learned so much about the saddlebred world there. Between breeding, babies, showing, and tail sets. It was a different world from a pet barn, but it was worth every minute of my time.
Then around the end of July, heading back from breyerfest, I get this text from Topper's old owner. Not the gal teaching me, but her mom. She texted me telling me that she was selling Topper. This was a major shock. I was coming back from a beautiful vacation, and now I had this hanging over my head. What was I supposed to do? I asked her if I could out there and see him again, just to see him once more. She agreed and I went out there. I broke down at the sight of him, but I knew deep down that it wasnít the right time for me. I could barely afford to support myself, much less a horse. I walked away, knowing that this he was gone from my life for good.
I continued to take lessons at the saddlebred barn. About a month later, I started looking through the leases again. I found a lease horse for $75 a month! An older horse named Rowdy. I went with my rose colored glasses, but unfortunately it was not the right time. He was far too thin to be ridden by anyone but a child. I ended the lease after the first month, and kept on riding at the saddleseat barn.
Towards the end of my lessons at the saddlebred farm, they were losing the farm due to money. They had to move all the horses out of the main barn and put them in a separate barn for the time being. The lessons started to be sporadic, and I was starting to realize this too was ending. When my instructor stopped texting me, I knew it was over. Oddly enough this one wasnít a huge blow. I still very much missed Kheno very much, but I had learned so much.
The last lesson I had there was on a saddlebred named Breeze. She had taken off on me at a dead gallop, but I stayed on, and was able to stop her. I donít know if this had anything to do with them ending the lessons, but I think it was due more to the money.
So I snuck back one day to grab my helmet, and never went back. I miss that barn and riding Kheno very much. Kheno taught me a lot about balance, and my posting had gotten excellent during this time. I also did canter Kheno a few times, but never had gotten comfortable doing that. I was horseless yet again. My friend Julie let me ride her mare a few times, but Onyx was really big, and was too much for me. At this point, I was really just ready to give up. What was the point? Nothing good would ever last for me. I was very discouraged and just didnít want to try anymore.
My friend Julie contacted me one day with some exciting news. She had been contacted by a lady who wanted Julie to train her yearling some halter stuff and just general ground work. She also had this horse that was just sitting there. A trail gelding who she had purchased to ride while her mare was pregnant. Oh, and she had a (small) indoor arena. So, Julie being a great friend mentioned that I was looking for a horse to ride. The gal told her I could come meet him!
Pepsi was a 7 year old horse that was a trainerís horse formerly. He was a chunky butt foundation bred quarter horse, and total snot. She told me he was completely my responsibility when I was there. I decided if he had a blanket on that night, if he had treats, if I was going to work him or let him rest. It was pretty much a full lease, but I didnít have to pay anything. We also became friends. She would invite me to her house and feed me supper. The warm weather passed quickly, and she was going to be leaving for the winter. I really wanted to ride, so I signed another lease paper. I took him to a nearby farm, where I was then responsible for board and all upkeep. It was terrifying, but also very exciting!
Pepsi was the first horse I ever fell off of-twice. He taught me to get back on when you fall off. He let me experience some ďtrainingĒ which was very fun. So I brought him to this new barn for the winter. They had a huge indoor arena so I could really get some work done with Pepsi with fewer distractions.
After riding there for a few days, I met this girl Jennifer who was leasing a horse there. She was a beginner rider as well, so we had a lot in common. We began to ride together most days, even showing up at the same time when we didnít plan it! It was so nice to be able to ride with someone. I also began to help her out with her riding, and on the ground. As the time went on, Jennifer expressed her desire to stop leasing and to finally own her own horse. So we started to look together. I started out making phone calls to potential horses, talking to the owners and then passing on the information to Jennifer. We started to go see these horses. I drove with her in a blizzard, watched her heart break as each horse didnít work out. I called into work to go with her. I pretty much gave it my all, trying to find that special horse for her.
Middle of January and Brenda had come back from her vacation so I went to go see her. I gave her the good update, that me and Pepsi were doing great! She then tells me she wants to pull him out of the boarding stable and bring him back home. So I was doing some hard thinking. I wouldnít be able to ride the rest of the winter, and I knew that if he returned, and sat for the whole winter, I would have another huge mess. Before I made my decision, she made it for me. She contacted me on facebook, telling me that she had decided to just sell him. She then asked me if I would help. I told her no, that I would not help her sell the horse that I had worked with and loved.
I parted ways and honestly, after it was all said and done, it was ok. It sucked at the time, but it did not take long for me just to say screw it. It was not worth getting worked up over. At this time I was still looking for a horse for Jennifer. One day I pull up craigslist, and my heart stopped.
Topper was for sale again.
This was the time that I knew, this was my last chance. I just knew deep down that if I didnít act, that he would be gone forever. So I contacted the owner, told her I would buy him, but I wanted to go out and see him one more time, before I made my decision. So I contacted Jennifer, who knew my history with Topper. I asked her to come with me, so I didnít have to go alone. Jennifer and I went out there on a Wednesday afternoon. His feet were in such terrible shape, it was heartbreaking. So I just got on him, and rode him around the indoor at a walk. I then let Jennifer ride him quick, as I wanted her to see what a great horse he was.
Left the barn, knowing I had to make a HUGE decision. I talked it over with Jenny, not sure what to do. I texted Chris that night, telling her I would let her know on Friday. The next day I went to the bank, did some figuring, and figured out that I could ďsqueezeĒ him in to my life.
So on Friday, I had to work, so I figured I would call Chris(toppers owner) and tell her that I was indeed taking him when I got done with work! About 15 minutes to my lunch, I get this voicemail. Of course I couldnít check it till lunch time. I went outside to listen to the voicemail. It was Chris telling me that she had sold Topper to a family who had a two person income and that she was sorry, but the decision had been made.
I sat outside of my work building and positively bawled. People that I worked with just walked past, and no one seemed to notice that my heart had been completely broken in too many pieces to put back together. So I finished work, which was incredibly hard, but somehow I made it through that hellish day.
I was to find out that my heart could indeed be broken more. I called Jenny, sobbing to tell her Topper had been sold. She wouldnít pick up her phone, so I texted her. Still no response. So I go onto Facebook, and I see a recent feedÖShe had posted on someoneís page with ďHis name is Topper JĒ And my heart sank even further. No way could that have happened. So I finally get ahold of Jenny, and tell her that Topper was sold. Complete silence. She finally spoke up, saying that it was her that had bought him.
I literally thought my heart was no more. I was in such shock, I just sat there on the phone in utter disbelief. She kept apologizing, saying she didnít mean to hurt me, but that she had just been offered him, and that he was what she had been looking for. I couldnít even believe what she was saying. My best friend, the one who I had helped all this timeÖhad turned on me. Back stabbed me in the worst possible way.
That night was probably close to one of the worst nights of my life. I honestly wasnít sure that I was going to make it through this, and thanks to my wonderful cat Phoenix, who would not leave me alone, I got through the night and the next couple of days. To say the next few months were better, would unfortunately be a lie. Between the nasty calls back and forth between me and Chris, Jennifer, and her sister, it got really nasty. I know that I had a huge part in it, but I was hurt beyond belief.
I was honestly ready to call it quits with horses. Between this situation, and all the other total failures, I just didnít have the strength to go on. The possibility of getting hurt when I was already so fragile just terrified me. I vowed to never full in love with a horse again.
As much as I never wanted to experience the pure pain that came with loving horses, a part of me was missing. I was still volunteering for the therapeutic riding center at this time, but if anything it made it worse. Being around these wonderful horses, seeing others ride, and knowing that I wasnít able to was too much to take.
I took a few lessons from a gal, but those too quit. I was seriously about ready to give it up. I decided to try leasing again. So I posted an ad online, and man, some of the responses I got! I did try a few horses, but I didnít find the ďoneĒ. One day I saw an ad posted looking for someone to lease their horses. I decided to go look at the horse. There were too main issues with this horse. The horse was gaited and a mare. I had only ridden a gaited horse once, and I do not really enjoy mares. However, the price was right as well as the location. So I emailed her, and went out to meet this horse.
I honestly wish I could say it was love at first sight. She was beautiful, small, and a sweetheart. She was also stubborn, and had a mind of her own. I began to lease her, not letting my guard fall. No way would this 14Ē hand sweetheart get into my heart. Star was a 14 hand, 6 year old spotted saddle horse. A little pushy on the ground, but anyone could ride that horse and she would give it her all. I started riding her only with a saddle, but soon progressed to riding her bareback indoors. Oh, what a feeling!
Soon after my lease started, we got outside. I would ride her in the front and back fields completely alone. It was so amazing to trust a horse so much. I would also take her through the woods, knowing I was safe on her back. She was the first horse I had ever cantered bareback. And the first horse I ever cantered in an open field still bareback. She truly gave me so much confidence.
Someone had asked me in the beginning if I would buy her, and I told them no. After a few months, there was no doubt in my mind that I would buy this girl in a second if I had the chance. I had the best six months of my life with that little mare. She taught me so much, and just was perfect for me. After about 4-5 months though, I ached for something more. I had gotten a new job and was making a lot more money. I wanted something that was mine.
Starís owner told me that she had recently contacted Starís old owners, and turns out that Starís mom was for sale! I really wasnít sure what to do. I really loved star, and loved gaiting, but did I really want this? Did I want a mare, and give up trotting? She sounded like a perfect horse for me, so after much deliberation, I went to IL to visit her. Fancy was everything the owner had said. She was beautiful, calm, and wonderfully gaited. My gut however was churning so much- I wasnít sure she was it. I wasnít ready to give up my trotting. So I started to visit a few other horses while deciding.
I looked at another spotted saddle horse that was crazy and out of control. I left that barn, and Fancy looked better than ever! So now the search was on full-force! I saw four more horses in a matter of a few days. It was so overwhelming. I didnít want to tell anyone that I was looking for a horse to buy. I had made up my mind and did not need anyone to sway my decision. Only a few select people knew that I was even looking. I had a good friend with me for the horses I looked at. I did need that one person who was going to be my ďrockĒ to keep me afloat while I looked at all these horses.
Each horse was more disappointing than the last one. It wasnít that they were worse, I just never thought I could find an affordable horse that was for me. Then I looked at two horses in one day. The first one was my absolute dream horse color. Dark bay, white star/snip and just handsome! And he was really close by. He was calm, and a very good boy. He had some issues with the bridle, but with winter coming up, I knew I could handle it.
I left that place, so super excited! I had found a horse that I wanted! It was the first time leaving that I actually wanted that horse! We went to the next horse. This horse advertised as a 6 yr old quiet trail horse. I went to see him with extreme doubts. A six year old trail horse that was in my price range? Doubtful!
The owner asked if I wanted him to ride him first, but he was so quiet that I said no, and got on him. He was extremely quiet, and didnít even spook at a really loud noise outside. I was still a bit doubtful, but decided to canter him. He went into it, but when I asked him to stopÖhe stopped. Really fast. I almost went flying! Well, I knew he had a stop on him. My friend then rode him, and I played with him on the ground a bit. He had almost NO ground manners when it came to leading, but that was my challenge!
So we got back in the car, and I was debating harder than I had in my life. I asked Bethany which one she thought was better, and she didnít miss a beat and said that it was an easy choice. Still confused, I asked her which one, and she said this guy. I was quiet for the ride home. I loved the first horse, but this horse was also very nice too. This was to be a decision that would change my entire life.
So I contacted this horses owners, asked if I could come back out and try again. I brought my dressage saddle, and rode outside. We went through mud and fields, and had cars pass us extremely close. Not even a flicker that he even cared about anything. I was sold. So after a vet check, my dream had finally come true.
Gemini and Whisper - a new journey begins together
No words can even describe the feeling of actually owning my first horse. Coming from a background that just didnít allow horses to actually owning my very own horse, there are no words. Driving to the barn with my horse in the trailer was an experience that will never be duplicated. I finally let people on facebook know and my notifications just simply exploded. I was a proud horse momma!
Not to say my horse ownership hasnít had its hardships though. There were moments, especially in the beginning that I really wondered if I had made the right decision. We went through a nasty abscess to dealing with his stubbornness and not wanting to move out. A few months into owning him, I had a bad fall off of him on the trail. It has been an emotional roller coaster that I would not trade for nothing.
When someone had approached me to write my story, I brushed it off at first. However, it began to creep on me in my thoughts. I finally figured, why not. I wanted people to see that giving up is not the answer. It was long and hard process to get to ownership. It hurt like hell sometimes, and yet I donít think I would trade it for anything in the world. I have come to realize each situation has made the owning situation that much easier. I had been through it all-I knew how to handle the pain and hurt. Since owning Whisper, I have come to forgive those that have hurt me in the past. It wasnít easy, but I did let myself forgive. I have become an adult since owning my boy.
So the only thing left I have to say to those that read this is to keep on trying. It will not always be easy, and nor will it continue to be easy.
When you walk into the barn, and your horse nickers at you for the first time, the troubles will disappear.