My first mount was Royal Blazer, an early 20's flea-bitten 14.2 (barely) Arab gelding. He was named Dino by his previous owner; in honor of Dean Martin. He was one of those horses that you want a barn full of if you do ANYTHING with kids . He was broke to death and bombproof. You could do anything to him/at him/around him/on him. I did my first few shows with him and he took good care of me. Our first class in our first show was Open English Equitation. There were 5 riders. We came in 5th. I will never forget that "Oh when the Yanks played the Stars and Stripes On Iwo Jima High" was playing during my pattern and I was so terrified to be showing. After I got the first class out of the way I realized it wasn't much different than riding at home: someone says walk, you walk. Someone says canter, you canter. Our next class was English Pleasure and we came in 1st. We also showed in the Costume Class that day and won 1st. He was a great horse. At the age of 24 he was humanely euthanized after a very seriously broken leg that had very little hope of recovery. Here are a few pics of him. Try not to judge my riding in any of these pictures, I've had a lot of good training in the last few years!
My next horse was Banee. Banee is a gorgeous pure white 14.2 7/8ths Arab mare. She came to the farm during my first few years of riding. I showed her the first summer after I stopped showing Dino, and then she was my last show horse from that farm. She is 29 (my age) and is still so beautiful in my eyes. She was a handful. She'd been highly trained in everything from barrels to dressage. She could collect any gait down to doing in nearly in place and would hand gallop with the slightest cue. She would jump anything you pointed her at. She has the softest nicker I've ever heard. You can see by the pictures that she didn't have the best conformation, but was extremely athletic. In the one picture I'm washing her rear because she ALWAYS got diarrea on the way to shows. You'd think she'd be fine on a 6 mile ride, but no. I learned after a while to at least wrap her (oddly short) tail so I just had to clean her butt and legs. I remember being mad someone took a picture of this, but now it's just another funny memory of Banee. I remember the day we discovered she'd been a game horse. We were supposed to jog around some jump standards (the kind that are just like poles), changing our diagonals. When it was my turn I asked her for a trot and she took off running and weaving her way through that pattern like she'd done it a million times. "I told you to TROT!" "I din't do ANYTHING! I didn't even steer that. That was all HER!" So many things she could do. She was a hoot at shows. Would act like a crazy horse. We had multiple judges ask us if she had been trained saddle-seat. Who knows. Sound like a perfect horse? Weeeeellll, she would refuse to walk when she was excited. Not so good for pleasure classes. She would rather trot in place than actually break down to a walk. She was so super sensitive that she gave me the bad habbit of riding with my legs stuck out to the sides. She took the slightest pressure as a cue to do something BIG. How many flying lead changes can a horse do in a straight line? How long is the line? Our last 4-H show we came away with Champion Sr. Showman, Champion Sr. English, Reserve Champion Sr. Western, and Reserve Champion Sr. Game Horse. We didn't HAVE an OVERALL highpoint for that show, but I got the first slot for the State Horse Show, so I was highpoint. We never got to show the State Show. It was an expensive trip and the show was after school started and I had to go off to college.
Oh, and YES, my hat IS on backwards in that one. It was right after Versatility class (also explains the kinky forelock) and I think my Dad put the hat on my head for me and I trusted he'd put in on the right way. I didn't realize until I took if off after the class (and this picture) that it was backwards. Nice outfit, too, huh? Who doesn't love metallic purple plaid? Shut up, my mom made that... well, my mom made it with gold lame piping and gold buttons, but I ripped it apart, took the piping out and made a different tie based off of what I saw in the Hobby Horse catalog. I was pretty well dressed considering most people at the show didn't have pants long enough to tuck into their boots..... Sorry, snarky tangent... THAT would be a funny blog entry: my bad show outfits of the 90's......
Next came Meadow Sweet Lark. Lark was probably 15 hands, I don't remember. She was a 3/4 arab, 1/4 Quarter Horse. I had to EARN the right to ride her. Both from my instructor AND from Lark. She was smart and didn't tolerate beginners. She was afraid of EVERYTHING.... at HOME. At shows she would fall asleep. At home: head straight up in the air, prancing sideways "OMG a HOSE!!! OMG my STALL!" OMG a TREE!" "Everything is going to EAT ME!!!!" At a show: head hanging, lip flopping, "Zzzzzzzzzz." "Go forward? Do I have to? can't I just yawwwwwn stay right here?" She was the most talented of the bunch. Sadly after one summer full of blue ribbons and tropies she had to be retired. On our first ride the next spring she was lame at the trot. It was like her back feet were taking tiny steps, not at all her usual gait. We called the vet and it was concluded that she must have slipped during the winter and pulled all the tendons in her croup. It's what happens when horses back feet go out from under them sideways. Ouch. She was sound for hacks around the farm and for ponying little kids, but no more showing. I finished my High School years with Banee.
I was given the chance to spend one more summer at the farm before I went off to grad school. In my dumber days I had attempted to show The Prodigal Son, an unmarked bay Arab gelding in showmanship. I thought he would do fine ... he did it fine at home, after all. He walked all over me at the show to the point of almost being dangerous and spent the rest of the day jogging in the trailer. Wasn't a good day. He is STILL (knock on wood) the only horse to ever really buck me off....in the middle of the hay field and then take off for home...without me. Some girl leased him for a summer that next year and took him to one show. He did fine aside from cantering on the wrong lead the whole time. He was completely well behaved. So I decided to make him my summer project that year after he'd had a few years off. He ended up being a very good boy. Cari, my long time show partner came down for the show so we took both Banee and Sonny. The judge that day was "totally blind" or at least I have my mom in the background of the video saying so, so we didn't do very well ribbon wise, but I thought his behavior was a tremendous victory. We switched horses for the western classes and Cari ended up with 1st on him in "Bridle Path" Western Pleasure.
So there's my fab four from my younger days. None of them were perfect, none of them were "mine" but I am very thankful for all the lessons they taught me. I am thankful my dear Banee is still with us. She's fat and happy and is spoiled rotten.