With 2023 coming to an end, I don’t think I have experienced such a mix of emotion as I have this year. I have had two really huge personal achievements and two heartbreaking findings.
After having the most amazing beginning to the year with the horses, Mister was really improving in the arena, Django was turning into a grown-up young horse, ready for backing, and Ben was absolutely killing it at British Dressage. He had already qualified for Area Festivals at Prelim Silver and needed one more score for Novice, had already qualified at both levels for Associated Championships and was getting so consistent out competing. I even wondered, despite his age, at 19, if we would maybe even finish the year in some unaffiliated Elementary classes. He was so consistent, so light off the aids, and so game for any question you threw his way.
Then, out of nowhere, in one schooling session I used some poles in a box shape on the floor to help practise with square halts and he totally freaked out, which was so out of character, and threw me a nice distance across the floor! I led him up to the poles inhand and he freaked again. I knew something was wrong, so I got a vet appointment as soon as I could and got the devastating news that the small cataract I knew he had in his left eye had spread and he was now almost completely blind in that eye.
After a couple of months of trying to rehab him, I could not desensitise him enough for it to be safe for me or him to continue riding, so I had to retire him.
This was my best horse-related moment in 29 years of horses: sitting on a fully tacked up horse – whom I have had from the age of six months and trained all by myself – three years after I got him! To sit between Django's ears and for him to be so chilled and calm was just the best ever feeling. What made this feeling even more special was not only backing my own horse, but backing my own horse Western! It’s a style of riding I only took up three years ago, and covid badly impacted how many Western lessons I was able to have in two of the three years I was trying to learn. But with help, support and advice from lots of new friends in the Western community, I could not be more thrilled with the outcome. And to make the Western journey even better – if that was even possible – Django was chosen as the UK AQHA Futurity Champion, which is a title, show and award I won’t forget for a very long time!
Hold onto your hats and stay tuned for what happened in October and November 2023…