Sara wrote about dream horses and that got me thinking about the different horses I’ve ridden in my life as well as those I have in my life now.
I’m not sure I know what my dream horse is (is there a such thing?). I’m not even sure if I care. What I do know is that there are several horses in my life that have helped me become the horseperson I am today and helped teach me to ride.
I love the horses I own and have owned. But this post isn’t about them. This is about one of the 2 horses I have ridden in my life that have made me feel like I could do anything and, to be honest, have almost made me feel invincible. One is Ranger. But you know about him. The other?
Eleventh Hour (linking since I don’t feel comfortable embedding someone else’s instagram photo)
Eleven came to my old barn one summer. He was a massive warmblood by Consul. An older guy, he was retired to the barn to live out his days and teach some lessons. He had some injuries and was serviceable. On his best days? He looked great and you could barely tell. On his worst days, it was definitely more obvious. That said, he definitely stayed more comfortable in work and when turned out for too long, was more less comfortable, at least in the earlier days of my time knowing him.
I began riding him a year or two after he arrived at the farm and he and I clicked. Something about this horse who had been there, done that and pretty much knew everything just took away all my fears and hesitations. Some horses just help you exude confidence. For me? This was Eleven.
When I started riding with the barn owner/head trainer the summer before I bought Subi, I rode Eleven. I only rode him for a few weeks before moving on, but he gave me the confidence to show I was capable.
I remember one lesson in particular. I was in a group. Group lessons made me nervous. The jumps were always bigger, things moved faster, there was less individual attention. But, we moved through our paces. I was a master at packaging up Eleven (if you didn’t pick him up and get him off of his from end, he was very hard to ride. But, the second you did? He went from being a truck to mid-sized sedan to turn), but that point and we were having fun. I think my trainer even forgot that we were in the group because we weren’t standing out as inexperienced (or as the only non owner/lessor combo in the lesson). So, when she sent the group into this awkward and huge (well, to me it was huge) oxer over the water jump, I didn’t think twice and just galloped (used in hunter terms) Eleven up and over.
I remember landing and my trainer say, “I was going to stop and have you jump something else, but you but you looked so confident and Eleven looked so sound and happy! Do you realize you just jumped a 3’6″ oxer?!”
Now, he rarely ever jumped that big, but on that day, it was easy. He was the ONLY HORSE I’d ever have even jumped like that without thinking because on him at that point in my riding career? Anything was possible.
So, thank you Eleven for being the best teacher I could have asked for. For being kind. For being a true gentle giant (he was about 17+).
Eleven passed away a few years ago and I’m pretty sure arthritis and his past injuries bothered him his last few years (I last saw him in 2010). But, I’m so grateful for what he taught me years ago. My biggest regret is the lack of riding photos I have with Eleven.