Sooo... what's your story?

A friend of mine sent me this little horsey questionnaire on Facebook, and I thought I’d post my answers here. I won’t officially tag anyone, but it might be fun if readers passed it on by filling it out and posting it to your blogs with your own experiences, and encourage your readers to do the same. Hope you decide to play along!  And if you do, leave a comment here letting us know :-)

1. How old were you when you first started riding? I think I officially started when I was 7, but I was one of those kids who was obsessed with horses since the first time I saw one, so I’m sure I managed to get on a horse before then...

2. First horse ridden: Don’t remember... my mom said I rode a pony when I was 5 – I went with my sister who was in girl scouts/brownies or something...

3. First horse trotted on: ???

4. First horse cantered on: ???

5. First Horse fallen off of: Probably “Jet” (our first horse)

6. Most recent horse fallen off of: Dusty, 3+ years ago – although I wasn’t on all the way when I fell off! Dusty came with some serious mounting issues; I used to get on her from the mounting block without using the stirrup or she would rear and flip over. I was swinging my leg over the saddle when she took off! The top of my half chap got hung up on the saddle so I clung there for a bit, hanging off the side and then I gave up and let myself fall. But, I didn’t let go of the reins and she got pissed that she didn’t get away, so she reared and stomped my foot as I sat on the ground! (My friend was nearly falling off her horse she was laughing so hard – she said it looked like Dusty thought if she stepped on my foot hard enough I’d stand upright like a rake!) Probably shouldn’t mention that after she reared and stomped on me (while i was still sitting on the ground, mind you) I instinctively took a swing at her and caught her upside the head with a good right hook, which stopped her in her tracks. I am hardly a horse abuser but, contrary to the NH gurus, I believe in swift justice for something like that. Dusty and I have had a sort of love-hate relationship, but luckily she’s over her mounting issues now and my mother really loves her :-\

7. Most terrifying fall: Lifegaurd vs 3’wall in indoor at Majestic Farms probably 15 years ago – we (ok, I) missed the distance, he caught his knee on the wall and flipped (a rotational fall.) I flew across the indoor and landed on my head (ripping a huge chunk of velvet off my helmet.) Everyone was shouting “stay down, stay down!” but I jumped up and turned around in time to see my poor horse lying on his back with his legs in the air. I thought I had killed him. He quickly got up, we jogged him for soundness, and I had to get back on and jump again so he didn’t lose confidence... that was the first time a horse had ever fallen with me, and it terrified me. I was freaked out but not badly hurt. Mostly I was worried about my horse, but not scared to jump again. We jumped a few jumps and I took care of Lifeguard, rubbing him down and setting him up for the night. Everything seemed fine but, when I got home that night, I just started shaking uncontrollably - my teeth chattered for hours! Guess it freaked me out more than I originally thought :-\

8. First horse jumped with: I think it was Justin, “Just in Time” (best school horse ever!)

9. First horse who ran away with you: Lifeguard – the first time I rode him, I think. He galloped around the top arena at Oakwood Farm like a maniac about 20 times before I finally jumped off. He kept galloping... I was about 10 years old. Who would have thought from those beginnings that he’d end up being the best horse I ever rode?

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you: Not too many horses have scared me, though I did have a horse mow me down in the field once – My mother’s horse Erik, the sweetest, most gentle horse in the world was spooked by something and came galloping toward me (probably looking for help.) When it looked like he wasn’t stopping in time, I turned around to run out of his way but I was too late – he slammed right into the back of me, knocking me flat on my face. I got the wind knocked out of me and I sprained my elbow. Luckily, he didn’t step on me – he jumped over me!

11. First horse shown: Justin (I was champion!)

12. First horse to win a class with: Justin, short stirrup (I was 7 or 8)

13. Do you/have you taken lessons: I took lessons in the past. Even now that I’m a professional I’d still like to take some lessons, but I just haven’t found the right trainer yet....

14. First horse you ever rode bareback: Lifeguard. Not recommended – he had high withers and a bouncy trot :-\

15. First horse trail ridden with: probably Lifeguard. He loved trail riding, and whenever he’d get loose (which was often – he was a crafty one) he’d go out on the trails by himself for hours. No idea what he was doing out there.... He also loved the beach and swimming!

16. Current Barn name: Glenshee Equestrian Centre (yes, we have a home base!)

17. Do you ride English or western?: English (I suck at western)

18. First Horse to place at a show with: Justin – it was my first horse show and I ended up champion despite the fact that my crash helmet fell down over my eyes halfway through my course. Luckily, Justin was one of those amazing horses who knew his job and he finished it for me even though I couldn’t see anything! Guess the judge didn’t notice ;-) The first and last push-button horse I ever rode. I loved him :-)

19. Ever been to horse camp?: I don’t remember, but I don’t think so...

20. Ever been to a riding clinic? Yes. But I always seem to get more out of auditing than riding.

21. Ridden sidesaddle? Well, not on an actual sidesaddle, but we used to goof around and pretend on our regular astride saddles (it’s also the fastest way to fall off face-first when you lose your balance!)

22. First horse leased: Not sure if we ever did lease a horse before we bought one... Maybe Mikey?

23. Last Horse Leased: Mellon

24. Highest ribbon in a show: 1st, or champion.

25. Ever been to an 'A' rated show?: Lots

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?: Yes, in the Junior Olympics

27. Ever fallen off at a show: Oh sure! Enough times for it to cease being embarrassing ;-)  In fact, before I actually learned how to ride him, I fell off Lifeguard at every show I went to until I was about 14!

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?: Both; I prefer jumpers, but in addition to dressage, I’m thinking about inflicting myself on the hunter world a little this year ;-)

29. Have you ever barrel raced? Yes, once on my uncle’s horse. But not well :-\

30. Ever done pole bending?: Nope (unless dodging trees in the woods on a galloping horse counts!)

31. Favorite gait: I love a good canter – Lifeguard had a great canter, and so does Nate - I could sit them all day....

32. Ever cantered bareback?: Of course! Jumped too...

33. Have you ever done dressage?: Yes

34. Have you ever evented?: Not formally – I’m not a fan. Any sport where people find it necessary to grease up their horses in anticipation of slamming them into solid objects is just not for me... if you’re worried about your horse not being able to slide off of the fence you just crashed into at ramming speed, you probably shouldn’t be jumping in the first place, imo.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?: more than I can count. I can do 50 in a day!

36. Ever been bucked off?: plenty of times. My favorite incident was while jumping Mellon in the indoor. We cantered up to a 4’6 oxer and he jumped so big I lost my balance on landing. Well, losing your balance on Mellon is like pushing the “eject” button; he cut the turn on the landing side and, before I could get my balance back, threw a huge, walloping handstand of a buck and catapulted me into the next corner of the arena. I’m not sure how far I flew, but I got up laughing. It was a pretty amazing buck!

37. Ever been on a horse that reared?: Yes, lots of them (it’s kind of my specialty ;-) My favorite rearing incident was in this hilly field we used to use for jumping and hill work. I was on Mellon at the top of the hill and I wanted him to collect before I let him canter down it. He was apparently insulted – he jammed on the brakes at the top and reared. Only trouble was, the footing was damp grass and he started to slide... I think he was so stunned that his plan backfired, that he just froze in that position - he slid down the entire hill in rearing position on his hocks. A friend of mine was there riding her horse and she said it was the most hilarious thing to watch!

38. Horses or ponies?: horses – I was always too tall for ponies, even as a kid. I think I rode one or two briefly and went right to horses.

39. Do you wear a helmet?: Always. I’ve landed on my head and trashed helmets enough times to be careful. I get annoyed when people say, “If you know how to ride, you don’t need a helmet.” I have ridden some hairy horses, I can sit just about any buck or rear a horse can dish out, and I’ve jumped some huge fences in my life, in and out of the arena. I’m pretty confident in my security on a horse. But I don’t care who you are, how well you ride, or what you’ve won, no one is infallible. And more importantly, horses fall down sometimes, or they run into things, and then it doesn’t matter how good you are at staying on. I always wear a helmet. It’s not an admission of defeat, it’s just good sense!

40. What's the highest you've jumped: 5’ was the biggest jump I ever measured, but there may have been bigger. I’d jumped that big a few times on purpose with Mellon, Erik and Nate and once by accident with Erik; I was riding on the flat, cantering Erik between two jumps when something on the left spooked him. He dove right, but there was a 5’ wing standard right in front of him and, much to my surprise, he jumped it! I didn’t fall off, but it was pretty wild! He was an amazing jumper...

41. Have you ever ridden at night?: All the time. I’ve even shown at night. There’s nothing like jumping a course by the light of car headlights parked around the arena! Or riding in the summer when there is a full moon....

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?: Once in a while...

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?: I once crushed my nose landing on my face (one side of it caved in and I needed surgery.) I think I may have mangled my neck in the process – whenever I go for x-rays of my now arthritic/ crooked neck (it curves the wrong way) they always ask me “oh my! were you in a horrible car accident?” Do horse accidents count?

44. Most falls in one lesson: can’t remember, but probably 1 or 2 (most falls at the same horse show, however... ;-)

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?: when I have to – I prefer to hack out or ride in the field

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?: see #10

47. Have you ever been bitten?: Yup

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?: Yup, lots. Lost a few toenails, too :-\ See also #6

49: Favorite riding moment: For a single moment, probably the jump where Mellon saved my ass... there were so many great – or just funny – moments with so many horses, it would be hard to choose the best. Winning multiple year-end awards and finals with Lifeguard would be up there, or our perfect round at the Hampton Classic in the Jr. equitation that even the non-horsey spectators in the grandstand all cheered after - we only got 10th out of about 80 horses, probably because paints were unfashionable then, but I had total strangers and even other trainers come up to me after and tell me I should have won, which was better than ribbons. And I was so proud of Mellon on his first hunter pace. And swimming at the beach was amazing. Or hacking Nate out through the Scottish countryside... a life with horses has too many great moments to count!

50. Most fun horse you've ridden: All the horses I have ridden have been fun in their own way but Lifeguard was by far the coolest horse I’ve ever ridden (I miss him so much!) and Mellon was probably the most exciting (I miss riding him too...) Nate is also a blast, so I hope he makes a full recovery this year and we can get in some good riding!


  1. These are great questions and they bring back a lot of memories. I will definitely post this on my blog...soon. I think everyone will have a lot of fun with this.

  2. great! i'm glad you're playing along! let us know here when you've posted it :-)

  3. I'd love to play along but do not have a blog and am not on Facebook.
    Lots of good questions and I'll bet some great and hilarious memories will be had by all. I look forward to reading them.

  4. Just had to answer this one: Have you ever been trampled by a horse?

    NO,but I'm sure my evil Shetland Pony from hell will count! My non-horsey Dad did not want to spend the $$ for the Welsh pony I really wanted and needed to be able to show.He comes home with this super bargain black as black can be Shetland pony. He was very cute but had every trick in the book no doubt from all the kids he had been able to dump,threaten,kick,bite and stomp that had been unlucky enough to attempt to ride him. That rotten little bastard made me the rider I became. One day he refused to cross a creek and dumped me into it,then used my back as the bridge over it. I had his hoof prints w/shoes bruised on my back and butt in all their purple glory for about 2 weeks! Sucks to be him though as once I thankfully outgrew him I then taught him to drive and he also became a great lesson and leadline pony and quite reliable.I'm sure mostly because he KNEW I would get on him and correct any crap he might think to pull on little kids after me. I really did love that pony and he lived to be 34 yrs.old.

  5. Wow - such fun reading all your horsey facts!

    I will never manage to type in all those questions but I do remember all the first horses I rode, and the first trot, canter, jump, etc. Thanks for triggering those memories. It's amazing how well I recall those early rides.

  6. LuvMyTBs - what a great story! i had a good chuckle from that one ;-) ponies can be such monsters, and shetlands must be the cleverest creatures on earth! glad he turned out to be such a great pony and great teacher, though.

  7. This is great!
    Mind if I post it? I want to know all these facts about anyone dumb enough to read my blog and answer the questions.

  8. EH - i don't mind at all! that's the idea :-)

  9. Best moment in the saddle?
    In a lesson with Peg Cannell- riding around the corner across the short side to an oxer on the diagonal.
    As we made our way through the corner Yo slipped. Just one step behind, but the instant it happens I thought 'circle'
    In the same instant Peg yells 'Don't you dare circle!'
    [does she know me or what?]
    I got to the base, grab mane, give him a nudge to say 'Yes, I mean it' and Yo safely takes me across a large-ish fence once again

    It's a moment that reminds me that often we can do so much more than we think we can. More than that it reminds me just how fabulous that horse was.

  10. ang - don't you just love those moments? Yo is such a cool horse - wish i could have seen him then :-)

  11. Well J, you wouldn't have been able to.... since
    generally he moved too fast for the naked eye. ;D

    He wasn't great in the usual sense [ribbons, etc]... but in the sense that he kept me safe, and did what I asked, even the really stupid stuff. I wished we'd had more time with Peg, she really 'got' him.

    In a way he reminds me of your Mellon. Yo needed me to stop trying to stuff him in a box and make him into something. Once I learned to sit back and let him be him... *sigh* well it was too late to do too much. But it's a lesson well learned.

  12. jme- I want to update you on my obnoxious pulling gelding. I've done two rides using the hand lifting/bumping method and its great. I just lift my hands, he does all the pulling himself, and if he still resists then I give him the bump with my legs. That way I can use the reins as the initial cue, then my legs are the enforcer. He seems to be getting the idea, slowly. I really like this method because there are times when just the bump really isn't an option.

    He's kindof an arena prince, and I insist that all my horses spend time out in the field. When he is prancing, and pulling and occasionally trying to bolt, pushing with my legs just isnt a viable option for dealing with the pulling. Since we had already practiced in the arena, when I lifted my hands, he knew what he could do to make me put them back down.

    It was kindof funny, he refused to walk, but didn't want to pull on my hands, and I kept insisting that he walk so he did the tightest little angry prance. Eventually his lazy kicked in and he decided walking was easier.

    We even did a little canter on Saturday, thats where is pulling is absolutely the worst. He canters pretty hot (he's a Dash for Cash grandson) so its nice to be able to do a rein lift before resorting to pushing.

  13. ang - he is a bit like mellon, isn't he? maybe that's why i've always liked him ;-) as nice as a push-button horse can be, i've always like dthe ones who make you earn it. i did some really stupid stuff with mellon, too, and lived to tell about it :-\ it's sad that we always learn the best lessons too late to make the most of them, but i guess the point is, we learn them... but then the next horse is always completely different and you have to start all over again!

  14. gillian - i'm so glad it's working out for you! it makes a lot of sense to me with a hot horse, as getting into a pulling match with them can really blow their minds and then there is no putting them back together :-\ keep us updated, and i'll try to get that long and low post going. i usually only have time for blogging and reading/commenting on weekends, so bear with me!

  15. Wow, you've had some adventures. Lifeguard sounds like a wonderful guy, it's no wonder you remember him so fondly.

    I posted my answers too, here. Thanks for the invite. It was fun reminiscing.

  16. bay horse - thanks! one day i'll post a bit on lifeguard. he was amazing :-)

  17. I threw some answers on my blog at


  18. I love your answers and I'm so glad you got your mom to play along too. I don't have stories anywhere near as wild and crazy as yours. If I can remember back far enough, I'll try to post the questions and my answers on my blog. So, I just wrote to GHM that Lifeguard sounded like the ideal horse - but it sounds like he had his crazy youth too. I hope you tell us about him more soon.

  19. adam and funder - thanks for playing :-)

    victoria - lifeguard was an amazing horse, but he wasn't easy to ride - at least, not until you learned how to ride him. and he was also completely green when we got him, and i was a beginner, so it took a while. but even in his old age, he still loved to go for a good gallop in the woods. he was a once in a lifetime horse, and i think i will post about him in the future :-)

  20. Hi! Came via Grey Horse, from Food for Founder. Here's my answers:
    (I still don't know how to do a live link in the comments--I can do it on the blog, tho!)
    Feel free to wander around the rest of the blog if you go for a visit.

  21. Oh, by the way, I wanted to mention that big R LOVED what he read in your rein aids posts. He told me it was just like what his old German dressage instructor would have said.

    When I sent him the link I told him it was an article because I didn't feel like explaining blogs to a 60+ year old farmer. When he was talking about it he corrected me. "Its not really an article, its a textbook." :)

    And he was pleased by the rein lifting thing. Said it made a lot of sense, especially at the canter.

  22. gillian - thanks! i'm flattered that he he liked the posts!

  23. Hi jme, the OPG has changed tactics. Now instead of pulling down quite so much, he is sticking his nose out as far in front of him as he can get it. Putting his face nearly on the horizontal! I prefer this to the lowered head but, obviously, still not thrilled about it. Raising my hands doesn't seem to do much for this particular form of pulling.

    Also, I've got him in a french link bit. Supposedly it discourages pulling. What do you think?

    I think that right now most of his pulling comes from either anxiety about being outside the arena, or just plain wanting things his own way. Since he knows this has been a fairly effective form of resistance in the past its his default. Although I think he might try some bucking in the near future, he just gives me that vibe right now.

    As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

  24. hi gillian - hmmm, that's a tough one without actually seeing him. firstly, i like the french ink, but not sure it specifically discourages pulling - though it won't likely give him an excuse to pull, which is half the battle!

    as for dealing with the nose-out head position, i'd start by trying a single rein lateral flexion. if you can release your outside rein and take his head gently to the inside, the flexion in his neck should help break up that resistance, as he can't pull, raise his head or poke his noe out if you bend him in front of the wither. this should soften his poll and get him to relax down a bit. the moment he does this, you release the bend and make the most of the softness until he resists again - then repeat the whole process until he gets the idea of where you want him...

    if you have to, you can bring him back to a walk or halt to get the softness you want before going back up to pace. it is strictly a corrective exercise, so you don't need to ride around with this exaggerated bend all the time - just until he releases...

    does that make sense? let me know if you have any questions or concerns. good luck :-)

  25. I do have to do this yet, but 50 questions! Eeegads!

  26. hi callie - sorry, i've been away and my stupid dsl has been out of commission!

    it is a lot of questions, but i hope you'll play along :-)

  27. Great set of questions! I hope to play with these on my blog, also.

  28. welcome, OE! i haven't visited my blog in ages, so i'm sorry i didn't get to your comment sooner. hope you did get to the questions on your blog :-)

  29. Thanks for stopping by today (5/10) - I appreciated your comments!

  30. I had my first ride with the obnoxious pulling gelding where he wasn't just pulling on the reins for no reason. (He pulled pretty fiercely for grass, but thats different, and stopped when we moved away from the long grass.) I am so psyched.

    I think the improvement is due in large part to some things I learned on your blog. 1) The uses of a raised rein. 2) How to be more precise with my rein aids, and the function of each. 3) There is hope.

    We've still got a long way to go. We need to make sure this works at the canter, when he's anxious, and when he's mad. I'd also like him to stop bracing against my aids. (Although that has improved some also.) I'd also like better control of his shoulders, especially when he's shying at something, or convinced that he can sidepass all the way home and get away with it.

    So thank you for writing this blog, for responding so generously to my questions and for giving me so much to think about. I think that your writing about training issues is absolutely on par with mugwump, btw.

  31. hi gillian,

    sorry i didn't get to your comment sooner - my internet was out all weekend :-\ (the price of living in the middle of nowhere!)

    thanks so much for the update on your progress. i'm really glad you've found some of what i wrote/recommended helpful. please feel free to ask more questions! i've been slacking with my posts, but i'm always looking for new ideas and knowing what interests/concerns readers is a great place to start. i'm planning on doing one on long and low next which you might find useful (if i ever get my act together to write it!)

    thanks again for your comment and good luck :-)


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