I have always had a thing for redheads. My first horse was chestnut- she was a lovely mare with boundless heart and inexhaustible patience. She was the horse that I took across the country: there was no show she didn't win and no clinician who didn't admire her. And all of this packaged into a cheeky chestnut mare who still doesn't come up to anyone or stand for anything. It was Basil who taught me that great horses are eccentric. Great horses are testy, opinionated and cannot be fit into boxes.
Several years later, I met Red. Aptly named, he is a fiery 16.2 off the track thoroughbred that was in training with my old boss. Then he was sulky, backwards and severely aloof. His trot was jarring, stiff and uncomfortable and his canter was a never ending game of dodge the head that came flying at you with the first step of every stride. To say I did not enjoy riding him was an understatement- he was the first horse I got on so I could 1. get it out of the way. 2. be fully refreshed, hydrated and strong and 3. be comfortable knowing that no one except the curious stall cleaners would pop their head in the arena thus leaving me free to growl, kick and look like a complete yahoo as I did everything in my power to get the horse to go forward. At this point in the story it is important to note that he squealed at all up transitions.
I was told he would never jump and yet after several deer-like leaps over poles, Red smoothed out. Poles turned into cross rails eventually got raised to verticals, spread to oxers and ultimately filled with boxes, brush, coops, roll tops, etc. He starting knickering as I walked by, looking for me after I left. He became my trusted partner.
In the show ring we are rather inconsistent, the testament that we both have so much to learn. But he is forward, happy and fluid in his movement. His mouth is so soft and I merely have to think of movements and he performs seamlessly. Some of my most happiest of times are galloping him through the back fields of sherwood forest- our friends all blown past, several lengths behind.
I constantly remind myself of the discipline needed to make great horses but I never want to destroy the fire, attitude and quirks that separate the good horses from the great horses.