Four years ago, my family surprised me with my very first horse. A horse to call my own. No leasing, no rules - it was me and my horse. I could do whatever I wanted to do with him!
He was purchased on a rainy Thursday in July in 2012. I remember waiting anxiously at my friends house, where he was going to be boarded for him. Finally, after three hours, Jedi walked off the trailer and into the barn. He was a 17.3hh cherry bay thoroughbred. Long story short, we ended up having to put him to sleep due to colic a mere three months later on October 29, 2012, the same day of Hurricane Sandy.
I was crushed, and I swore that I would never ride again. I ended up taking 6 months off from riding and anything else horse related.
March 13, 2014 was my first week back to riding. My trainer, Jenny, at the time bought and sold horses and had a barn full of beautiful horses. My parents, against what they really wanted to do, had agreed to let me buy another horse. My budget was $1,500. Of all the beautiful Thoroughbreds and warmbloods Jenny had, a skinny, lanky paint gelding stood out to me. He needed a lot of help though; he looked as if he had not been touched in years. After a week of taking care of him, my parents bought him as a surprise for me! His name was "I got the big head".
Little did I know how much this little horse would need though. He had not had a bit in his mouth in two years, he was completely green, and he had a "rearing problem". He needed weight, he needed love, and he needed time. I was told from numerous people he was worthless, I should have never bought him, and he had no good use. I saw him differently. I knew he was talented and that he just needed to gain confidence. I renamed him Phoenix, never knowing then how perfectly his name would fit him.
After a year with him, he started to fill out. He also loved to jump, and he was good at it. We were doing 2'3" like it was nothing at all. For a horse who had never jumped before, he was doing great!
The summer of 2013, my trainer decided it was time we show. We went to a local show, expecting to do well. He had been schooling well at home so there was no reason for him to not do well here. However, he panicked with all the noise and commotion and sadly, we placed 8th. People tried to convince me to sell him and that they had all been right in that he had no use.
We gave him part the 2014 season off. He clearly needed time to settle into himself. We practiced hard on staying calm, ignoring outside noise, and learning to focus just on what I was saying to him. We started to take him off the property to ride in different rings. He began to settle down and relax. Soon, he was a pro at going off property. He moved up to the 3'6" classes and he was dying to show off. Together, we decided it was time to try again. We took him to the local schooling show again. We did the open jumpers class, which was 2'6". We placed 1st!!
We moved on to the local rated shows, and Phoenix competed with some of the top dollar horses, and he was placing well. Thanks to all the help, coaching, and support, he was going great; without it, we probably would not have made it. We decided to give him off gain for the 2015 show season, but he will be coming back this year, hopefully doing better than ever!
Photo taken by Steve Starer, 2015.