Appreciating a Hidden Gem of a Horse

“Mom, tell me about your first horse,” my daughter asked me recently. 

Actually I got started sharing my friend Michele’s horse, Lady. Michele and I got our feet “dirty” together. I rode Lady as much as Michele did. We were beginners together. In a short time, I did become the proud owner of my own first horse – a gem of a horse named “Ricaro Bar”…

It seemed a recipe for trouble…a 5-year-old, broke-trained, skinny and neglected horse purchased for $600 by “non-horsey” parents as a mount for their barely-experienced, horse-crazy, 15-year-old daughter.  Just the thing that experienced horse people warn others not to do is the way that I got my horse ownership start; perhaps ignorance truly is bliss.

Skinny horse

My Hidden Gem

“Ricaro Bar” was a “Running Quarter Horse” (or Appendix Quarter Horse), and he came with papers that showed he hailed from the Three Bars line.  He was a substantial 16 hands with mediocre conformation – a little splay footed and a bit cow-hocked.  But, Ricaro wasn’t just a horse, he was MY horse, and somehow that made all the difference.

My first action of horse ownership was giving Ricaro a bath to try and bring out a little shine in his otherwise dull coat.  The next was a deworming treatment and the addition of A&M (Alfalfa and Molasses Mix) to his food ration to add a little weight to his frame.  In just a few weeks, his bay coat was glossy and a small layer of fat was starting to cover his once showing ribs.  He took to the attention with a heart willing to please, and he was absolutely no trouble no matter what I did with or to him.

Learning Together

Riding in the ring (1024x692)The two of us learned together. Ricaro proved to be willing, trusting and forgiving.  Either I made minimal mistakes and/or he forgave me for the ones I did make. We blissfully rode the trails, met up with my friend Michele, or did arena work, every day that first summer.  He just went along and never gave me an ounce of inconvenience.

It wasn’t long before we progressed to Pony Club, where our first goal was to pick up the correct lead at the canter.  Little did I know that an entire world of horsemanship would be opened up to us through this organization.  Every new thing was handled without incident.  We conquered the leads, we both learned to jump, to ride “on the bit”, to gallop a cross country course and continued to enjoy the trails.  Ricaro’s first horse show ignited my desire to compete.  My first D-1 Pony Club Rally was his first as well. He was as willing, forgiving and trustworthy as ever.  He instilled in me a confidence that made me believe I could do anything.

Ricaro pic 2016-05-31 002 (720x1024)My Ricaro and I rode miles of trails in Palos Verdes, and we even did a few Competitive Trail rides. Although not super athletic, he never missed a beat. Ricaro had no issues with anything we came across.  We rode in the local Christmas Parade, and that horse never batted an eye at the crowds, concrete or noise.  We jumped up to 4 feet, even though he hung his front legs.  We were part of the Rolling Hills Pony Club team that won the Regional C Level Pony Club Rally, even with our “DC” quitting the week before.  Three years into my Pony Club days, Ricaro took me through my B Level testing.

Looking Back

When looking back over my years of horse experience, Ricaro doesn’t often get the recognition that he deserves.  He was replaced by a Connemara that would take me where Ricaro couldn’t.  He went on to become a trusty trail ride provider for a family in Santa Barbara, while I went on to greater heights in my horse career – rarely looking back.

Today, though, I am taking the time to look back…  I truly do appreciate what that hidden gem of a horse gave to me.  He was simply pure gold.  Better late than never, I’m giving him the recognition that he should have had right after that first summer without “trouble”, and all throughout our lives together. He really did give me the foundation that opened up doors of experiences and places to go with horses over the years.

It is my hope that all of you either find or give recognition to those hidden gems in your “horsey lives” that really do shape you for a lifetime.

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Former Pony Clubber, Eventer and Dressage rider who balanced training and showing with getting a college degree (from Cal Poly SLO), becoming a wife and raising a family.

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