Stories About The Past // Three
Smash entered my life when I started dressage lessons at a barn closer to where my family's new home was being built. I was still riding at the hunter/jumper barn down the street from our current home, but somehow I got involved with this second trainer on the weekends with a friend of mine.
He really wasn't a lesson horse so to speak, just a horse that happened to be available since the owner had limited time for him. He was a quarter horse type, probably in his early teens, bought at auction by a rather inexperienced owner (from what I can best remember), but she had a big heart and wanted what was best for him. Smash had an upside down neck (ewe neck), was horribly unbalanced, and not exactly trusting.. but not exactly scared either. It was the perfect opportunity for me to get my feet wet with classical dressage while feeding my love of rehabilitation and challenging projects.
To be honest I had no idea there were different kinds of dressage, I though they were just all "dressage". Classical dressage vs Modern dressage was not something I was aware of at the time. My trainer never used tie downs or draw reins, we never cranked his mouth shut or used spurs to drive him into pulling back hands. We did occasionally put really loose side reins on to help both of us figure out what on earth we were trying to achieve, but for the most part it was just a plain snaffle with no flash, a well fitted saddle, and a good instructor!
Most of the training we did seemed to be rather fruitless to my 14 year old uneducated and impatient self. I wanted to be cantering and doing piaffes, but my instructor was (and is) true to the classical way.. very methodical and slow about developing the horse the right way. It was hard to be patient when I didn't understand why it was taking so long. All my experiences up to that point were based on quick fix training practices and unfortunately they appealed to me more at the time.
I did really enjoy the process of taking a barely rideable (out of sheer discomfort) and 'undesirable" horse from auction house to show grounds! It wasn't pretty, but we did happen to place in the ribbons at training level one weekend. I was so proud, we even beat some pretty fancy thoroughbreds and warmbloods! To be honest that was likely do to the fact that we had mastered our geometry to a "perfection" so we placed above the minor mistakes made by others, but that's okay, I welcomed to success for both Smash and for myself! We had both come a very long way, I just wish I had stuck with it.
I don't remember why exactly I stopped taking lessons with Smash. I believe either the barn was closing or it may have had something to do with when I bought my next horse. I also was very much still drawn by the more "modern" horse training approaches too, so my impatience likely had a lot to do with it. Looking back now I can't possibly express how grateful I am that one of my earliest experiences with dressage (and with horses in general) involved a classical and kinder approach. Even though I strayed away it was much easier for me to return back to when the time came later on with future horses.
I have no idea what's become of Smash. I know I mention this with all of these horses I'm writing about, that I wish I knew where they were, and you're going to see me keep mentioning it. In my earlier years I jumped from horse to horse frequently, especially when they were not my own. It was just what you did! It made me a better equestrian, getting to learn from so many, but it's hard being so thankful for these lessons yet having no idea what became of the horses that taught them to you.
I'm not proud of things I used to do.. and as we go forward with these stories of my past you're going to read me admit to a lot of actions I deeply regret. I hope as you're reading you can have grace for young and inexperienced me, who knew no better. I try and remind myself, and others, that the important thing is that we learn from these mistakes. For that reason I'm sharing with you these stories, so that maybe you can see yourself in some of these situations and take something of value from them.