Taking a Step Down
With sweat rolling down my back, my hands shaking, heart racing, and a heart attack looming in the near distance — I knew we had done it. I knew that Puddin and I had pulled off the unthinkable; we had the perfect ride at the biggest show of our career. I knew, he knew, the other competitors knew and the judges knew, there was no beating that ride.
This “ride” I am talking about is my Novice Youth Walk/Trot Region 6 finalist class. I had some how managed to power through the class of 171 contests, gone through 10 class splits and made it to the final ride. There we were, with ten other competitors in the ring. All the transitions were perfect, his head set was the best it could be and the smile on my face was far from being forced. I was holding my breath the entire ride until I heard the steward say “All riders to the middle and line up, please”. As Puddin came to a stop, that’s when I knew that we had done the unthinkable.
I leaned forward, without being dismissed or having the judges finish calculating their scores, and began giving Puddin as much love as he could handle. He began to lick and chew, telling me that he knew he had done his job. As the stewardess announced the placings from tenth to first, I kept rubbing on my boy. And there it came, “And in first place, across all three judges’ score cards, we have Alexandra Lyn Reedy atop her horse, Macs Good In Sequins!”
To top it all off, we had just won the Showmanship division as well. We had won two firsts and a second across the judges’ scoreboard. With these scores combined with our ride, we were the Novice Youth Walk/Trot champion for 2013. Making it even better — Justin Boots named me their “Rookie of the Year”.
That all sounds as though it is every young equestrian’s dream, right?! Puddin was always a good boy in the show ring, we had the look, the skill and the mindset to win. Well, this was 2013. Now, I am no where to be seen around the show ring. Puddin has not stepped “hoof” in the show ring since that show.
Flashback to having our name announced, I was walking Puddin back to his stall. As I was taking his tack off, a group of four young girls came up to his door. I turned and heard the words “Can we take a picture of him and have your autograph?!” I didn’t think anything of it, I was humbled by the thought of someone looking up to me. The girls went on to pester me about how I brought Puddin to the point he was at. One of the girls exclaimed, “I knew I should have told my mom I wanted a different horse. Maybe I would win!”
The girls walked away as I stood there in shock at what I had just heard. Puddin and I had been partners in crime for little over two years at that point, but the thought had never crossed my mind to just “move onto the next horse”, all just to win. I built a relationship with this horse. I learned his ins and outs, as he did mine. When I chose to invest in a horse it was not for competition, it was for companionship.
The conversation with the young girls sat with me for a few days after the competition had ended and we had returned home. I went to visit my father’s gravestone and that is when I knew — this was not what I wanted to promote. I wanted to promote the strength and beauty of owning such a majestic creature, not to be seen as “just another horse”, or my possession. He is my partner, we do all things together, not individually. So, I made the decision; I would never show at such a high level again.
Every step that my horse took, had to be asked for and placed by my hand. He was not allowed to move his feet unless I had asked for that movement. The same was for his head placement, along with his overall body. Overall, Puddin could not be just a “horse”. He could not carry his head and his body in a position that was comfortable for him; he had to carry it where it was “prim and proper”. Once I took him out of that world and no longer having to worry about where to place his feet, he became a horse. He learned to have fun when riding, rather than always doing work.
For the first time since Puddin came to me, he was able to go out and run around. The showing world never allowed the show horses to go out to pasture or run free, for fear that they would injure themselves.
Since then, Puddin and I have taken our skills else where. Puddin has been part of a rehabilitation program for those struggling and overcoming substance abuse. He has also turned from just being a western pleasure horse, to now trying out western dressage and other forms of the English riding discipline. I work with children with special needs and have started bringing some of the children around the barn. Let me tell you, that is the MOST rewarding experience of all time.
Puddin and I have now been together for nearly six years and I am reminded that I am never giving up on him every time I think of those little girls at the show. Stepping down was the best thing I could have done, for the both of us. I would never have the opportunities that I have now and Puddin would not get as much loving from all the kids at the barn that he does!