That next weekend I invited Joy to come with me to Bluebonnet to take a riding lesson. This would be her last chance to do so, since I was going to take Sport home that day and I was unsure of what the future held for me as far as training was concerned. I also wanted Joy to get the chance to ride Sport under supervision.
Joy and Emily grew up with pet horses. We had 2 wonderful geldings, The Trojan War Horse - a huge 17HH Tennessee Walking Horse and Sparticus - a 16.2 American Saddlebred, that would cater to any and all of the girls wishes! Both horses were so large, the girls used to ride about the neighborhood and pick up their friends along the way. It was not uncommon to see 3 riders on one horse and sometimes with nothing more than a halter and lead rope haphazzardly knotted about the horses neck!
It was not until the girls were in high school that I started to take 'real' riding lessons. I invited both of them to join me and each took a lesson, but only Joy was bitten by the "Show Bug". Emily was content to pleasure ride. In a short amount of time, Joy's riding skills improved and it showed not only by the amount of blue ribbons she won, but by the fact that our instructor used to use her to warm up horses for other riders, even the unruly mounts. It was a truly wonderful time - you see, at this age, sometimes Mother's and daughters don't have that much to talk about. Horses though were a common ground we could all enjoy on an equal basis.
Time flies though and both of my daughters went away to college. Joy would accompany me to Paradise Farms every once in a while and was even asked to show the farms stallion El Dorado's Stonewall Jackson, in a 5 gaited class held in Oklahoma City, to which she did; but that was about the last time she rode.... until this very weekend.
A lot of riders were at Bluebonnet that cool morning waiting to take their lessons. Keri Ann was there by herself since Sandy was in South Africa coaching the Saddlebred riding team. We all waited our turn to ride. I was called first to ride Sport sidesaddle. The cool weather and the fact that he had not been warmed up by anyone else caused Joy's mouth to drop open when we started to trot.
"That is not the same horse I saw you ride at TASHA Mom!" she exclaimed.
I just smiled.
After riding for about 20 minutes, I came into the center of the arena to dismount. I told Keri Ann that I wanted Joy to ride Sport astride, if even for just a few moments. It was not my intention that she ride him before taking her lesson on Hershey, a more low key lesson horse (evidenced by his name) but Keri Ann did not want to put Sport up only to take him out again. We did a quick saddle change in the isle and Joy got a leg up. Joy's eyes were wide open, but I knew she could handle him. I gave her a quick instruction of keeping hold of the curb rein of his training bridle and off to the rail she went.
When she clucked and asked for the trot, Joy was a little unsure and her body was a bit too forward, but just a few strides in, she corrected her lead and her posture. Half way around the arena and she looked like she used to look when she showed - excited and confident. I thought it would be a huge let down for her to ride Hershey, but she just soaked it all up and had a blast. Hummmm - and again the bug BITES! The only disappointment was that I was hoping she could try to ride sidesaddle. Alas - Time was not on our side.
Joy agreed to come out to the farm weekly to help me work Sport and to get an older mare, Swizzle Lynn, ready for my Grand daughter to ride. I knew Joy was interested in riding a nicer horse than Swizzle, but I was not willing to share Sport with her. In our area, there are a lot of really nice horses that can be purchased for next to nothing if the owner knows the horse will be going to a good home. It is a sad fact of our economic woes. I did not even get the chance to start inquiring before I received an e-mail from a woman who had a gelding by the same stallion that sired Sport whom she was willing to sell for a fraction of what she had in him. His name was Paradise Punch and he was a 6 hour drive away in Louisiana at a training barn called Maranatha. Punch was said to be fully trained and had been shown by his former owner and trainer a few times. He looked to be a good prospect for either the Park or Show Pleasure division. This sounded exactly like what Joy was looking for since she could not afford to put a horse into full time training.
I called Joy and talked to her about the horse and to verify her desire to ride again was not a passing fancy. We made arrangements to go and see Punch and I was also excited to visit with Tommy Benton, the trainer and owner of Maranatha, whom I had always had a lot of respect for. It would be a 6 hour drive from the farm.
Joy got to the farm at 6am and after hoking up the trailer,we were on the road by 6:20.
The weather was terrible. It was both foggy and rainy and although progress seemed slow, we did make it there by noon. Maranatha is beautiful. The main house was off to the left with a stalling barn on the right of the main entrance road. The covered riding arena and additional stalls for horses in training was further back. We parked and walked into the stalling area. I was shocked by all of the activity. 5 kids were riding and taking lessons when we arrived, from youngsters to teens. Horse were being ridden inside and out and a young horse was being worked in the round pen, and yet it was completely organized. Tommy greeted us and told us that Punch's owner was delayed. That was no problem for us as both Joy and I love to watch horses being worked and it gave us a chance to check out all of the horses there.
We took a seat in some chairs that were center ring. I watched and tried to decipher who was doing what. One horse really struck me as being high quality, but it seemed that the young lady riding him was only exercising him, not taking a lesson. The horse fussed with the rider and went around the ring with his head here and there. He had an stunning physique and even plodding around the arena was trotting level. When I inquired about it, I was correct, the riding was not taking a lesson. I asked Tommy if while we waited, Joy could ride 'that' horse. He agreed and called the rider in. As all of this was being done, he filled me in on some details of this horse and how his owners had some life changing circumstances which caused him to be used as a lesson horse, rather than a show horse. His name, Southern Revival. Bred to the nines by the 8 time WC Revival and out of a trimmed mare Limoges who was also a ribbon winner at the world champion show. His age, 11. His show experience, only shown 3 times recently at a local show. His status, a stallion...
"Wait... what????... a stallion? " I questioned. "He is being ridden by kids as a lesson horse, in an arena with a bunch of other kids, some riding mares??? Whatttt???"
I was amazed. I had only heard about stallions like this.
Joy got a leg up and took Rev, as they called him, out to the rail. Rev flat walked without any anxiousness. Tommy asked her to trot. She clucked and Rev moved right up into it. Joy set his head and my eyes were fixed on the pair. His hocks were just breathtaking, reaching up to his belly. Majorie, another trainer, came into the ring and started to instruct Joy. She had a lunge whip with her and as Joy made her second round Majorie snapped the whip not at Rev, but down by her legs, just to make the popping sound. Rev squatted down and raised up that his front legs were rising far above level. I, standing there with a camera around my neck was literally unable to take my eyes off of this pair as they circled round and again. All of a sudden I heard a girl call out to one of her friends to come and see Rev. I looked and realized that every person in the barn was now in center ring watching Joy and Rev. They TRULY looked like a pair you would see at the World Championship show. They continued to trot and canter in both directions. Rev never wavered. He never spooked, backed an ear or took one misstep. I was so distracted.... I did not even take one picture.
...to be continued...