I began riding as an adult. Our summer and winter visits to Grammie and Grampie in Vermont offered us horse 'fixes' as we got to ride a little bit and we enjoyed brushing the ponies, but we didn't ride at home. I first took weekly lessons, then half leased Oscar, an Appaloosa lesson horse at that same barn and continued weekly instruction which lead to a full lease and finally the search for my own pony which took six months. The owner of the barn was an upper level eventer (had trained under the O'Conners) and was very good at watching videos and screening horses for this timid beginner. While my instructor was competing in Lexington, she brought home a flyer that advertised Jessie. The video was approved, I went to Columbus for a test ride and that was it! Her owner was a wonderful rider, too, and taught Jess to jump very well! The poor thing experienced a stressful trip to her new home and the driver had to take the divider out so she could have room in this tiny, narrow, dark and dreary trailer. I was thankful for the ride so I cannot and will not complain!
There are so many stories to tell...where to begin? I will say that at first I was frustrated with Jess. Turnout was extremely minimal at this farm and she only got to run around for maybe 1/2 hour to an hour per day. On top of that, she was fed too much sweet feed in my opinion which resulted in a lot of pent up energy. I got bucked off a couple of times despite being ridden about 6 times a week. As a new horse owner, and at this particular barn, I was unaware of these issues until the entire barn had an exodus and we all left for another place. Wow, what a change in my horse and what an eye opener! Daily turnout for hours, less grain, better quality hay, fans in the stalls, running water, a wash rack with cross ties, etc., but poor Oscar; I had to leave him. He and Jess loved each other. There was never any kicking, biting, etc., during their turnouts together. Jessie also loved Joy, a Morgan lesson horse. I know she missed them.
My new instructor was simply awesome. She was a very successful hunter jumper and we flourished under her tutelage even though we evented. Jessie usually earned me a ribbon at each show and eventually we became Regional Champions of Area 8 in 2001 winning off her dressage score of 28 with no faults in either cross country nor stadium jumping. Area 8 consists of Kentucky, WV, OH, Indiana, IL, MI, and the western part of PA. Mind you, I have a great self preservation about me, and we succeeded in the Beginner Novice division with the jump height at 2'7. (I have no visions of going up the ladder in the eventing world and absolutely love the 'mostly' safe lower levels). The amazing thing about the win was that Jessie seemed a little off and days afterwards I took her to Rood and Riddle only to discover she gave way over 100% while having a bone spur and two chips in her left front ankle! (USEA sanctioned shows allow no anti-inflammatories 12 hours prior to your show times). Although the surgery was successful and the talented Dr. Ruggles did a fine job, many cautioned me that she might not be able to jump again. That was ok. I love her and if that was the case then so be it; I would do my best to allow her a pain free existence...but it was not the case! We even progressed to Novice (3 foot) on two events and my dear Jessie placed 6th at Spring Run in Louisville, her first Novice event and then 2nd at Mayfest in Lexington. What a horse!
It was 2005 when I retired my baby. Our last event was in June at the Mid South Pony's Club Horse Trials. We were 3rd after stadium but she refused the second jump, going up hill and it was her old nemesis....a log! She hates logs! (Yesterday while little Carey Elizabeth was in the saddle, she shied 20 feet away at a log jump in the big field!!!) Had the log been in the middle of the course, she would have been fine, but we hadn't gotten our rhythm yet and it was her first event since almost a whole year before. She popped over it the second time and was fine, she dominated the banks, the ditches, the water and all was well until the 14th fence which was third from the final jump. The course designer was an idiot. He put this very wide two level solid white 'garden' box fence right beside a huge massive Rolex jump! You do not do that at baby novice. Plus, we were going down a steep hill and this was a very, very sharp right turn with maybe four strides after the turn to this fence. I think the placement question was enough with the sharp turn without adding the distraction of the Rolex fence. So, of course she was on her forehand, being Quarter horse and built downhill anyway, and we could not keep our rhythm so she eyeballed that huge jump first. No excuses, that was just the fact. There were a lot of refusals at that jump. The announcer in his British accent asked me if I was going to retire her and I nodded yes....I knew she wouldn't go over this fence so I just got off, loosened her girth, and patted her neck...my girl is no fool and neither was I.
So, I decided we could just have fun and play at some Combined Tests. We entered Antebellum in July. Then the unthinkable happened...Jessie refused an easy vertical for no known reason. It was comprised of birch logs so it wasn't the usual fence but she normally would have taken that easily...My good horsey friend Robyn who is an upper level rider was there and gave me her opinion which was maybe it was time to retire her. Robyn has watched us all those years and knew what Jess was capable of...she was right and through my salty tears I agreed. It was awful, but Jessie's comfort comes first. We can still be teammates, just in a different way.Happy Birthday, my dear girl... I love you so very much and I pray we continue to have many, many years together all in good health with much happiness!