I always wanted to be a Showjumper/Eventer and never thought that my dreams would be possible, until I got a Facebook message asking if I wanted this amazing project horse on loan. I could not believe that I had been given the opportunity to work with such an amazing animal!
Bilboa, Billy, had been a professional event horse as a 6/7 year old, and had been passed from home to home as a hunting horse since then (he is has currently just turned 10). When I went to try him, I had already gotten it into my head that we were having him, and despite a difficult first ride, and a first fall, we picked him up the next week. Loading was an issue, but for the SEVEN HOUR journey home, you wouldn't have known he was there.
Once home, there were some issues..... Billy would NOT go into a stable, you couldn't leave him alone on the yard as he would rear and before long he had broken all of the tie strings on the yard! I had to turn him out in the field with the chifney and another person, as he would just try to run off and rear! And riding, welllll...... for the first three months it was like riding a giraffe, Billy was so unbalanced, and just would not let me ride him. This horse came with some serious attitude problems, if you hadn't of guessed that by now, haha, I couldn't ride him to the school (literally 400 yards) or go for hacks alone, because he would literally just try to KILL ME! I'm talking rearing, STRAIGHT UP, then LEAPING IN THE AIR, running backwards for no reason, running into ditches, and just generally cat leaping, all FOR NO REASON!
We knew that Billy didn't have brilliant feet, but our farrier was managing them, and they were improving drastically with every visit. But when it was time for the dentist to come out, I was in for a massive shock! The vet came out with he dentist to check that he would be ok to sedate if needed, and the vet asked me if he'd been vetted (never a good sign), which of course he hadn't as he was only on loan, and it turns out that Billy has a very slight heart murmur that no one was aware of! It also came to light this day that we had such poor and painful teeth (which played a part in his dietary abnormalities, as well as some of his behavioural problems), after two visits from the dentist, Billy's teeth are now looking so much better, and he can eat normally without pain. But it is safe to say that this day shook me up!!
So I decided to spent more 'personal' time with Billy. We tried trick training, he hated that. Then tackless riding, bareback was NOT his favourite thing, but then he had lived his entire life on professional yards, and they don't do bareback!But now we're getting to like it, he definitely likes the whole no bridle thing. Then we moved onto Liberty work, and this is what made a HUGE difference, he started to understand that I was nice, and that he didn't have to do anything he didn't want, and with that (along side the tackless) he began to listen to me and my body movements/aids. I also started doing so much groundwork with Billy, which in turn helped everything! Learning that if Billy has his head down, he becomes relaxed, really helped with the whole hacking thing, and now we can go out for over 2 hours just strolling up the lane, on a loose rein for the most part, and admittedly it is still a work in progress, he isn't perfect, I'm not perfect, and still we have the occasional ride, where he does throw a wobbly, but I'm not terrified of him like I was!
Let's move onto the good times!
In October we had had a couple of rough shows, nothing really bad happened, but our confidence had been severally knocked, so we took a week off from competing, and went cross country schooling. I was soooo nervous, but Billy was foot perfect all day, and we jumped some 1* fences. Billy was in his element! This day was such a learning curb, I learnt that I could trust Billy, and that we would look after me, I got in a little deep to some bigger fences, or sometimes I was a little far off, but he said "No problem!" and took me over the fences, giving me such confidence in him!
During the winter we went to a couple of local hunt meets, and Billy loved every minute! He filled me with such confidence at each meet, between rears and leaps of excitement, I jumped my first hedges with this horse (something I never thought I'd have the confidence to do), Billy just took me to the hedges, and this is aa feeling that you just cannot beat!!
In November we did our first competition in a snaffle, a real proud mum moment for me. Billy is a big string horse, so being able to control him mostly with my seat round a course of fences felt amazing! We still have a lot to work on with my confidence, but he is just the best teacher!
I'm desperately looking forward to our first One Day Event in mid April! Billy has come for far, and taught me so much, not only in a riding perspective (I really could not ride this horse back in June), but in who I am as well. Billy has helped me understand proper communication, partnership, patience, trust, and most importantly, Billy has let me into this space and allowed me to become his partner, his person, and without YOUR help, there is no way that I would be able to keep my best friend, and continue to live this dream that has become our reality!