John + Twister
Breed American Quarter Horse
My daughter loved horses and I encouraged that as much as possible because they were wonderful therapy for her. We couldn’t have one of our own so we leased a retired race horse and my daughter did 4H events with her. Later she spent her summer wrangling horses in Rocky Mountain National Park.
When our children finally moved out of the house it was our turn. We went to look at our local rescues and saw horses lining the fence looking for attention; some were really flashy too. Then we saw a sorrel mare laying in the middle of the field, 100 pounds underweight with her tail chewed off. The rescue says, “that’s your horse”. I was not really sure but my daughter told me that I should listen to them, and that the adoption group knew what’s best. Turns out to be the best decision I ever made. She’s been my girl now for a bit over two years. As my daughter likes to say, “every horse deserves a six-year-old girl to love on it and you are her six-year-old girl”.
I did a bit of reining on a friend’s horse several years ago. I loved the way that the events showed off the horse’s abilities and how the horses themselves displayed in their body language that they knew it was show time! I thought that someday I’d like to do that competitively, but it didn’t take me long to realize that I could never afford it. The mid-level horse I rode was far out of my price range, and my friend worked with a professional trainer to get him and his horse ready. The travel and show costs alone were just prohibitive.
Then along came The Right Horse Initiative and the Battle on the Rockies event in Denver.
I’ve only had my mare Twister for a bit over two years and she was just saddle broke when I adopted her. She’s smart and very willing. I don’t have a trainer and don’t have a place to ride indoors in the winter but I was determined to show off what she could do. We learned how to side pass on the ground in the barn using one spur and her lead rope. We learned how to open a gate in the dark for 15 minutes a night because it was too cold. She walked over tarps for treats and in general we did everything we could to get ready. Then my rescue sponsored a team and covered our fees.
I felt like we were riding into the NFR finals when we rode into that arena. We were both a bit too excited, but she held it together and we had a super time. And we placed! Most of the other competitors were just like me and everyone was sharing stories about their rescues. It was the right vibe, a bunch of people who love horses all in the same place having fun.
Don’t get me wrong, everyone who throws a leg over a horse dreams of a ride in Vegas or at the Quarter Horse World Show, but those events are simply out of the reach for most of us. The horses that get ridden in those events were winning futurities 10 years before my horse had her first training ride. The Right Horse Initiative gave people like me the chance to compete on a level playing field and to show what we could do with our rescues. I got to see Twister walk in knowing that this was big and everyone was looking at her. She nailed it and walked out as if she’d done it a hundred times.
I think that events like Battle on the Rockies are critical if you are going to increase the rate of horse adoption. Local low-level events bring out the people who can’t touch the cost of horse competition today but would still like to compete a bit. Maybe it’s a youth whose parents can’t afford a competitive mount, or perhaps it’s someone who used to ride years ago and is now discouraged by how professional it has become. Toss in a gymkhana and a couple of buckles and let’s show people that you can have fun without dropping huge money on a finished barrel horse.
I support my local rescue because they do great work. I’ve seen some of the horses they have taken in and it can be heartbreaking. I’ve also seen some of those same horses look completely different in a couple of months. And we need more adopters.
Let’s stop being shy, let’s show off!