I started out in the hunter/jumper world up in Wisconsin, where I was born and raised. My first horse was a TB off the track, with whom I did the hunters. When I was still a teenager, I saved a 3 yo 15 hand Anglo Arab named Shawnoe from going to the killers, and he became my second horse. He is probably responsible for me getting bit by the eventing bug. As he was hot and jumped in the typical Arabian style with a hollow back and untidy front legs, and was NOT going to cut it in the hunter world. So I tried him at eventing and I was HOOKED! What he lacked in style and scope he made up for in heart, and I took him through Preliminary, even placing at the Prelim championships.
My next event horse was a 5 yo 17 hand Hanovarian gelding named Diamler. He was very talented, but very green and opinionated. This horse taught me a lot about dressage. I took him from a horse that wouldn't even canter through a field to Intermediate level eventing, with many top placings at all levels. But he was a bit chicken and really didn't have the heart to be an upper level event horse. This horse really wanted to be a dressage horse. And he was so much fun to do dressage on that I got a bit more involved in that. I trained him through Prix St George and showed him through fourth level (since tempi changes tended to boggle his mind a bit). We did very well, with scores to 75% and AHSA Zone Championships.
Then came my horse of a lifetime. I bought a 3 yo 16.2 hand TB right off the track that got me fired up about eventing again. This horse is Full Tilt (Felix), the one in the first photo album. He is without a doubt the smartest, most arrogant horse I have ever known. Not to mention one of the most athletic jumpers. Jumping him was like being shot out of a cannon. He proved to be quite a challenge to train, as he had a very creative, trickster personality. He loved a good fight, and would test me in new and interesting ways every single day. Whether it was rearing up and walking on his hind legs, putting his head down by his knees and running backwards at gallop speed, taking me through thick trees, or his favorite......spinning around 180 degrees while going at any speed (which was especially fun while going up or down hills at speed!) and then refusing to turn around, he seemed to pull a new trick out of his bag nearly every day. And he thought it was all in great fun.
But it was that same audacity that made him a fabulous cross country horse. He took everything I pointed him at as a personal challenge from the course designers. He would look at a complex, size it up in an instant, and I could feel him think, "You'll have to do better than that to challenge ME!" His love of a good fight had evolved into a love of a good challenge. We won many events at Prelim and Intermediate, and he was AHSA Zone champion at Intermediate level. We also had many top placings at Advanced. Dressage was not his favorite, but he obliged me. In 12 years of eventing, with 9 of those years and 90+ events at Preliminary through Advanced, he has never had a refusal at a jump. Every 20 penalties on his record was a turn I couldn't make because he was so strong.
He lived for cross country, and was very sad when I had to retire him 4 years ago. He is now happily retired though. And is back to his cheerful, cocky self, beating up on every horse he has access to. I still hack him some, and am always amazed at his "forever young" attitude, as he is constantly wild and frisky. He does not believe he is 25 years old!
One of these days I'm going to get around to writing a book on the experience of training Felix, as there are many, many humorous stories involved, showing just how creative he was in his mischief. So be on the lookout for a book!
I took a break from riding when I retired Felix, after many years living on a shoestring, traveling around the country (and living in my truck) showing him. So for the past 5 years I've been focusing entirely on teaching and coaching my students. But I started to miss jumping, so I have recently bought my new horse, High Profile (Ollie). He is a 17.2 hand 6 yo Selle Francais gelding. He is quite a big, athletic challenge, but I hope to be out there competing him soon.
Update as of 2010...
Unfortunately my bad back no longer lets me ride, so Ollie has been sold. Luckily I have as much passion for teaching as I did for riding - and now live for helping others achieve their riding goals!