Written by Liv Godfrey.
I was sitting in my room thinking about my horse (per usual I’m not hiding it anymore… let me live) and how wonderful she is. I was also thinking about when I first got her and how absolutely awful she was and what an incredible journey this has been for me.
For those of you that don’t know – I adopted a just turned 4 year old chestnut OTTB mare in 2014. I was 15 years old. I started Lulu pretty much on my own (with moral and on the ground support from my best friend Aurora & her mom Cat) until I met a wonderful woman named Jill with whom I worked to teach Lulu the basics and so on from there. Lulu and I are now competing in the 2’9” jumper division, and I hope to move her up to 3’ next summer. She is an amazing mare who gives 100 percent every time. She loves to jump, and she enjoys learning and going fast. On the ground she’s really snuggly and loves her faced rubbed but only by certain people. She becomes shy around strangers. She is also unbelievably sassy and tends to get jealous when you don’t pay attention to her, and you can tell exactly what she’s thinking based on her face.
Lulu was a challenge for me though, and we didn’t really get along for a long time. There were many days I questioned if I’d ever be able to accomplish my dream, which was, at the time, making her a hunter. She was fast, really strong because she braced against the bit, had absolutely no balance or muscle, had disgustingly maintained hooves, and she had the attention span of a toaster. Another thing I must emphasize is how fast this horse actually is. While she failed as racehorse, I swear if you’d ever see her go in the jumper ring I wouldn’t need to explain myself any further. If you haven’t seen her, as a point of reference, the EMT at an away show told me we were the entertainment of the day.
There were weeks to months where I would have crappy rides everyday. I will never forget the multiple times I just stopped her dead at the trot and got off because I was so emotional and scared of what I had gotten myself into. One time I dismounted and ran into the barn aisle bawling my eyes out to my trainer, Renise, saying how I just couldn’t ride and couldn’t click with this horse and how I wanted to sell her. I honestly had no idea what I was doing, and I put a ton of people in shock when I bought this mare.
But because I had this fire in my stomach that lit up every time I saw her and had an immense love that I wanted to give to this horse, I didn’t give up. I kept riding, kept grinding through the bad, sweaty, frustrating, teary-eyed rides and finally everything started getting better. I had an awakening when I went back to my old trainer for a month in the summer as a getaway, and even the owner of my barn said something changed when we were away and returned as a different pair. We were starting to jump consistently and perfect a flow. I started to finally put my leg on again which is always nice, and I learned how to keep a steady, supportive leg on a strong horse. I also learned to steady my hips, which in turn slowed down the center of my motion. My hands and elbows also became a lot better, and I was starting to have better consistency. Lulu got really excited and strong to jumps at first, and it was really hard to school her out of it, but eventually she learned she didn’t need to rush to every fence. This was accomplished using a lot of gymnastics work, pole work, halts, transitions, trot fences, and overall practice.
Through all of this with us confidently jumping 2-9 to 3’ with some 3’3 tossed in with our jumper, not hunter attire, I’m so happy I didn’t give up on this little mare. She was so difficult but worth every tear, aggravation, and dragging my butt to the barn when I knew the last thing I wanted to do that day was get into fights with my horse. All of it – every moment and every fall was worth it.
She taught me that if you want something you need to work so unbelievably hard for it. Give it your all even when you don’t want to because at some point that’s what you lived for.
But also… let things work out the way they are meant to. Sometimes our perspective changes, but you will need to accept that change. I wanted Lulu to be a hunter so badly, but she is nothing close to that, and I needed to swallow my pride and realize that I bought her in order to turn her into whatever she wanted to be and help her reach her full potential.
Now I have so much fun in the jumper ring and at home because we both love what we’re doing, and I’ve found that the jumpers are much more my speed. Patience is also a virtue in life and with horses. I think as riders it’s important to recognize this virtue.
Getting frustrated only makes our horses more upset, so be calm and handle the situation with grace. It is still really hard for me to remember that, but I’m getting better at it. Overall, Lulu did not only teach me how to be a stronger rider in all aspects, but also to live in the now and experience what you can from what life presents to you with open arms – even if it’s not exactly what we expected.