Last time: Artus and I navigated the ins and outs of our first show season.
After a year in the 2’9 divisions, it was time to move on up. Artus and I were ready to enter the big ring. (We’re talking B-circuit here, people. The 3′ child/adult ring was where it was at.)
In the meantime, I had acquired a horse of my own: Rosie, a 5-year-old TB, who will be the subject of another post. (You will soon notice that I have a thing for chestnuts, especially of the Thoroughbred variety.)
2008 was, in hindsight, a year I started out feeling really brave. I had a green baby who I did all the major work with myself, and planned to show on my own, with no professional to show her the ropes first. My “big horse” was dear Artus, who I planned to do in the Children’s, equitation, medals, and jumper equitation: still spooky, still not 100% (let’s be real, still only about 50%) on the lead changes, who had more willingness than scope or carefulness. But it was my last junior year (even though I had only become a hardcore h/j rider in the previous couple of years, I realized the significance of this) and I felt like it was all in our wheelhouse.
Artus and I didn’t set the world on fire, but we made up for each other’s weaknesses. He went bravely to any jump I pointed him at. He jumped from long and short (but mostly long, I
have had a crazy eye.) He hacked and flatted with the best of them. He tried to do a lead change now and again, and always kept a smile on his face.
Then we literally crashed and burned.
I remember coming to in the hospital and feeling shame for having let down my partner so badly. I fought until my parents agreed to take me back to the horse show, so I could check on my big red Muffin, who was mercifully OK, save for some scrapes and a chipped tooth. Later that week, I got back on the horse, though I felt fear. But every time I put him into a canter, I took a deep breath, felt the familiar rhythm, and realized I still had some of that bravery in me, because I still had the gift of his trust.
We sat out the next horse show so I could focus on my green horse without the potential Artus-related nerves creeping in. Then, at the following show, we returned to the scene of the crime.
That weekend I came 1-1-1, Champion, in the Baby Greens on Rosie, and 1-1 in the equitation on Artus. It was as sweet a comeback as I could have asked for.
Throughout the next three years, Artus was a constant in my life despite many other changes. We kept chipping away at it, as other horses came in and out of my life. He became more and more dependable, and started assuming the role of teacher, for younger riders to benefit from what we had learned together. Now, eight years on and 17 years old, he still belongs to my former trainer, and is an invaluable “packer”, though he now prefers the short distance to the long, and comes out of the stall a little stiffer. But his ring presence is still commanding, and his heart is still always in it. (Although he retains, to this day, the habit of craning his head all the way around from side to side while waiting his turn at the in-gate, as if to say, “Is there any way outta this?”)
Artus, my little Muffin, my horse of a lifetime.