After the extremely successful Finnish junior show-jumping championships my daughter’s trainer and some of the other parents of junior riders were all excited: “Next year to Young Riders’ GP”. In the truck on the way home from the competitions, my daughter said to me quietly: “Mom, I really don’t want to take Luna to the next level. I could feel on the 140 cm final course how she literally climbed over each fence. She gave me all she had. It would be a very heavy competition season for me having to feel that I’m asking her too much. I wouldn’t feel I’m being fair to Luna who has given me so much.”
So, my daughter needed a new competition horse.
Buying a horse is so very difficult. I felt that since Luna had been – as Mary Poppins – Practically Perfect in Every Way, my purchase criteria would be 170 cm tall like Luna, a Holsteiner as Luna had demonstrated to us that Holsteiners are jumpers and purchased via a dealer, so that if something went wrong, we could return it. And then I got pressured into going to see this 162 cm mare, with a lot of Celle Française and full blood, sold by a private person. Even though I love Quinny to the moon and back, I still think that I should have stuck to my original purchase criteria and should never have bought Quinny. No! Strike that – that’s how I’ve felt for eleven years, but something amazing has happened in our relationship this year and right now, I’m super grateful to have such an intelligent, sensitive, hard-working and loving horse in my life.
We went to test ride her two consecutive weekends and we did notice that she was sensitive to ride and reactive to what was happening around her. But there was that something, I guess, that I saw later, which my daughter already saw then, which had her promising that she will control her own temperament and have patience with Quinny – she wanted Quinny.
Reality hit the fan from day one
- When the previous owner brought the horse to our stable, she said – before we had even unloaded Q: “Your paddock fences look a bit low. I don’t think she will stay in them”.
- The first time we were to leave to train outside our own stable, totally without thinking, I put Luna’s old transport boots on her. She went so crazy it took seven people to hold her in place sufficiently for someone to dare remove the transport boots from the hind legs. I called the previous owner who said: “Oh, I forgot to tell you she doesn’t tolerate transport boots. You need to wrap her legs.”
- We’re lucky that there were no casualties when, with the help of professional stable personnel, we loaded her into our truck the first time. She’d go in but you didn’t have time to attach her or close the divider wall before she barged out like a bull-dozer.
- We thought that she’d be calmer in riding with a hat to keep noises out. We got the hat on, but Q was so freaked out by it, she galloped around the manege and we didn’t even dare to try to stop her, as we had no idea how she would react, and I feared for the life of my teenage daughter in the saddle.
It was clear that I had bought us trouble.
The challenge was finding the help I needed
Looking back at the eleven years I’ve had her; I feel that the biggest challenge was that although I was ready to pay whatever a professional would ask, I just couldn’t, at that time, find any professionals who would know how to or want to help us:
- I’ve had to hear a trainer say that he will not train my daughter with Q, he can help sell the horse and find a new one.
- I’ve seen the blank stare of trainers who have no advice to give. As a hobby rider, it is scary to fall seven times during a jumping lesson and the only thing the trainer says is “come again”.
- I’ve asked trainers to ride her to better understand what she’s like. Two have said they cannot take that kind of a risk . . . and this FlowerHatLadyRider takes that risk most days of the week.
- I’ve also seen two professionals ride her who thought that the whip and spurs will do the trick – sorry, you were wrong, you cannot get a sensitive horse working for you by inflicting pain. Let alone working with you. Quinny’s eyes just rolled around and she got super stressed out.
Stable personnel were also a challenge for Quinny. A human being is the leader for a horse. Since in most stables I’ve had Quinny the personnel were afraid of her, Q was all the more restless without a strong leader.
- In the first stable where we had her, she developed in the first five months six ulcers and a stress triggered sarcoid, which had to be operated under anesthesia. I later bumped into a stable worker who had quit the stable at a competition and she told me that the stable personnel were so afraid of Quinny they lead her to the nearest paddock so that Q had a chain over her nose, a stable worker lead her with a whip in the hand and hit her if Q took one little side step and the stable manager came from behind and tapped Quinny in the hind legs with a broom. The ulcers and sarcoid got an explanation.
- At another stable the owner demanded that Quinny wear a bridle with a bit to the paddock as leading her to the paddock was a health risk to her personnel. She was put to the closest paddock, a stallion paddock, to minimize the time the stable personnel had to handle her.
This FlowerHatLadyRider tried to tell these people force, pressure and pain are not the solution for this horse – but what do I know – after all, I’m just a FlowerHatLadyRider.
“Get rid of her before she kills you”
I’ve been told Quinny is crazy, mentally disturbed, nervous, dangerous etc. I’ve been told to sell her before she kills me. I’ve said I cannot sell her as I cannot trust anyone else to have as much patience with her as I do. I cannot trust people not to resort to violence when their skills fail with her. I cannot trust them not to sell her forward and as sensitive as Quinny is, continuously changing owners would destroy her. I’ve told people Quinny lives with me for the rest of her life or if I can no longer cope with her, she will go to horse heaven. So, people have told me to put her down before she kills me – and I admit I’ve had more than my fair share of accidents. I don’t know what it has been, there’s been that glimpse of something, a something I haven’t until this year been able to put my finger on, a something that has driven me on to finding a way to get into her head, to win her over, to gain her trust.
These eleven years it has taken me to get there have been worth it – through thick and thin.