A while back I mentioned my friend, Becky, a mentally handicapped 30 year old whose parents had asked me to give riding lessons. She did her first ride this weekend, so I thought I`d tell you all about it.
To refresh your memories, Becky had been taking lessons at a Saddlebred barn for the past 2 years. She had never ridden out of doors, and had never cantered. She owned a cutback saddle, a Saddleseat show outfit, and a 19 year old Paint former schooling horse named Buddy Bullseye.
The Saddlebred barn was closing down and Becky`s parent were given my number as a person who might haul Buddy for them. While there, her parents struck up a conversation with me about Becky. They said she is mildly mentally retarded, and her horse is her life. She has nothing else, has never been able to have a peer group of friends her own age. Her father is an Episcopalian Priest and she has spent a great deal of time in other countries. (12 years in Africa) They asked if I could sell Buddy for them, since the Saddlebred trainer had told them he was too old and couldn`t challenge Becky. It took a crop to get him into a shuffle trot, and he coughed a lot. I looked the old guy over and he looked pretty good to me. He`s 16 hands, big solid legs, good feet, but a little White Line disease. They asked me to give her lessons and I said I didn`t have a ring or even a flat place...I just ride trails. They thought that would be great and were willing to pay for me to take her on trail rides. Becky`s father said that many people like her can`t read, or once they learn, sort of give it up. Becky reads for one reason...to read about horses. She proudly showed me a report she had written on Arabians which mentioned endurance riding.
I started out by riding my Welsh ponies with Becky and Buddy. At first, Becky was shocked at how fast Buddy would walk down the country road. She speaks rather monotone but cheerfully, and she would announce, "I sure don`t need a crop today!" When we tried trotting, Buddy would immediately stretch out his neck, emit and incredibly deep cough/spontanious explosive fart, which cought me by surprise at first, but Becky very seriously said, "He always does that".
After a few rides, the coughs got fewer and only at the beginning of the ride. I think he just had 2 years of indoor arena dust in there to get out. Buddy was trotting big now, and with ears up and looking around. Becky was amazed at the change in him. I told her I thought he`d perk up out of doors, he was just bored stiff in that ring. A little formadehyde (eeek, I`m probably dying now!) and the White Line seemed to disappear over night. I kept thinking that we`d have to shoe Buddy. Becky ordered 4 easy boots, (size 3) but he did so well without them we seldom used them. Finally, when we tried, his feet were a little more worn down and they no longer fit. No problem, I`ve never seen him act like even the rockiest terrain fazed him.
Took Becky to the Liberty Run ride with me in Oct. She was a very good crew. At the first vet check, she asked me if I thought Buddy could do this. By the second vet check, she asked did I think Buddy would look good in turquoise biothane.
When I told her, sure, we could train Buddy for a ride, I had no idea what a bulldog Becky is when she gets an idea in her head. First, she bought my husband`s old endurance saddle and sold her cutback & riding clothes. Next, she showed up with turquoise spandex. Now her parents came back to me and said Becky was just a new person. She had gone from a couch potato with no purpose in life, to a girl on a mission. Personally, I think the mission was to aquire everything turquoise that could go on a horse. :-)
Next, she went on a diet and exercise program. It is common for people like Becky to have a weight problem. (Don`t know what my excuse is). Becky`s father told me that she had gained 27 pounds in the past year, and if I would just tell her that she`d have to loose some to do endurance, he thought that would do the trick. It did. She was soon walking and running their long driveway everyday, and her clothes were getting loose. Did I mention that Becky is under 5` tall like me? And that Buddy is 16 hands? Whenever Becky got off on the trail, I had to give her a leg up, then hold her there for awhile, because she wasn`t real agile at getting into the saddle once she was up there. By January, she proudly showed me that she could now mount from the ground. I don`t know who was prouder!
Becky is very driven, and never forgets ANYTHING you tell her. If I tell her she should do something once, she`ll do it from now on. I had to be a lot more careful about careless advice. As time for Million Pines got nearer, she wanted lists of what to take, and more details about what to do once she was there.
There was going to be a problem about the ride itself. I knew Buddy needed to go around 5mph, and that Kaboot would be circling faster than that even if I tried to ride with her. Plus, I wanted to do 50 and she`d be in the 25. I would have been willing to start late and ride with her, except I knew Kaboot would push Buddy too hard. I asked a good friend Stan Rieche, who rides an older Quarter Horse at about that pace if she could ride with him. I was mostly worried about her getting confused on markers. He said that would be O.K. I also talked to Becky Beccavich? who rides the little pony Comet bareback in 25`s. She said Becky could ride with her if necessary too. Told them that Buddy`s pulse rate tended to be good, but that he gets hot. We had clipped the neck and belly, but hadn`t ridden him since, so I wasn`t sure how it would go. When we rode at home in full coat, he would really pant, and I commented, "Ol` Buddy`s blowing like a train!".
Sooo, here it was ride morning. Becky got up when I did. By the time I headed out to warm up at 6:30, Buddy was saddled, Becky was ready and had 30 minutes to wait before I`d told her to get on at 7:00. I can just imagine her waiting until the second hand touched 12 before climbing on.
When I was at my 2nd vet check, Becky was just leaving out from her 14 mile check. She was all smiles, proudly showed me Buddy`s card with all "A`s". Buddy looked content, as he had eaten all the alfalfa that I had brought up for both horses. When I came in from my 3rd check at 40 miles, they had just finished. Buddy looked the same as when he started, and was still eating everything in sight. Becky in her coke-bottomed glasses would tip her head back to look at you, smile BIG and say, "He`ll sleep good tonight!"
That night, as we walked alone. Becky said. "I didn`t want to quit". I said, that`s great. Then she said, "Stan wanted me to quit!" Ohhhh, so that`s what she was talking about. I said, "Did Buddy want to stop trotting?" She said, "No, but I made him walk some because he was blowing like a train" :-) I think Stan had been a little worried that Buddy was too hot on the trail, and had suggested that she stop at the 1/2 check. The all "A`s" from vets who were more prone to "B`s" that day made me think that it was the panting that had him worried. The next day we drove 300 miles home with very few words. I`m a talker, but Becky just mostly looks out the window. Every once in awhile she would say, "I didn`t want to quit!" :-)
Now Becky wants to do Longstreet`s Charge. If there`s anybody out there who`d like to do a very conservative 25, let me know. I think this weekend was one of the high points of her life.
Angie McGhee and Kaboot firstname.lastname@example.org