I saw this blog hop making the rounds awhile ago and had to hop on board (yeah, pun intended, sorry not sorry). Then I got carried away and started tracking down media from everywhere I could find it like a crazed virtual archeological dig. It's amazing what you'll find on the internet when you know a horse's name and breed and geography. I'm starting to think Theo is a year younger than I was told, since he's eight in a video from six years ago . . . Anyway, on to the history lesson!
First picture I've managed to track down, technically before I met him. Baby Theo, probably five or six years old and starting his life as a trail horse prospect for my vet's very sweet wife. She bought him from a backyard breeder so no records of his breeding and not a lot of training. Anyone else think he already looks like a trouble maker?
This is Theo's sales video from when he was eight years old and was in the throes of the 'dark times'. He had hurt his owner and was on the market. I randomly found it while looking for a video of him in a jump clinic. This is where he was when he landed at my current barn as a lesson horse prospect.
Theo's next sales ad picture when he's about 9 or 10 years old. In the new sales video, he freaks out at a little vertical and refuses to jump it while wearing a German martingale. It's pretty . . . special. I'll spare you.
I did find the clinic video I was looking for. This is November 2014, six months before I met him, when he'd found himself a leaser for a couple months. Very much the Thigh Master. You can also see why I like riding with Brad Giuda, he's a blast.
The first time I met him, April 16, 2015. I wanted to ride a horse that would get me back into shape fast and they handed me the dreaded Thigh Master. Note the 'omg go away' expression even before I rode him. He's eleven years old and very cranky. Doesn't really want grooming, definitely doesn't want tack or to go to the ring. Mostly wants to be left alone.
The other expression I got a lot in spring 2015. Such a narrow chest!
Our first outing together, May 2015. I'm about 20 pounds heavier and he spent about half of the show trying to buck me off. Jumping in that dressage saddle sucked.
Start of the abscess wars, June 2015.
Post abscess wars when I started full leasing him, 2015.
Our first dressage outing, summer 2015. You can almost see that four beat canter, but we were excited he stayed in the ring. Back when a 20 meter circle was hard.
Pleasure show, Fall 2015. Our great accomplishment was him not killing any of the other horses in the group classes. Neck and back are starting to fill in.
February 2016. Bought myself a pony! Now twelve years old, butt is rounder, neck is much less ewe shaped. By this point Theo is a clicker trained horse that has figured out that life isn't all that bad. He does some tricks, he gets some treats, and then he goes back in his field. I've discovered that the tough boy act is really an act and the magic of ear rubs. He is eternally grateful.
April 2016, freshly clipped for the show season and our run to qualify for the regional championships for Training level dressage.
May 2016, Theo's rated dressage show debut showing Training 2 and 3. He bronc-ed so much in his first test that the L candidates were gasping. He managed to get a 52% and a 62% from the same judge on the same day in the same ring. I didn't fall off and he didn't manage to leave the ring, so mission accomplished.
GMHA, June 2016, showing the weak spot in his neck. Scoring in the 60's consistently at Training, but connection problems are already starting to become apparent. This is the first show where he did his now patented sigh on center line where he relaxes because he knows what to expect once he's in the sand box.
UNH, our First level debut, July 2016. Still my favorite picture of him. Shortly after this he spooked so hard that I lost both stirrups during a canter lengthen attempt.
Saugerties, September 2016. We made it to Regionals! I got a major case of stage fright and we choked, but we made it and we didn't get disqualified for leaving the ring. Quite an accomplishment for Theo's first season of serious business dressage-ing.
Spring 2017, Theo adds school master to his resume, picking up an adult ammy rider to teach while I figure out how to cope with my new job. He's a chance to try out some moves that other school horses can't do like simple changes through the walk and shoulder in. He's also the confirmed school master of jumping for the barn. Just grab mane and point him at the fence, he will get you safely to the other side.
Summer 2017, First 3 at the Tack Shack. No spurs, no connection, no hope. 58%. This is when I realize we've gone off the rails with our dressage training.
September 2017 after riding with Mary Howard. Theo is learning about flexion. I'm learning about toughing through the hard parts. He's already almost unrecognizable from the horse at Tack Shack. This is the midst of the hard times when my left shoulder was almost non-functional.
January 2017. Oh, that neck. This is at the turning point when he stops throwing tantrums and I can ride without pain. He's now fourteen.
Spring 2018, heading in for a clinic at Second level and looking the part. Comfortably schooling all of Second level and heading back to the show ring to redeem himself at First.
April 2018, the bomb proofing clinic. The hardest three days of riding in my life and a huge turning point for our relationship. After marching through smoke, fire, and facing down a police car with the siren blasting, the dressage ring loses a lot of it's terror. I let go of his face, rode about 100 spin and bolts, and came out the other side with a different kind of confidence.
April 2018, Adv Elementary two phase where we won the dressage with an 18 and then jumped clean. At the same show he carted a nervous adult ammy around a two phase for another blue ribbon, packing her through her first jumping competition in a long time. Also the debut of my amazing purple coat. His neck is now officially going the right way, my hands are out of my lap, and I'm jumping like I may have done this before at some point in my life.
July 2018, our best outing at First Level with a 64% and a 67% for First 2 and 3. They actually captured him with a moment of suspension in his lengthened trot! Theo marches around the ring like he owns it, sticks his head in to say hello to the judge, and generally looks like an experienced show horse.
August 2018, High Score Adult Amateur and Level 1 Adult Amateur Champion at the Northeast Western Dressage Championship. Theo is now known as a cuddly, friendly, chill horse that knows his job in the dressage ring.
October 2018, enjoying his role as school master at a schooling show. An all new show and there were no bolts or spinning. He went into the ring and did his job with his other rider. He also looked amazing as Elsa's mount.
December 2018, careening back into the off season. He's got a full dance card with his other rider and my grand plans to do Second level, a musical freestyle, and return to Saugerties.
March 2019, enter Trainer Z and the new game of forward. More topline development and more strength for carrying as we develop collection and that elusive uphill tendency to get us ready for Second.
Theo has pulled a complete 180 from where we started mentally. He's now almost overly interested in what people are doing, putting his nose in anything that is going on around him. His old, suspicious nature is gone. He's quite certain that every person he sees loves him and wants to give him scritches and cookies. He's not wrong. Everyone treats him like royalty, including me.
Instead of being the dreaded Thigh Master that no one wants to ride or being 'that' horse, getting to ride him is considered a privilege. He troops down to the ring with his ears pricked, curious about what game we're going to play today.
I'd be lying if I said I expected us to get to this point. Didn't see a bit of this coming, but wouldn't trade it for anything.