Thursday, 8 May 2008

My Life With Horses...Episode 6

Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5

Episode 6 - which tells you a bit about my first serious training and less serious summery pursuits.

In early 1996 two of my friends and I started started training with Grzegorz Kubiak.
I still remember that first ride as it was a dream come true to actually be helped by someone of that calibre. I rode a jack-of-all-trades a horse called Dzwon ('The Bell'). Grey gelding, about 15.2hh who could turn his hoof at anything!
He was quite a character! At our very first meeting Dzwon attacked me in the arena. He was one of the few horses I have met that truly went for you - teeth, hoofs, the lot. I was walking towards him to take him off his previous rider and he just pulled the reins out of that person hands and jumped onto me. He pushed me on the floor and kicked out at me leaving some long-lasting bite marks on my arm. I wasn't impressed. He was a miserable creature in the stable and was rather tricky to deal with but later mellowed with age. I went from being afraid to go into his stable to feed him (as when you were on your way out he was there ready to speed you up!) to befriending him totally :) We all forgave him as his behaviour stem from very bad handling in the past and he simply hated people for a long time.

On the day of my training we were already well acquainted although probably only due to a very tragic accident...Dzwon was used not only for the club competitions and riding school but also for driving. He and his partner - a lovely grey mare - pulled a wedding carriage alike this one. One night, they were on their way back to the stables when a car hit the carriage killing the mare and injuring Dzwon. It was late at night and the horse would not load so I rode him bareback to the stables. At times I jumped off and led him for a bit telling him to be good to me as thanks to me he would be home for supper - it took us a few hours but since that day he seemed to have come to the conclusion that he would spare me his teeth. Unfortunately I couldn't find any pictures of us competing which is sad as he was the first horse to give me the taste of jumping in style & performance sort of classes. We also won some rossetts which still sit in my 'magic box' in my family home :) The photos you see here show Dzwon at one of my riding school's camps. The horses and the staff used to went places for summer, rented some stables and arenas (or rode in a football pitch- great fun!) and hoped to attract as many tourists to riding lessons as possible. We taught in the mornings and had afternoons to play with the horses. Those were the most relaxed, fun days I remember.

Pic. left: Dzwon and I and some of the team at our 'reception table' ;))

Ok, back to the training day! The thing I remember the most was the feeling of having had learnt more in one hour than during all of my previous jumping sessions. I loved every minute of that lesson and we continued with weekly trainings for about half a year.
It was then when we started to realise that our beloved horses we had so much fun with were not really up for a more advanced challenges in the world of show-jumping...They were fine over 1m courses but anything higher than that and they struggled. I jumped Dzwon over higher fences in the lessons but he wasn't good enough to cope with the full set of higher jumps.
That was when Grzegorz Kubiak suggested that we ride the stallions at Boguslawice Stud.
The old Polish studs have amazing aura about them. This particular one is based in an old property of bishop kujawski, which has emerged from royal enforcements in 1215. The stud itself exists since 1921 (some photos from national champs held at the stud in 2007).
It was fantastic to ride those horses. They were so different from our good old riding school plods and the excitement of jumping them is indescribable.
We worked a lot on basics and were made to jump with no stirrups and no reins regardless how feisty a stallion we were on at a time. I learnt loads and I hope some of those skills are sitting somewhere deep in my muscle memory and that I will be able to dig them out when I once again have a horse to show-jump on.
It became more and more difficult to come back to the reality of a riding school and that elusive thought of having an own horse went from a dream to a plan! My parents were pretty much emerged into show-jumping by that time, especially my dad who loved trailing us to the stud for training and to various places for competitions. The mental ground was being prepared and we waited for a suitable equine candidate to emerge.
Meanwhile I did my III Sports Class riding my trainer's stallions (to obtain it you need 3 rounds in style & performance classes at 1m (3'3) where your style mark is below 5 points; the points are given for bad approaches/badly ridden corners, position faults over the jumps, wrong striding in lines and doubles as well as for starting and finishing volte where you are judged on trot to canter and canter to trot transitions; the lower the score the better).
Some of my attempts were rather pathetic and maybe it isn't such a bad thing that I have no proper records from back then ;)

We had lots of fun. We travelled a lot and everything was paid by the stud. In fact, back then, it was a great time for junior riders. The studs had to take their horses out and about which meant there was never any particular shortage of them. The transport was free and we usually either slept in a horsebox or rented cheap holiday accommodation if going to a few days long shows.
Even better, on one of cold wintry day of 1996 I met Fetas - a 16.2hh, dark brown trakehner stallion who was to become my first truly own horse. It was the best day of my riding life. Little did I know how much heartache was to follow...

To be continued...



Anonymous said...

As a 28-year-old journalist who has only just taken up horse riding in the last year I have to say your blog is inspirational!

Unknown said...

Thank you :) Hope your riding will bring you as many fantastic moments as it brought me.

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