‘I swear this horse has been on this earth before.’
‘She is a very stubborn horse. Good job she has an equally stubborn rider. Thank God she’s not chestnut!’
‘You can’t teach that to Ruby – she wrote the book on it!’
‘The beauty of having youngsters; you have a constant ‘for sale’ sign written up.’
‘This horse is far too clever for her own good; we need to make sure she uses that to help us rather than against us.’
‘Good luck taking that cross country!’
All of the above are quotes Sharon or Di have said about Ruby. That about sums up my girl; seriously clever, quick to learn, super talented and so eager to please, but also tricky and massively stubborn too - a typical young Opposition horse really!
We’ve brought her on slowly (mostly due to her physio issues that meant we almost had to start from scratch as a 4 year old), and at times I could happily throttle her, but working with her continues to be the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
I never intended to buy Ruby – or any youngster for that matter. A friend of a friend bred her, and when we went to look round the yard in October 2009, I took a picture of Ruby and posted it on my facebook, saying; ‘She should be my next little baby.’ I was only joking of course, but then a while later, I had moved to a new yard that would accommodate another horse. Ruby hadn’t grown big enough to be backed and sold by Kate, so I tentatively agreed to take her on, back her and sell her once she was riding away.
This was completely new territory for me; Papa Strong thought I was mad, (I probably did too a little bit if I’m honest!), but I’ve always been quite ballsy, and thought that with the right support and training we should be ok. Of course Ruby never went anywhere; the 1st time I met her I’d fallen in love with her sweet, gentle, inquisitive nature, and backing her she proved to be a dream; I’m not stupid enough to think that all horses are as easy as she was! We really got lucky.
Apart from the delays in her training as a result of chronic physio issues, we’ve never looked back. Following a course of successful treatment with Amanda Sutton, and 2 weeks boot camp training with Di Burgess to help start her off again, Ruby’s been a revelation.
The past few months have been brilliant and I’m so excited every time I ride her, knowing that we are making great progress. She often makes me say ‘wow’ when she does something new; getting her canter work balanced, starting pole work and jumping again, attempting a flying change when asked even though I didn’t really expect her to do it, leg yielding like a demon, and coming so light in the hand and learning to be soft and round in her canter work. She is a workaholic, and has 6 days work per week. 1 day off is fine, but if she has 2 days off she makes sure you know she’s not impressed.
She hacks alone and in company, went up the gallops for the 1st time alone and just knew what she was supposed to do. Some days she will have you believe she’s forgotten everything, and will have you sweating and doubting yourself – only to find the next time you ride her that it did go in after all, she just needed to have a little think about it first. She stamps her foot sometimes like a petulant child and you can’t help but laugh.
If you put poles out, she’ll voluntarily take herself not only to them but over them. She always has a smile on her face, and loves her work, as well as people. She has a delightful nature and is always pleased to see you, will try when she’s not sure about something just because you asked – likes going through the ford for the first time with jelly legs!
We have so much more to work on, and there will always be steps forward and steps back, by no means is she the finished product and I’m sure that with another rider she may have been a lot further on by now, but she is my lovely girl and I’m so lucky to have her. I’ve never been one for easy horses, and she certainly isn’t that, but her attitude and heart are what make her really special to me.
I’m acutely aware that we are learning things together, and I have Sharon to thank for what I’ve achieved with her, for keeping us on the right track, recognising when things weren’t right, and giving me the knowledge, tools and confidence to bring Ruby on and school her between sessions. Even though I was mismatched with Willo, the lessons I had on him really developed my flatwork greatly, and for the first time in my life I was able to understand dressage by doing it rather than just watching and reading about it. At the risk of it sounding like an acceptance speech, I just want to thank Sharon for her eternal patience, having faith in our abilities, helping us through when things haven’t gone well, and enabling us to have those Eureka moments regularly!
Having just Ruby for the first time has given me the time to spend with her that really deserves rather than fitting her in, and she has rewarded that 10 fold. I am really hoping that she will event, as her breeding and attitude suggest that she should, but in the mean time I’m having the best time riding her and training her with that goal in mind, learning so much along the way. I can’t wait to get her out and about and hope that she will continue to flourish; the way she’s going it won’t be long before she can compete. Having a youngster was never part of the plan, but I think it just goes to show that 90% of it is down to the partnership – when you just click, the very thing that Willo and I never had despite our best efforts. I’d be tempted to say Ruby is my soul mate – but maybe it’s just that’s just because we’re equally stubborn and determined?! I’ll l eave that one up to Sharon to decide!