Enter dressage, full-time. I loved the challenge and looked to trainers Bill Warren and Kathy Eidam for help. My thanks go to Kathy for all her patience and expertise and especially dealing with both Minty’s and my old-age problems. And thanks to Dave, my long-suffering and tolerant husband who has put up with my riding obsession since the day we met in 1956.
Since 2006, when we started showing in dressage, we’d slowed down a bit. So to have old Minty feeling first class for our Century Club ride, my veterinarian and I worked out a program for the fortnight before my ride. Joint injections, acupuncture, a massage and some anti-inflammatories joined Minty’s routine Legend and Adequan shots. I had my blacksmith put on new lightweight aluminum shoes with pads and a material underneath to help lessen concussion. Finally, Minty got a shot of vitamin B12 to pick up his energy level. I could hear everybody’s reaction when they heard of all the preparations, “My word is she overdoing it!” But Minty’s aging body had jumped and galloped so many times over the years and every bit of help was a positive.
July 15th arrived. I arose at 4:30 a.m. and my energy level felt pretty respectable. I was not at all nervous about riding the test, but I worried the truck wouldn’t start as it was nine years old and recently mice had chewed through some engine wires. And I hated to see the mess if Minty had rubbed his braids to pieces. As it turned out all worry was a waste of time.
By the time I reached the show grounds at 8 a.m., the place was already packed. It turned out the club was thoughtfully making a big deal of my ride with a biography and awful photo they must have found on the internet was stapled to the program. I looked like a worn-out great grandmother.
I mounted Minty with half an hour to go before our ride time and hoped he was sound. I asked for a trot and let me tell you, vitamin B 12 shots have the most remarkable effect on a horse. He moved off with the titanic strides of his youth and he was so forward and loose I felt I was on a strange horse. I glanced at my trainer, Kathy, and laughed that he wouldn’t need any encouragement to wake him up when I prepared to enter the arena.
As I warmed up I saw my great old jumping trainer and his wife. And then three of the vets from the equine clinic arrived and two of their employees. My blacksmith and his wife appeared, and a host of other loyal friends along with Dave and our children. It’s odd that I didn’t feel the slightest bit nervous. I felt confident we could muddle through the test okay.
The public announcement system went on and on about the Century Ride and how I was the 114th person to join the club since it began in the mid-90s. And we were off to the arena. It turned out that the whole competition came to a stop for half an hour to watch us. People crowded near us, but old Minty was unfazed. A bell went and we entered at the letter A and tracked in a dead-straight line to halt halfway up the arena at X. Minty stopped obediently so I knew we were ‘on’. I acknowledged the judge in the booth and we started through the different exercises. It was desperately hot and though we’d been excused from wearing jackets and our stock-ties, by my last canter Minty and I were wilting. But he had a marvelous surge when we did the required medium trot diagonally down the long arena. He got a score of 8 for that movement and another 8 for our final halt at X.
The spectators were so generous in their cheers and clapping that Minty had this mammoth first-ever spook. He leapt forwards for 10 feet and I was flung backwards! The onlookers loved it and it was a first for Minty. I think of the many times we have halted at X and there was possibly one loyal friend clapping. The old horse certainly knows the routine of his life.
Out we walked and Minty had the Century Club ribbon pinned to his bridle and I was given great gifts along with an enormous box of horse treats. Speeches followed, and how about champagne at 10 in the morning?
That evening Dave and I gave a party at a superb restaurant. We told stories and screeched with laughter. We didn’t go home for three hours. I was dead-beat but couldn’t sleep. So many people helped make this fun day and Dave and I were so thankful.
But my greatest thanks and love go to Minty. He has carried me so safely over so many challenging fences and glorious countryside and as we grew older he has worked very hard to harness his old body into some semblance of the many dressage movements. He has never bolted, bucked, reared or ever given me a single moment of apprehension. Here’s to my very special solid citizen!