Wednesday, April 13, 2022

The Magnificent Return of Sir Leonard

This horse. I will never in my life ever have the opportunity to ever again have something so special. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Hammy too. But Leonard? I now know what everyone is talking about when they say “heart horse”. He is it. He is everything. 

Last Tuesday rained out so I rode him again for the first time after 5 weeks of stall rest on a Friday in a lesson. I had meant to hop on him at home before, but life got in the way. I’ll admit to being a little nervous. An 8 year OTTB who Ive only had for 3 months one of which had been stall rest, an extremely gusty windy day, oh and right before I got on a fire truck and ambulance raced by with sirens blazing. 

He did not care. We didn’t do a lot that lesson. We stayed at the trot working on leg yields and a couple fun ground pole courses to get us both acclimated to working again. 

He was unamused 

I rode him at home Sunday and he was a noodley little pretzel. He is pretty funny. He pretends he can’t possibly bend his body until he decides he is done working then he bends in half to try to get out of real work. I always tell him he isn’t helping his cause at all showing me how well his ribs move. He had a very strong pull to the arena gate but EN has given me tools no one else ever did. I worked him in the walk for 20 minutes doing a million tiny leg yields, some haunches in, lots of circles and figures until he was paying attention to me instead of the gate. Then we trotted a little and I even braved a canter! 

Then yesterday we had our regularly scheduled lesson and folks. Even EN was gushing about Leonard after. He was AMAZING. 

We started working on lateral work and she was all complimentary about his response. I chuckled as we worked. I have always done leg yields moving him off the rail going down the long side both directions. This time EN wanted me to use the first half of the long side to move him off the rail then the second half to move him back to the rail. Leonard is a smart horse who learns lessons quickly (this comes up at the very end too and I’m still grinning from ear to ear about it) and it slightly pissed him off when I changed the game and asked him to leg yield away from the rail. He was all grumpy ears and confusion but he did his best to answer the question. Good boy! 

Trialed another used CWD Friday. Hated it. Leonard did too. 

I knew we would be cantering this lesson and for some reason my brain has decided to tell me that cantering is evil and scary and awful and I should never ever do it. Well, after a little bit of trot work over some ground poles (of note we almost always use ground poles in his trot work as he tends to like to shorten his stride. The ground poles early on really help him to open up) she wanted me to canter. 

I took all of your advice and quickly asked her about the cue. She said that the lesson horses all learn the kiss method because they mostly get ridden by kids and when they are first learning the whole leg back thing rarely happens. I told her I’d like to keep the outside leg back cue and she was happy with that only if I stop forgetting that I have an inside leg as support as well. 

She loves a simple exercise to get me cantering without freaking out about the transition. We trot into a cross rail. If we land cantering then we carry on. This had yet to happen. When we land trotting I am to leg yield to the rail then pick up the canter. I did. He did. It was a non event. I was grinning like a fool. 

Unrelated but apparently I’m never getting around to writing about it. I went and watched Eeyore show a few weekends ago at a schooling jumper show. He did really well winning his rider a 2nd, 3rd and 5th in large classes. 

From there we trotted over the outside line ground pole to cross rail. No issue. Next was trotting over a small vertical (our first vertical!!!) with flower box filler set on the diagonal off a tight left hand turn landing riding straight to the rail before turning right and picking up the right lead canter. This was also no issue even if my brain had a moment of screaming DEATH as we approached the flower box. Leonard could have cared less. 

I fully expected to then trot over the other outside cross rail but nope. She told me to stay in canter and canter over it. Our first canter jump!!!!! Leonard’s canter is like floating on air and we approached the jump enjoying ourselves immensely. We made it over no issue and EN about peed her pants I swear. She kept repeating “he is a metronome. His canter is an freaking metronome” over and over and over. I think she likes him. 

Honestly I figured we were done there. It was 78, both of us were a bit out of breath, Leonard was acting like he was dying and well…I do love ending on a high note. Par for the course tho, we weren’t done. I’m always done slightly before my trainer wants me to be. Story of my life. 

He is looking good these days. His young rider loves him

We were to do our first ever canter course stringing all three together. I was allowed to trot into the first outside line coming left but had to get the left lead immediately after, canter that tight left turn to the flower box vertical set on the diagonal, land cantering, she said I’d have to drop to trot in the turn to then get the right lead, canter out over the outside line cross rail going right. 

We came in trotting, he knew this game now so he landed cantering on the left lead. I was nervous about making that turn and remaining in the canter. He is a big horse and had spent the entire lesson stalling out in all our corners at all gaits (even the walk which is pretty impressive) but I put my leg on (what?!?!) and rode through that turn like I had any clue what I was doing and he kept his lovely canter. We still had the left lead when we left over the flower box and then I heard a funny noise from EN but she followed it with “keep going!”  Apparently Leonard knew this course because while he left on the left lead he swapped mid air and landed on the right lead in prep for our right hand turn which promotes the noise as EN was surprised and impressed. 

We cantered that corner again not stalling because I actually was you know ACTIVELY RIDING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY ENTIRE LIFE, no big deal or anything, then I did my patented “stop riding the last fence because the course is done and you survived” move but Leonard is amazing and covered for me and did it perfectly anyway. 

I nearly burst in tears after that. Our first canter course together. Our first vertical together. The first time I actively rode during a course. His canter is amazeballs. His brain is even better. EN gushed over him. She told me she was so happy I found him and after seeing me on Hammy, Baretta and Murphy she knows Leonard is my perfect horse. We go well together and I am learning to really trust him. I adore him. I don’t know how I got so lucky as to have him in my life. 

I turn 40 today. It has taken me 40 years and a lot of good but not quite right horses to get to Leonard. I’ve loved all the horses in my past and am thankful for everything they have taught me. Leonard though. He is it for me. The real deal. I’m not even anticipating the future with him the present is too awesome to waste on “can’t waits”. It is here and it is now and it will never get better than this. Even if we make it to 3’. Even if we show. Even if we win ribbons or coolers or trophies or money. This is why I ride. This is the feeling I’ve been chasing my entire adult life. These wings. These moments where the entire world melts away leaving only me and Lenny working together. I haven’t felt this since I was a kid racing my Aunt’s TWH down the carriage paths in Acadia Maine on a gorgeous fall day with a bright blue sky overhead dotted with bright yellow leaves. I’ve been looking for this for over two decades. Nothing will beat this. 


  1. It is so wonderful how the soul sings when you are with your heart horse! The partnership feels effortless, and we forgive them for everything as they make us laugh and smile. Somehow our heart horse gives us something else … confidence. Bravo to you both for having found each other and recognizing the special something you have.

  2. Happy birthday! What an amazing start to your day to have that awesome lesson the night before! Also, so glad the canter cues discussion was such a non-issue :-D

    1. EN is very approachable. She also understands that at the end of the day I am the one who has to ride him so any aides we teach have o be something I can/am willing to do

  3. What a wonderful feeling to have things come together.

  4. Happy birthday!!! And so exciting about Leonard!!! It really is the best feeling ever to have a horse like that :)

    1. Took me a long time to find him, but here we finally are!