When I was 12 years old I was asked the hardest question of my young life: western, or english. See, up until this point I had the “It Pony” Chocolate. Also affectionately known as “The Devil,” “Spawn of Satan,” or simply “Bucker.” Chocolate was an amazing little 11hh mutt of a pony who did it all: he jumped, he did western pleasure, we drove, we barrel raced, we did 4-H, USPC, you name it – he could do it…with only 1, 2, or maybe 400 outbreaks of bucking in between. If I hadn’t been the ripe young age of 5 when I got him, I would have sounded like a drunken Irishmen while riding on a daily basis.
But at the age of 12, I hit my HUGE growth spurt!!!!!!!! I went from the midget size of 4’6 to the HUMONGOUS 5’2. My MerylMadonna sat me down and instructed me to pick a team! Did I want rhinestones and silver? Or did I want to gallop over 6′ fences?
Obviously, being the 12 year old with Olympic dreams, I picked this:
So we began horse shopping. Looking for a large pony who was not only athletic enough to handle my cowgirl mentality but also nice enough to take me over the puissance walls that I envisioned in my mind turned out to be harder than we thought, and we soon decided to journey to the Virginia Hunter and Bloodstock Auction to further our search! I was a nauseous mess the entire way down – I pictured paints, bays, chestnuts, and grey’s. My future conquests that my pony and I would take on: PONY finals, Rolex, most likely my A rating in Pony Club, ya know, the standard for the 12 year old who had spent the last 7 years getting bucked off in western pleasure.
We arrived at the auction after an 8 hour drive, anxious and excited only to realize that there were only 2 large ponies, one of which was 24 and the other of which couldn’t steer.
My MerylMadonna mother and trainer shoo’d me away, exhausted from the drive and the stress, annoyed at the *banter* that I had been battering them with for the past 28 hours, and *possibly* hung over from the dinner the night before. I began to wander around the auction looking awestruck at the line of gorgeous dappled warmbloods and thoroughbreds when suddenly our eyes met:
I sprinted to my mother and grabbed her by the arm, jumped up and down for her attention, and threw a grade A temper trantrum. I HAD to have him. We were SOUL mates. It didn’t matter that he was 7, had little to no training, and was skin and bones, he was BEAUTIFUL. Approximately 4 hours later, after arguing with my trainer that I COULD ride him, I DID need him, he WAS perfect, and my NAME was actually Karen O’Connor, donating my entire life savings of $378 from my first communion, and convincing my mother that my father would NOT divorce her for this, this majestic bay thoroughbred became mine. He was blanketed with the 68″ show sheet that we had brought to adorn my new large pony, and bandaged to the fetlock with the shipping wraps that we had brought from home, he was loaded up and sent back to Pennsylvania. I got into the car on March 21st, 1998 and thought “Olympics 2000, HERE I COME!”
Fast forward 24 hours later, and my olympic mount unloaded himself from the trailer with such potential, athleticism, presence, and ….
I had officially entered into thoroughbred land.
What happened over the next 12 years was what I like to now refer to as Thoroughbred 101:
Lesson Number 1: When you put a 75 lb 12 year old on a 7 yo OTTB, he will think she is a jockey. Do not encourage parents to attend competitions if they have pre existing heart conditions:
Lesson Number 2: Teach the 12 year old girl with stars in her eyes that blue ribbons will not exist for 1, 2, or maybe even 20 years. She better learn to love green. Oh, and it’s never the judges fault, just your own.
Lesson Number 3: Little girls who fall in love with thoroughbreds should really love grooming, mucking stalls, braiding, and walking, because 50% of the time you’re horse is going to convince himself that he is lame, and you will be hoofing it along side of him instead of astride him.
Lesson 4: If you just put in the time, sweat, tears, $560,908 in treatments, clinics, and feed, and about 7 years, you will get the horse of your dreams
Levi would eventually get me through my first love and my first heart break, fights with my parents and fights with my siblings, new friendships gained and old friendships lost. Unlike most fathers, my dad actually prayed that I would find boys and sell Levi, but no relationship tore me away, and then as repayment, Levi got me through every never-ending day of my father’s illness.
Which brings me to Lesson 5: If you give a 12 year old horse-crazed girl a thoroughbred, the thoroughbred will give her his heart.
So until something else traumatic happens to me, a la yesterday, I shall give you a bit of backstory into my life and just why I have turned into the slightly awkward, boisterous, and at times inappropriate human being that I am. I was raised by two stellar individuals: my father – a basketball playing, fly fishing, Miller lite drinking surgeon who resembled a young Chevy Chase
and my mother – a petite cheerleader, who was at times a little flirty, a little loud, but maintained her looks in only a way that I can hope to, all whilst resembling a cross breed between Madonna circa 1984 (its in the hair)
and a Meryl Streep in her Mama Mia phase
(it’s in the way she holds that wine glass). My childhood was pretty idyllic on paper. I was raised as one of three children on a dead end street, where the crime rate was at about the “My Child Accidentally Urinated on your Petunia’s” level. We were surrounded by pets; cats, dogs, rabbits, hermit crabs, tadpoles, ponies (good lord, now I know why I have so much debt due to my bills from Hallway Feeds, thanks mom and dad). Which brings me to one of my most defining memories: my first pony.
Let me start this story by saying that father Chevy did not like horses. Not only did he not like horses, but we learned later on in life that he ABHORRED horses, but my mother MerylMadonna was a raised a good ol’ member of the local hunt club.
So she persuaded him, reluctantly, to let her buy us kids a pony! It started off glamorously, as all little girls dream of: Christmas Morning, Santa leaves you a note under the tree to venture out over the hills and through the woods to Cochranton, PA and you will find this:
We were ecstatic! A REAL Shetland Pony!!!! Named Shana! Images of cuteness ran through my mind: Shana galloping over pasture fences, Shana rearing up in elegance, Shana lovingly hugging me with her neck, Shana running up to me adoringly when I called to her! Ribbons! Trophies! Money! Prestige!
MENTAL GOOD SHANA:
THE REALISTIC SHANA:
What occurred next I will try to explain. Instead of galloping fences, I got this.
Instead of winning trophies, I got this.
Our love affair was brief. It ended abruptly one day at the ripe young age of five when my mother suggested that we go on a trail ride together. We tacked Shana up, she gave me a leg up, and off we went to explore my grandparents farm. Birds chirped, rabbits sang to me, field mice made me a gown with glass slippers, oh, wait, sorry, my name is NOT Cinderella, when suddenly a large, fire breathing half zombie/half dragon, life sucking demon came running at us out of nowhere!!!!!!!!!!!
What came next I will never be able to explain: I VAULTED from Shana’s back and was knocked unconscious, my mother fled in fear, and Shana turned to me, sprouted a unicorn horn, and reared up in bravery to protect me from the fanged monster!
I will let you hypothesize what truly happened next before she was loaded onto a stock trailer and sent down the street to some amish kids to torture, but in the meantime, I shall leave you with my true inner voices picture of what my ideal Shetland should be. Thank you, and good night.
Ahhh…so here I go, finally taking ahold of the reins of something that I have threatened to do for years: write a blog. All of you reading this can thank my manfriend, as he has now “promised” (this will never happen) me that he would quitting sucking on cancer sticks if I gave up my own life-killing addiction, el book a la face, on which I proclaimed that if I had to give up my oxygen-giving statuses and blood circulating photo’s, I shall have to find another outlet for my slightly self-centered, mostly pathetic, outlet into others worlds. I should start by saying don’t worry folks – this blog will instruct you of nothing, will not be used to spread gossip and drama, and will probably at most times be simplistic and mostly boring stories about the zoo that I like to call my life.
Moving on to story number one. Today, my manfriend, shall we call him Ricardo for now, instructed me to take the “heathens” for their “exercise.” He knew that I would be chomping at the bit to take my new horse (don’t worry – you’ll be hearing plenty about him later) on a ride due to the weather finally breaking into the “should probably start shaving” degrees, and decided that I should multitask and get the energy out of a plethora of our brood. I hesitantly agreed, knowing which two he spoke of:
Bailey, the female “Marley”
and Cool Dude Woodford
Unfortunately, he forgot to prepare me for the most important ingredient in this recipe: my truck. The other options? A “gently used” BMW 328i, that while fun to be used to race around the backroads of Paris, KY, is really not what I would call the perfect vehicle to transport Heathen A and Heathen B to the farm. But like any brave eventer, I strapped my Charles Owens helmet and Tipperary vest on, loaded the children up, and shifted into 3rd….um, I mean reverse (Sorry, Ricardo) and set off on my way.
and quickly pulled into the most nearby gas station that I could find. Luckily, they had the liquid gold that Lord Luke, um I mean Ricardo, requires to be put into his “baby” so I quickly hopped out, paid that $4,098,302,300 dollars to fill the tank, and softly began humming “Baby Got Back.” The sun was shining, I was finally wearing a clean bra (laundry day!!), my half chaps zipped all of the way up due to a lack of long underwear, and I was off to ride my faithful steed – LIFE WAS GOOD!
I turned on my heel, ready to set off for the final 0.2 miles to the farm, and reached for the door handle. I pulled. Nothing. I pulled harder. Still Nothing. I was locked out. I peered in to see this face:
(obviously the face of innocence had decided to dress herself this day.) I reached for my back pocket, ready to speed dial Ricardo and have him come ride in on his white stallion (eh, hem – my truck) only to grab air. My phone was tucked gently under Miss Piggy’s paw, right above the lock button. I began to hyperventilate. Slow down. Breathe Carleigh. Lamaze breathe. Just like in Snooki and Jwoww. I looked around to find the most harmless looking person (ie the one with the most teeth, you’re in Paris now) and met eyes with a nice older gentlemen and his wife. I put on my best dumb blonde face:
and begged for his cell phone. I quickly dialed Ricardo’s number: Ring. Ring. Ring. “Hello Anastasia” (That’s obviously my name, I’m dating someone named Ricardo). I debriefed him on the subject. His response? “Try to either climb in through the truck, or have Bailey step on the lock button again.” This is the dog that I have been trying to train to shake for three years. She learned to sit, lie down, and stay in about a day – but quickly became bilingual, and then unilingual, and now simply speaks Spanish. That option was out. I was obviously going to have to climb in through the trunk.
I peered in, ready to end this already extremely awkward moment of my life, only to see that this “hole” in the trunk that I was supposed to fit into was about the size of my pinky. I took a deep breath in, got a running start, and dove…
And wiggled. And wiggled some more. Meanwhile, the entire time that my muffin top prevented my entrance into the car, my face was being assaulted by this:
I felt a quick tap on my calf, and wiggled back out only to see the saintly face of a man that I knew from the thoroughbred sales and his 10yo daughter. He offered to have her climb in through the small hole, obviously taking in my predicament. I gladly obliged and moved to the front of the car to distract Miss Piggy from mauling the poor child and causing my ((SECOND)) police report due to her poor behavior around children. As the small (she was the same size as my midget self) child maneuvered around desperate to reach the lock button, Heathen A miraculously shifted, placed all of her weight onto my ((brand new, unbroken, unscratched, white) phone, and I heard the most beautiful noise I thought I would ever hear:
Bottling my inner cheerleader bouncing up and down, I walked to the back and quickly filled the small group that had assembled around my car of this newest happening. Shame, guilt, utter joy, embarrassment, anger, and victory all churned together as I calmly closed the trunk, shook hands with the nice gentleman and his child, climbed into my car and drove off. Once a decent distance from the crowd and not within view of ASPCA, I turned around and glared at both heathens, ready for an attack, but only to be met with these faces:
Sigh. I guess they shall live to cause me anguish yet another day.