I’ll never forget the first time I saw her. She was pacing in a tiny dirty stall at a horse sale in Ocala, Fl., hairy, dirty with a look of distrust and fear in her eyes. She was desperate to find something to get hold of to crib on, but the smooth block walls stopped her. Around her neck were scars from a cribbing strap and she had half her mane roached off. The rest was standing on end from rubbing against a hay ring, and half her tail was missing. She had white spots from healed scars on her sides, either from spurs or skin infections. She stood about 13 hands and was skinny and dull coated.
We had hauled to Florida to show at the Florida reining horse show with our old war horse Eurochex. After giving my daughter Allie and myself the confidence to succeed in the reining pen it was becoming obvious that at 15 yrs old it was time to retire him for good. The night before, during our warm up, he really felt sore in his hocks and after a long, late night discussion with Steve and Keeter we decided that this would be his last show. But the question remained, what would I show this year? Zero was not stopping and kept falling out of lead, and without extensive vet investigations that probably would not show anything, it was too frustrating to keep trying to show him. I also had 3yr old Mitch, but after his fractured skull he was at least a year from being ready. For something to do while waiting for my class later in the day we decided to visit the local sale barn. On arriving and getting a catalogue we opened it to a random page…and there she was. Hip number 37 was a 7 yr old ‘finished reiner’ by Conquistidor Whiz. She had also been used for polo and all sorts of other things.
Keeter was excited, although I was pretty doubtful that this funny, ugly little mare was worth hanging around waiting for. Keeter asked to see her ridden, so a ‘cowboy’ with no reining knowledge proceeded to gallop her uncontrollably around the muddy makeup pen. When he changed direction, she changed leads. When he yanked her around in a circle, she ‘spun’, albeit swapping ends. But there was potential there, and even without shoes she tried to stop on the awful ground. Long story short, the deal got done, and later that afternoon she arrived at the showground.
We had no idea if she had been drugged for the sale or what she really knew. After lounging her for a few minutes I decided that she probably wouldn’t buck me off straight away, swallowed my fear and mounted. I rode her around the round pen for 20 minutes trying to get the feel of her. By this time we had started calling her ‘37’ although we had found out her real name was Jezzibel. Her head was in the air and she had no face. If you tried to get hold of her she panicked and stuck her head further up and went faster. If you put your leg on her side she scooted away from it in fear. Quite quickly I established that you had to keep her legs moving or she would start to panic and I began bending her head toward her hip in circles at a walk. Over time this has become our touch stone whenever panic sets in for her. She had very little directional control and had obviously never done any trot work. She would ‘turn around’ but would either stop or leap forward if you moved your leg. We had our work cut out to make her into the ‘finished reiner’ she was advertised to be.
Although she was the most unbroken, untrained horse I had ridden in a decade of lost confidence, and that sometimes it took 10 minutes of soul searching and walking her around to actually mount, I had fallen in love. After a week of riding her everyday at Keeter’s and getting her help with the exercises that would teach 37 the things she needed to know, I brought my horse home.
She is weird and quircky and loves me as much as I love her. Other than at dinner time, she rarely cribs, and is fit and shiny with health. She does lovely level headed circles, guides with my legs, and can stop like nobody’s business! At home her spins are developing well, although she is still a bit bombastic with them in the show pen, with a tendency to want to jump out. She can change leads every three strides without ire, and most of the time doesn’t try to buck me off or run away with me anymore.
On Saturday evening she competed in the DRHA Green Reiner Classic and with a combined score of 134 placed 7th out of 40 reiners to win her first NRHA money. Watching her video makes me cry with joy when I think of this ugly scared little mare of just a few months ago, and appreciate what she is becoming.
Most of all she likes COOKIES! Whenever she does something well she gets a reward of a cookie. I tap her on the check and ask if she wants one. She will nod her head in response and gobble them up.