Guess what I did 8 years ago today?
Indeed it’s Henry’s Gotcha Day, and I can’t even believe it’s already been EIGHT YEARS. On one hand, I don’t remember what life was like without Henry in it, but on the other hand it still feels like only yesterday when I was like “surprise, internet! Look at this random horse I bought off facebook after thinking about it for like an hour! No, of course I didn’t pre-purchase him! LOL”. I’m crazy, yes. These days it’s kind of normal to buy them sight unseen off of facebook though, isn’t it? Whatever, it’s fine. “To live greatly you have to risk greatly”… or something like that.
This year things are a little different in that Hillary has the ride on Henry for the winter. I thought I couldn’t possibly love that horse any more than I already did, but seeing him bop around with her over some bigger jumps and give her confidence over tougher questions is so friggin cute it feels like my little black heart might explode on a daily basis.
To know him is to love him, and while she was already a Henry fan before and has sat on him a few times in the past, riding him regularly and taking him XC schooling this past weekend really seemed to seal the deal. Now she comes rolling in here with her BEMER blanket and her arms full of bags of cookies and boxes of Oatmeal Creme Pies and he’s like “FINALLY someone who appreciates me properly!”. As if the world didn’t already revolve around him before. Please. That horse gets an obscene amount of cookies every day and my whole life revolves around making sure his needs (aka wants) are sufficiently met. Details, he says.
Hillary’s jumped Henry at home a few times now, and last week I went out and bumped some of the jumps up to Prelim height for her. Part of me was wondering what she’d do… would she rise to the challenge and attack it with the gusto I know she has in her? In true baller fashion she jumped them all without even bugging her eyes out at me once. So proud. And the reason I wanted to bump up the showjumps at home was in preparation for the Pine Hill trip over the weekend.
It’s hard to fully explain to someone who hasn’t ridden him, but XC is Henry’s element. He’s a totally different horse out there than he is anywhere else. He’s very bold, he’s forward-thinking, he’ll take care of you, and he really wants to find the flags. All he really requires is that 1) you keep your shoulders back 2) you don’t shut down his gallop too much. If you can do those things, he’ll take you to anything with a smile on his face. And if you don’t do those things, he’s quick to let you know with some pinned ears and a wringing tail. EXCUSE ME HENNY NO LIKE.
I figured that if I could get them comfortable together over some height at home, it’d be more likely that Hillary would be comfortable pointing him at some of the Prelim questions. I mean, the entire point of her riding him this winter is to get more experience over bigger/harder/more technical questions, so… if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it. And boy did they.
They started over mostly some Training stuff, getting him solidly in front of her leg and getting her used to carrying more pace and riding him positively up to the jumps. They did some Training combos easy peasy, and as we went around the course and got more comfortable together, they started tackling some of the Prelim ones. Y’all, it was cute. So cute I have died a thousand times over since then from sheer cuteness.
She rode him really well, and you could totally watch things coming together through the combinations. If he needed to set his feet back down and add, she sat and supported and let him do it. She found the skinnies out of the combinations and rode up to them like she was hunting them down. She controlled her body up and down the terrain questions. By the end she was even willing to jump down the trio of banks, and Hillary hates down banks. I was sitting there feeling like I was watching something big clicking into place, and it was SO fun to have a front row seat. I don’t know who I’m prouder of, Hillary or Henry. Sharing is caring, but on a selfish level I get a lot of joy out of it too. I could watch Henry jump around XC all day long with hearts in my eyes, I just love him so much. Plus I’m very familiar with how fun XC Henry is, so seeing him put a smile on someone else’s face… I know that feeling exactly. Being able to give that to someone else is pretty awesome.
I seem to find myself humbled by this horse’s kindness and generosity on a regular basis, and this is no exception. Henry has done so much for me, and seeing him happily give miles and confidence to a good friend like Hillary makes him even more priceless, if that was even possible. Being able to put someone on him and know for a fact that he’ll a) teach them something b) keep them safe… there’s a lot to be said for a horse like that. He is the most golden egg from the inside out, even when he’s making nasty faces at me in the barn for taking too long with his dinner or putting his blanket on in a way that doesn’t please him (he’s always got complaints about “the help” aka me). Never change, Your Highness, it’s your world and we’re just living in it.
Would he pass a vet check? No. Is he ever the fanciest horse in warmup? Definitely not. Is he a top tier athlete? Nope. Would anyone ever pick him out of a crowd? Doubtful. But he’s living breathing proof of why you shouldn’t overlook or undervalue these kinds of horses. Very few of us need a world-beater, but we all need one that’s kind and genuine and safe, and that’s exactly what Henry is, in spades. It took time and patience to build him, but the payoff is more than worth it. Henry is absolutely the goodest boy ever, and he’s got a home with me for life. Here’s to hopefully many more Gotcha Days.