My coach’s wonderful boy, Charlie, passed away from colic on the weekend.
He came to my coach after having sat in the field for several years prior. He is not an easy horse to handle, and had actually made her coach’s rider quit riding! This is especially crazy if you know how talented the daughter of her Grand Prix level coach is. In any case, Charlie (a Dutch WB) was given to my coach as a gift horse, because he really wasn’t doing anything. She poured her heart and soul into this horse. In a handful of years, she transformed Charlie from an awkward, lanky, skinny, out of shape boy into the handsome and talented horse that he became. Charlie was still never an easy horse to ride. He was often spooky and had plenty of quirks. When he was bad we called him Chuckie, and when he was good we called him Charleston. He was horrible on cross-ties, transforming from a dressage superstar into a tap-dancer as soon as those ties clicked in. However, he was getting better and better to the point that my coach was actually planning on competing him in his first full provincial season this upcoming summer. He had so much ahead of him.
I first rode Charlie a month or two after my coach acquired him. He was not balanced at all, and would frequently get “stuck” and refuse to move forward an inch. To get him to canter you had to pick up the trot faster and faster until he gradually gave in. But his gaits were floaty and held so much potential. I remember getting to ride him in a clinic, around the time that my coach got her own place. I was registered to ride on the mare that I was leasing, which I did twice, but then my coach gave up her spot for some long and complicated reasons. Chuckie came out that day. He wouldn’t pick up any transitions for me, and embarrassed me in front of everyone auditing. However, when the clinician himself got on the horse and gave him a go, Chuck wouldn’t even go to work for him right away – it took a solid five minutes for him to figure out his upward transitions – which is saying something!
I continued to have the pleasure of riding Charles/Charlie/Chuckie/Charleston from time-to-time, whenever I was in town or whenever my coach felt that he or I had had some sort of marked improvement. He became my milestone horse, the horse that told me exactly where and how my riding was improving. Getting to ride Charlie was a sign that I was on the right track. Over the Christmas break, I had my most amazing ride on him yet. He floated around and I felt so proud to be able to control and contain the magnificent creature underneath me. Everything came together beautifully. Even better, my last time riding, during a visit home last month, was beautiful. We didn’t do any work, we just hacked out with my coach and one of her other horses. Charlie, a horse who had been spooky and unpredictable, could now hack out and relax along with me (an occasionally very nervous rider, who is becoming a little better on this front too). It was a beautiful, sunny winter day, and we had so much fun together. His ears were pricked forward, and he was enjoying getting out for a little jog with his best friend (my coach’s other horse). His trot was heavenly and I felt like we were gliding over the snow beneath us. It was a magical last moment to remember with an old friend who taught me so much, allowed me to celebrate many exciting milestones, and who improved and shone under the guidance and love of an amazing owner. He will forever be in my heart.