[The first part of a special series, “Making of A Champion”, contributed by my equestrian daughters. This post is by my daughter, Elizabeth.]
I am a hunter/jumper equestrian. It is my sport. It is my passion. And, it may be my profession.
There is much, much more to equine sports than most would imagine. It begins and ends with loving and understanding horses. It is knowing what and how they think. What they can and cannot do. Whatever they do together, a horse and their rider must have a bond, that special connection they can rely upon.
We came across Lilith four years ago at a horse auction. She was a four year old mare. Though she was born to be a racing thoroughbred, her owners quickly learned Lilith was not meant for the racetrack. She would have good workout and practice sessions, but come race day, Lilith, invariably, would finish close to last. Entered into a stakes race, Lilith’s performance was considered to be very disappointing. The only interest she drew was from a dressage trainer. Lilith’s shiny black coat was her primary attraction. In dressage training for nearly six months, she wasn’t learning well. So poorly went her training, it didn’t take long for Lilith to develop a reputation as difficult to manage, and one with a volatile temperament. Accordingly, she was shopped around at six auctions in three months time.
The trip to the auction was arranged by our riding coach, Mark. It was one of many lessons he wanted Deborah and me to learn about horses. “The more you know about horses, the more it will improve your skill set.” Growing up the son of a working hand on a horse ranch, Mark knows a lot about horses. He can look at a horse and have an instant recognition of what it can and cannot do. We eventually came to the portion of the yard where Lilith was standing with two other horses. While looking at Lilith’s fact sheet, Mark noticed how easily people gave up on her. He also spied the attention Deborah and I were paying to Lilith. So much so, the two horses with Lilith came for their share of loving. But, it was Lilith who captured my eye and captured my heart.
Lilith on an off day from competition in Iowa (Aug 2014)
My parents had made it clear attending the auction was a learning session, and their checkbooks would remain closed. Also, Deborah and I were beginning to have success in the show ring. Would adding another horse dilute the progress we were showing? Deborah knew Lilith had become my horse in that moment, and told me so. I knew too. It didn’t take long for me to start pestering my dad first, then my mom about Lilith. The “please, please, please” began. I promised to contribute my meager winnings to buy Lilith. Though they said no, mom and dad eventually huddled up with Mark. They were obviously discussing if Lilith could be developed into a hunter/jumper. Deborah tried eavesdropping on their conversation, but mom caught on and told her to stay with me.
The starting bid for Lilith was pegged to begin at $7500, $8500 for pre-auction sale. Both prices were considered to be much too high, especially for a horse deemed “unmanageable”. Mom and dad offered her owner $5200 as our one and only offer. With the other horses not selling well at auction, her owner became the former owner. And, my dad, technically, became Lilith’s new owner. Condition: no new saddle for Christmas. That was fair enough. I gave plenty of kisses to mom and dad. And, Deborah and I kissed Lilith, whispering sweet words into her ears.
Upon taking her to the Rustler practice facility, Mark saw what made Lilith “unmanageable”. A few whip marks. Though noted on her vet report, we could have voided the sale for “failing to disclose” on her bill of sale. We had decided if she didn’t take to the training, we were going to keep her. Mark had a sense Lilith was a good horse. She only needed stability, and a commitment of a reliable owner.
Elizabeth adjusting Lilith’s reins and bit during a training session (Jun 2013)
Once Trish and Mark began to work with her, they found Lilith to be a natural jumper. There was no awkwardness in clearing low and medium height fences. That same ease of clearing fences continued as she moved to higher fence heights. And, that problem with speed – Lilith had plenty of it. It was only waiting to be discovered. After six months in training, Lilith was ready to practice regularly with Mr. Ed and Comet.
Lilith has developed into a very competitive hunter/jumper. She is a combination of grace, speed and strength in the show ring. She is far from being a “difficult to manage” horse. Her temperament, very sweet. Focusing her attention, at times, can be difficult. But, once she begins a practice session, or in the show ring, her attention is undivided.
All she needed was someone to believe in her.
About the author –
Elizabeth Ksenia Ramos is a sophomore attending the University of Colorado. Her degree studies is concentrated in the field of chemistry, ACS certified Bachelor of Science program. She graduated with honors from Machebeuf Catholic High School in Denver in 2013.
She is the most decorated equestrian in Rustler Riding Club history, winning Rider of the Year, Horse of the Year and Regulator of the Year awards on multiple occasions. Additionally, she has won multiple blue ribbons, and other placement ribbons, with Mr. Ed and Lilith.