A couple of weeks ago, I flew my mama in for the weekend to explore Austin and play with my pony. She’s met Val a couple of times, but the last time she saw me ride him was our second show in the jumpers years ago, and I was so excited to show her how far he’s come since then. I was also excited to stuff her with all of the awesome food Austin has to offer, and I’m pretty sure that by the time she left we both weighed 10 lbs more than we did when she arrived!
I’ve mentioned this a few times, but since I started riding Val a few months into his off the track career, he’s not been ridden by many other people. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of people who have sat on my horse, my trainer included. In the last year or so, even my trainer hasn’t been on him, and he’s pretty happy as a one person horse. He’s super in tune to me, and he’s always felt like he tries harder for me than he would for someone else, so I was curious to see how he would do with my mama, who rides exceedingly well and rarely finds a horse that doesn’t like her quiet, patient ride.
Saturday morning, Joseph made us all breakfast tacos (and they were amazing, because he’s the best) and then we headed off to the barn. The plan was for my mama to just flat for the most part on Saturday to get to know Val and get him where she wanted him for a jump school the following day.
It took them a little bit to figure each other out, but I was pleased to see that Val tried really hard to figure out what she wanted from him, and never gave her any sass. Even when he got a little stressed, he was mostly polite and got his brain back fairly quickly.
Shortly after she got on and started playing with buttons, my mama told me that he felt like she had put his flatwork on herself, which was a pretty big deal for me. It makes sense that he would feel that way to her, since my mama taught me most of my flatwork, but putting this much flatwork on a horse that doesn’t know any of it was fairly new for me, and it was hugely validating to hear that I’d done it right. We still have a lot to finesse and learn, but it’s nice to know we’re on the right track.
After flatting for about an hour and playing with all of the buttons, we finally called it a day. While she did have fun playing with all of the buttons, she thought he was a difficult ride because he’s so hot and sensitive, and really concerned about going around with a light contact. I promised her that it would all be worth it when she jumped him on Sunday, but I’m not sure she quite believed me.
After the ride, I gave Val a much needed bubble bath and he patiently hung out in the wash rack looking like the saddest drowned pony whose only motivation was the grazing he knew would come after, and all the cookies I was sure to offer as an apology. After his bath, it drizzled on and off while he grazed and dried, but eventually he was mostly dry and we threw him back out in his paddock to finally grab lunch at Trudy’s, a popular Austin Tex-Mex restaurant. Now that she lives in Virginia, good Tex-Mex is hard to come by, so this had to be our first restaurant of the weekend.
Though we’d been talking all day about horses, we of course spent the rest of the afternoon talking about horses (particularly my horse!) before grabbing dinner at my favorite authentic Italian place, Mandola’s, where we again stuffed ourselves way past full, and drank fantastic Peach Bellinis.
Since Sunday is lesson day at the barn, we slept in and met Joseph for brunch downtown. Even though I’m not normally a banana person, I had the most amazing Banana’s Foster french toast and the darkest coffee I’ve ever been served at a restaurant (which is exactly how I like it!) and then we rolled ourselves home to change and hit up Charlotte’s and the coffee shop by my office where they know me by name because I maybe have an espresso problem.
Finally we went out to the barn and my mama got to jump Val around. Sunday they had a bit more trouble getting in tune, and it took Val a few jumps to really trust her decisions. It was good for Val to be a little stressed and worried and still jump anyway. Though they had a few bobbles and miscommunications, they ended looking really great and jumping a pretty sizeable oxer beautifully, with a lovely soft and round canter on the backside.
After working off all of the food we’d eaten so far, we grabbed dinner at Hopdoddy’s, a burger joint that uses ingredients from local farmers. My favorite thing at Hopdoddy’s is actually the Parmesan Truffle fries with Green Chile Queso. I realize this sounds strange, but it’s really a fabulous combination. We loaded up on burgers, fries, queso, and a milkshake so thick you needed a shovel and then crashed into the kind of sleep you only get from a food coma.
Monday was my turn to ride Val and hopefully get a flat lesson. Unfortunately Val was a bit undone from the weekend, and we ended up keeping things fairly simple to help reduce the tension he was carrying for most of the ride. After a few strides of nice canter each way and a little stretchy trot we called it a day and headed to San Antonio to meet up with a few of my mama’s clients and friends, as well as my grandparents. When we finally got home, Joseph had made us fish tacos (seriously you guys, he’s never allowed to leave me, because I can’t go back to subsisting on chicken nuggets after this) and then before we knew it, it was time to say our goodbyes since my mama would be leaving for the airport with Joseph about the time I left for work the next day.
The weekend was fantastic for so many reasons, but I really loved getting to see someone else ride my horse and enjoy him as much as I do. It was also really great to see how he handled someone else asking him to do hard things, and I’m proud to say that he really tried his best to do what he was asked, even if it scared him sometimes.
So the tl;dr version is this: We ate a lot of really good food, my mama rode my horse and even though she wasn’t sure he was the most fun horse after flatting him, once she jumped him she fell in love and didn’t stop grinning until she finally got off of him, and my horse was super great under pressure, but probably needed a day to diffuse after all of that being amazing.
Next week I’m off to Virginia to ride all of her horses and play with babies! If you’re curious about her farm, you can find her on Facebook here.