The Natural Horseman – Staying the Course

By Steve Stevens

I am sitting at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC. It is 3:30 in the morning, and I am waiting for a 5:30 a.m. flight. I just came from competing in the Colt Starting Challenge USA competition in Doswell, Virginia, at the Virginia Horse Festival. I ended up finishing second place with a two and a half year old Warmblood named Quest. This was an interesting one for me because Quest was by far the most nervous horse I have had at any of the colt startings.

Steve and Quest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)
Steve and Quest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)

When I got to work in the first round, it became evident that he wasn’t going to be easy. To start, I could hardly touch him and I was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get him saddled. But I just worked away with just rubbing and releasing and before long I got him saddled. He was real tight. I just kept reminding myself to be there for him and he started to free up. Every time I stepped up in the stirrup I could feel his body tense up. So I would step up and back down again. I kept doing this until I felt him take a breath. I went through that process for a while until it finally came time to take a deep seat and see how it turned out.

As long as I kept moving, rubbing him, rocking my hips back and forth, he seemed to be all right. He actually moved out pretty good. The time ended quickly for the day and I knew I didn’t get nearly enough accomplished for the competition. In the grand scheme of things he had made huge leaps and bounds. I needed to let it go and hope that he would continue growing tomorrow.

I got to check out Fredericksburg, Virginia, a little bit that evening. I feel it is always important to allow my horse journey to help me take advantage of exploring places I have not seen, especially historical and beautiful places to keep me grounded. The history there was amazing. To stand where our founding fathers stood and fought for our great country was pretty special.

The second day Quest came around quickly. I had to watch him, though. He needed a lot of leadership. Anytime I got distracted I could feel him distancing himself. I couldn’t have been prouder of him. It was less than three hours ago that he was scared to be touched. It is really incredible that horses can allow us to ride them. As I kept working away, I thought a lot about the horses that had carried soldiers through battles in the area. It should always be such an honor to ride a horse after what they have done for our country. I went into the final round in first place. Quest got a little herd bound to the other horses once he was in the arena by himself. He never concerned me, but he was hard to maneuver around the arena.

Steve aboard Quest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)
Steve aboard Quest. (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)

We got through all the obstacles, dragging a log, throwing a rope, and other tasks. This little Warmblood tried his heart out for me. He had a big heart and I am glad that I was the first human on his back. I learn something every time I work a horse. Quest taught me the importance of staying the course and just working away. He made it through. It was an amazing weekend. It is time to catch my flight back to Texas. Have sweet dreams, my dear friend Quest.