My Not So Standard Story

You are all probably wondering what this is all about.. Well let me tell you, it is about the journey with my first horse Buddy who is a Standardbred Gelding and a beautiful one at that! The time came to buy my first horse, I had been sharing a horse at my local riding school for about four months called Charlie who was a 25 year old chestnut gelding and I adored him, but I longed for my own to look after and love.

“I adored Charlie and treated him like he was my own”

My mother and I started searching online for the ‘perfect’ horse but we all know there is no such thing but I needed something safe and easy as I was still very much a novice rider. Some said to me “Why buy a horse if you have such little experience?” My replies were always “What’s the point in spending all my money on a horse that’s not mine when I can give my own the world” I may not have been the best of riders but I sure knew enough to own my own that’s for sure! I am OCD at the best of times!

So mum and I carried on searching, my livery and stable was sorted and in place it was just finding ‘the one’ which was becoming very difficult. Mum and I went to look at a few horses from dealerships but nothing was quite catching my eye and they never are what they advertise them as! Then one night when eating dinner mum came across an advert for a ‘standardbred gelding’ ideal for a ‘novice rider’.. Little did I know about breeds I assumed he would be a bit like a thoroughbred and was worried he would be a little too much for me to handle as my first horse. I ended up phoning the woman and arranged to go and view Buddy that weekend. I had no idea what was in stall for me that day as I was driving a four hour journey to go and view a horse by myself! Luckily, the family was lovely and they let me spend the whole day with Buddy as he was exactly what was written on the tin in which my deposit was down there and then regarding he passed a 5* vetting. We arranged that I would collect Buddy in two weeks time and in that time he had the vetting done. I was so worried that he wouldn’t pass but he passed everything apart from being ‘unfit’ but that didn’t phase me, he had only been used for hacking once a week!

The day came to go and pick up Buddy and I was super excited but also very nervous as this was a big step and my life was about to change forever. We arrived back home at the yard after five hours in the trailer and Buddy didn’t move a muscle the whole way (Such a good boy!) – I walked him off of the trailer and he was snorting like anything and everyone was waiting to see him, including my mum who burst into tears! He settled in straight away and looked so happy and content.

“I got him off of the trailer and he was snorting like anything”

I walked him into his new stable which had a massive straw bed with huge banks and he got down and rolled like he was in heaven! It was like it was meant to be! I let him have a week to settle into his new yard, routine and play with his new friends and then it was time to saddle up and have a ride.. Buddy had never been in a menage before as he was only used for hacking after his professional career as a cart racer (Ex Pacer). I had no idea what to expect from him as I had only ridden him on a hack prior to buying him.. As I put my foot in the stirrup the whole saddle span round because it didn’t fit him properly! I managed to get a leg up and have a little walk and trot but I was thinking to myself my god this horse knows nothing! He could only go in straight lines, he was so unbalanced and couldn’t canter more than a couple of strides! I was getting myself in a state wondering what I had bought..

After the saddle situation I refused to ride him in a saddle that didn’t fit and was ringing round trying to get a saddle fitter out as soon as possible but because the show season was approaching everyone had about a three month waiting list! I finally arranged to go to a saddlery but I still had to wait a month. In this month with no riding Buddy and I did a lot of ground work – Lots of lunging and free schooling and just general on the ground bonding. I wouldn’t have changed that month for the world because they were the foundations of the amazing partnership we have to this day.

“Enjoying his new field with his new friends”

I knew from this moment that I had bought a horse that was not capable of much but I knew that he was worth his weight in gold due to his temperament and the fact he was so safe on the ground and under saddle – On the roads with massive lorries, bikes, tractors you name it! The only problem we had was bucking cows.. He doesn’t like them.. But you can’t have it all I guess!

We had just had a new Kent & Masters saddle fitted after a while of trying to find one to fit him as he has no withers and he is quite wide but still slender! (Arghh stressful) – The saddle soon had to go back as it was just not feeling right and I wasn’t happy with it. By this time saddle fitters could come out and he fit me a second hnd saddle which was my saviour and then we was away!

The yard I was at was arranging to go to a local show and I wanted to take Buddy to the ‘Most handsome gelding’ showing class. I spent hours grooming him and plaiting him up for him to act like a total idiot thinking in the class he needed to try and race the people doing show jumping next to us which led me having to pull him out of the class and take him back to the lorry! Naughty Buddy!

“Before he started to show everyone his stunt moves”

We then started to have lots of lessons and hacking but the yard was on a very busy road which I was nervous to go out on by myself.. Because it was a riding school as well it was getting harder and harder to get into the menage by myself. I then made the decision to move Buddy which was one of the toughest decisions I have ever made because that yard was all I knew and they all made it happen for me (THANKS GUYS!) I found a very nice dressage yard which I ended up moving Buddy to and it was amazing.. It had an indoor school, two outdoor schools and hacking to die for.. But the turnout was restricted and the routine was too regimented and Buddy and I started to lose our bond.

“We was getting more riding in – The views were stunning”

Time to move again! This time I wanted assisted DIY and somewhere more relaxed as previously I had been on five day livery. I found a lovely little private yard at a ladies house which had four ponies and one retired horse – Perfect! Loaded up and off we went to another yard.. Im surprised Buddy loads first time seeing as every time we load him we move! I put him straight out in the field and he absolutely loved it, he made friends and he was the happiest I have ever seen him! Bought a tear to my eye but ssshhh. He finally had his sparkle back! I love walking to the yard of a morning or afternoon and he has his little head waiting over the stable door for me or over the gate to his field waiting for me. That is what it is all about for me, he is not an object or a machine.. He is my boy and a massive part of my family!

“He even gives me kisses – Don’t judge my socks haha”

We have been doing a lot of free schooling and lunging to get his balance in canter because he struggles with that due to his previous profession, but we are getting there slowly but surely! He has even popped a couple of very small jumps! If you want to see a horse trot faster than some horses canter then look no further! Flat work – He is lazy so and so if I do say so myself! He might not be perfect but I wouldn’t change him for the world, I owe my life to this horse!

Standardbred horses are used for harness racing and then sent off to the meat men because people think they have no other purpose, but they do! They are very intelligent and very easy to re train. I want people to be more aware about this breed! I knew nothing about the breed when I bought Buddy but now I think they are incredible! People say ‘They are thoroughbreds without the hot head’ – That’s damn true! They are so willing to learn and can be made into amazing ridden all rounders if in the right hands. They are so loyal to their owners and Buddy has shown this since the day I took him home.

“I want people to be more aware of this breed because they are truly incredible”

Two years on… We have moved yards three times but we are now settled in our forever home and we have a bond stronger than ever and we continue to grow together each day. Buddy is 16 now but he is in his ‘prime’ as far as I’m concerned! We are working towards buying a trailer of our own and maybe going out to some local shows! Oh and lots of hacking because he loves it!

“Never take your horse for granted, mine is my therapy”

Thank you for reading – Until next time

Francesca x

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