My last post told the story of trying Rambo Star at Acorn Farm to see if we were a good match for a half-lease while I continue searching for a horse to buy. Right at the end of our time together, we had begun to understand each other. However, I was away from the barn for several days and haven’t been back since then.
Instead, I was offered the opportunity to try another sale horse almost exactly a week later. My trainer, Nathalie Cooper, had shared with a friend of hers–a trainer at Rancho Agradecido in Valley Center, San Diego County–the fact that I was looking for a horse. She told him about my skill level (nervous novice?) and described what sort of horse she thought would be suitable (affordable but gorgeous 16-hand equine saint?). He got back to her with information about a beautiful 5-year-old 16-hand European Warmblood Sporthorse mare named Jubilant that’s available for sale at his barn. He described her as “very sweet.”
Nathalie had the opportunity to ride Jubilant prior to my ranch visit. Although she knew my first preference was for a gelding, not a mare, she suggested I should give this horse a try. As I mentioned in my last post, I have enormous respect for Nathalie’s skill in matching horses and riders, so I was excited at this novel prospect, not only of trying a mare, but also of trying what would be the youngest horse I’d ever ridden. If Nathalie thought I should try her, then I was going to make it happen.
Wanting to know as much about Jubilant as I could find out before meeting her in person, I searched the internet and came up with this page about her at Susie Hutchison’s site where I found a photograph and a video of her showing at Thermal last year. Obviously, Jubilant lived up to her billing as a beautiful horse and I was very excited to meet her. I even loved her name, knowing how “Jubilant” I would feel to bring home an amazing horse like this!
Rancho Agradecido is a drop-dead gorgeous place, nestled in a little valley. The barn building is very attractive and the arena in front beautifully maintained. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to try a new horse. This is the front view of the ranch:
I met the owner, Jenny McLaughlin, who soon introduced me to Jubilant, a spectacularly pretty mare who’s the perfect size for me and glows with health from her lovely face to her gleaming hoofs. After the horse was tacked up and taken down to the arena, Nathalie got on to warm her up for me. Here’s a short video of Nathalie on Jubilant at the trot and canter, then me on board at the walk and trot…
While I watched Nathalie riding the mare with such grace and ease, I found myself thinking: Somebody pinch me! Do I really have a chance to call this fabulous horse my own? You’re kidding me! How on earth did this happen? But soon it was my turn to ride and I focussed in on what I needed to do. Jenny kindly offered to use my video camera to record the ride for me.
As you saw in the video, the first time I asked Jubilant to lift into the trot from the walk, there was a slight hesitation on her part, but then off she went. I didn’t have to kick, just gave her a prolonged tight squeeze with both legs. Although she trotted okay around the ring, some part of my consciousness was registering resistance on her part. I don’t know what it was, but she didn’t feel loose; it felt like she was holding back. It was probably because I was stiff and nervous too.
We trotted around a few times, changing direction occasionally, and Nathalie had me trot a couple of circles at the end of the ring. Then it was time to try for the canter from the walk. Nathalie had asked Jubilant for this during the warm-up, and the mare had responded handily, rising without objection into smooth, even canter strides.
During my trot work on Jubilant, I’d noticed her becoming reluctant to pick the trot back up each time after we stopped. I was having to work quite hard. Now, trying to get her to canter from the walk with the good old “outside leg, inside rein” was getting me nowhere. All I succeeded in doing was ticking her off as I became more insistent.
Jenny gave us some helpful information, explaining that Jubilant’s regular rider asks for the canter from the trot simply with a good hard squeeze of both legs and by kissing at her. On the straightaway in front of the barn, I persuaded Jubilant up to the trot. She rounded the end, and as she approached the straightaway at the far side, she hit her stride. I felt her body suddenly loosen. It was as if she’d forgotten who was on her back. She gave herself unconsciously to the trot and the tension left her.
The minute I felt her relax, I realized this was my best shot to slip through her defenses and get her to repond exactly as she’d been trained to. Without changing my hold on the reins or altering anything else, I squeezed hard with both legs and gave her a long, loud kissing noise… and off she went! I truly think she momentarily forgot who I was. She lifted her head and pushed off nicely into the canter. Nathalie and Jenny shouted out their encouragement from the other side of the ring as we smoothly cantered down the long side, around the end and back again in front of the barn, where I transitioned her down to the trot.
Right away, with a smile Nathalie began her usual refrain of: “You know you don’t get away with only doing it once!” But Jubilant and I were never able to get it together again. After a cool-down walk, and having ridden Jubilant back into the barn, I returned to the group of trainers outside. The general consensus was that the young mare and I were not a good fit. I felt badly about it; I’d so wanted it to work out. Jubilant is simply gorgeous. We just didn’t “get” each other.
I asked Jenny if I could hang around the barn for a while and take some pictures, because it’s such a lovely place. She said that would be fine, and mentioned that she’d be happy to get some shots of the barn’s newest resident, the sweet colt Jackson, just one month old. I was delighted to oblige. Below are my favorite shots of the day:
I know Jubilant will make a fabulous horse for some lucky person. She and Nathalie looked great together. As for me, well it’s all in the name: Rancho Agradecido. I looked it up: “Agradecido” means “Thankful” –and believe me I am. I had a wonderful adventure, and I’m very thankful to Nathalie, Jenny and Jubilant for such a memorable day! Can’t wait to see what Nathalie comes up with next!! 🙂