Taking care of Destiny.
"My horse depends on me as much as I depend on my horse," Heather says.
Caring for a Horse
Heather's dally routine starts and ends by feeding Destiny. "Horses eat a lot," she says. "Destiny eats grass hay and a pound of sweet feed every morning in his stall."
After breakfast is gobbled down at 5:00A.M., Heather leaves for school and Destiny heads out to pasture. They reunite early in the . evening when Destiny is brought back to the barn for more hay, sweet feed, and vitamins.
At least four times a week, Heather slips a halter over Destiny's head and leads him to an open area in the barn where brushes and tools await.
A horse that isn't exercised regularly gets bored and restless. "Destiny is a thoroughbred right off the track," Heather says. Having lived the exciting, fast-paced life of a racehorse makes exercise even more important to Destiny.
During these rides, Heather and Destiny practice and polish skills they've learned through United States Pony Clubs, Inc. The national clubs and their competitions teach kids how to ride well and safely. They also instruct kids how to care for their four-legged partners and the equipment, called tack.
Heather says, "Pony Club taught me everything I know, pretty much. I've been around horses all my life, but when I started riding seriously, I joined Pony Club.
"There's nothing quite as exciting to horse and rider as team competitions (rallies) and individual competitions (events).
"Preparation starts months before with training," Heather points out.
Gearing Up for Competition
The leather saddle and bridle are carefully cleaned and oiled. Silver stirrups, spurs, and the bit are polished.
The horse is groomed and prepped to dazzle competition judges. Its hooves are filed smooth and sometimes even polished. Its coat is brushed free of dull, dead hair, leaving behind a clean, natural shine. Even its mane and tall are carefully trimmed and braided. Fancy braids can take as long as three hours to complete.
Participants ride English style, which involves a crisp, formal look. Every piece of attire is ironed shined to perfection.
Preparation complete, nervous anticipation sets in. "When Destiny and I get to the arena and start warming up, that's the most nerve-racking part for me," Heather admits. "You're not supposed to be nervous because your horse can tell. Your fear is distracting."
And a distracted horse won't pay attention to his rider's signals. Heather says, "That can really hurt you. A judge wants to see how obedient your horse is, how well you work together as a team. If he senses your fear, your horse won't do his best."
Heather tries to concentrate on proper form rather than competition. "I usually go over the tasks my horse and I will have to perform or the jump course in my head. That calms us both down." Doing well, Heather says, takes practice and serious concentration. But the payoff is great.
"It feels really good to win and to know you've worked really hard and the work has paid off. It doesn't happen very often," Heather admits, "but I think that makes it all the better when it does." And that victory, months in the making, "is worth every minute it took to get there."
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|Title Annotation:||girl describes caring for and training her horse|
|Author:||Halls, Kelly Milner|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1996|
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