By TPH Ambassador Kristyna Lucakova
“He’ll keep you out of trouble my father mumbled”, as he signed the check. Little did we know, he would do so much more than keep me out of trouble. For a while, he did exactly the opposite.
Levi was my 14th birthday present. A beautiful jet black Oldenburg gelding. A “derby prospect” who turned out to be a dangerously dirty stopper. Within two days of being gifted to me, with a big red bow around his neck, Levi had bitten, kicked and terrified me. What was this monster my parents had purchased for me?
Dedication was a characteristic I had always prided in myself. I had even received an award for it, but I never knew its true meaning until Levi came into my life. I grew to love him, despite the bruises, scrapes and scars, and the tears he was so good at making run down my helpless face. I couldn’t count the amount of times I found myself sitting in the dirt with his big round eyes looking down at me.
In the beginning of our journey, I was very timid and temperamental. I swiped through my friends’ Instagram photos and saw their blue ribbons and big smiles, but I found myself on the backside of an oxer, in the dirt, in a puddle of tears.
But sticking with Levi built my character. In time and with lots of work, the bruises became blue ribbons. Tears of frustration turned into tears of joy and I had those same huge smiles I used to envy.
Levi has become a successful dressage horse and has helped me earn many big titles, such as California Dressage Society Junior Champion in Dressage Seat Equitation. I gave him two years off from jumping, and have just recently started him back over fences.
It’s been four years since I committed to Levi. I still remember the pure excitement and joy I felt the moment I saw my beautiful new horse with a big bow. Now that I look back, I can confidently say that the best present I received for my 14th birthday is the lesson that gelding had to offer: Never give up – on him or on myself. I was determined to turn him into the horse I believed he was in that first hopeful birthday moment.
Although we struggled in the beginning, Levi holds a special place in my heart, as he has been such a big part in moulding me into the young adult and rider I am today.
For those of you with your own Levi, keep pushing through the trials. Work hard, takes lots of lessons, and set your own goals that have nothing to do with what you see on Instagram.
Rewards don’t always come quickly or easily, but all horses, especially the challenging ones, will teach you a lot about life and about yourself.