BY LAURA EMERT
According to Wikipedia, a mail-order bride is a woman who lists herself in catalogs and is selected by a man for marriage. While I never thought I would find my heart’s desire in this manner, I became one more happy match made via an internet search. However, this wasn’t a traditional love search.
I wasn’t a man searching for his bride, but a woman searching for her perfect horse. More specifically, I was an older woman with limited riding experience searching for her first horse. There were specific requirements for this match that my trainer Lynne let me know in no uncertain terms were not negotiable. I needed an appropriate horse that could get the job done for me. No youngster or green mount was acceptable. I required an older, wiser fellow or lady that would not greet me with a buck or rear, one that could take a joke.
A surprise referral right before the Fourth of July came my way via a fellow rider. A Facebook group for horse sales included a post for a gelding that met all of my requirements. Videos of the horse showed a little kid riding him easily. Lynne told me directly, “Buy him now!”
Primoroso (Primo for short) was bought and delivered from Georgia within days—with no pre-purchase exam or trial. A beautiful, dark bay 16-year-old Thoroughbred-Holsteiner mix with a significant show record as a children’s hunter was all mine!
Moving from a leased lesson pony to a show horse was a challenge. I began learning what horse ownership entails—a lot of hard work, dedication, and commitment. I loved every aspect of my new life as a horse owner while I continued to get acclimated to riding my new horse. Granted, he is not a warm and fuzzy personality and often will pin his ears back at me when I greet him, but I adore him. We both need more time to get to know each other.
But at times my anxiety and nerves affected my rides. Still, I would not let this stop me from working to move forward. One afternoon I caused a riding accident while on Primo with another rider and her horse, resulting in injuries to both of us, the other rider’s much worse than mine. Dealing with the aftermath of the accident, I found myself struggling to make riding happy again for me.
Lynne recommended Primo undergo training at her Morriston, Florida stable over the winter which would improve his all-around fitness and make him a better horse for me when he returned. He would be in a daily training program that she would customize for him. Although I agreed to send Primo to Florida I was somewhat skeptical about how this program would truly make a difference. Lynne also invited me to travel to Morriston, where I was welcome to stay at her home and lesson with her there on Primo.
With much appreciation, I accepted a scholarship to send Primo to Florida from The Ride for Becca Foundation which would allow deserving riders who are in need of a mount the opportunity to ride Primo in Florida. I felt positive sharing Primo in this way. I planned three trips to Florida, estimating best how many days to stay for each visit.
By the end of my third trip to Florida, I suddenly realized I underwent changes that I had not expected or anticipated. I thought of my trips to Florida strictly in terms of seeing improvement in Primo, but became ecstatic as I considered the change that took place within me! Like a butterfly emerging from its cocoon, I had a new understanding and outlook on riding and about Primo, as well as the horse community.
First and foremost, with the support of Lynne and several fellow riders, I overcame my fear of cantering on Primo. I am more alert to making better riding choices to avoid injury. I absorbed so much information by being directly housed on the barn property on a daily basis over my three trips. I understood how the barn was run and maintained each day in top-notch condition, and the very hard work Lynne and Valerie put in.
I observed horses trained in the round-pen and learned how to figure eight a bridle. I spent time every day with many of the horses, allowing me to get to know and enjoy their personalities. I truly had fun bathing horses, sweeping the barn, cleaning tack, bringing horses out to their turnout, filling water buckets, and loading the horse trailer.
I was empowered by learning my way around Ocala and the amazing grounds of the World Equestrian Center. I experienced the professional working environment of Candice King’s barn aisle at World Equestrian Center and saw Candice and her clients’ school and compete. I was given the opportunity to walk a jumper course with Candice before a competition and listen to her evaluation of the course.
I rode Primo in a schooling ring at World Equestrian Center and enjoyed watching another rider lesson on Primo there. I attended a Grand Prix jumping event and I drove Florida’s Turnpike back and forth from Orlando airport. I had the opportunity to meet and speak with so many new horse people and also get better acquainted with people from our home barn in Manorville.
I am no longer skeptical about Primo’s benefit from the Florida program. He is content, happy, and thriving in his new environment. I noticed this as soon as I saw him. The training he received in addition to the mental stimulation of being brought to the World Equestrian Center for schooling serves to make him a better horse.
As an older adult, growth and learning opportunities are rare, making this experience especially meaningful for me. I thank Lynne and Eric for hosting me in their home and the Ride for Becca Foundation for their support. While I have many miles more to travel on my journey of horse ownership and riding, my detour to Morriston unexpectedly and happily changed me for the better. I am already looking forward to next year’s program with just two changes – I’ll have a Margarita and definitely not a virgin one our next evening dinner out and I want to drive the tractor (but not necessarily in that order)!
Laura Emert is a commercial insurance broker in Garden City, New York specializing in coverage for the performing arts. She embarked on riding lessons at age 58 and her soul re-connected to horses as strongly as it did as a kid. She is thrilled to lesson at Sundance Stables in Manorville, NY with Lynne Weissbard. Primoroso is the first horse she has owned and she looks forward to improving as a rider and getting to the show ring.