A working student is one who works for lessons.
Some time ago I asked Boyd Martin if I could be his working student and he said “No, you are too old”.
So, when James and Taren Atkinson implied that I could work off some of the bill at their place, I was grateful.
Why would I be a working student at my age and with my experience?
I am never too old to learn more about horse training. Training a horse is creating art. I enjoy the process. I have a lovely new, young horse, I wanted to jump and compete and needed good trainers.
Also I had no source of income so if I wanted to use my husband Steve's generosity to be a snowbird with him in So. Cal, and bring horses, I wanted to keep the bills low. Also barn work, saddling and grooming is good for fitness.
I landed at Copper Meadows in Ramona Cal. around mid November.
At the time the trainers there were James and Taren Atkinson. There were 40 plus horses there during my three and one half month stay.
There were 2 other working students there the whole time. They were both 21 year old Albertan women.
Let's put this in perspective, our daughter Anna is 30. These gals were not young enough to be my grandchildren but they were close.
I have been immersed in the sport of 3 Day eventing and other types of riding for 45 to 50 years. I have credentials and prizes at high levels...blah...blah....I don't know much! Horse are humbling and being a working student even more so.
If I let my ego or self righteousness overtake my spirit, I would become unhappy very quickly so I carried on whether I agreed with what was being done or not. I had different ideas about blanketing and graining than was being done but hey, suck it up student! I shared blanketing 30 horses 2x's per day, I helped rotate them onto the Euro walker, I tacked up for trainers, cleaned up, organized things, mixed vast amounts of grain and supps, walked miles for scissors and telfa, I wrapped, unwrapped, washed, groomed, took clients to airport, hauled horses and finally I rode! I passed out every night about 8:30 and slept like a baby.
I had purchased my young horse “True Story” from Parkwood Jumpers on the way down to Cal. He is brand new for me. He was at the sale barn for about 4 months and with their quiet hunter style of riding and jumping, he was quite rideable when I tried him. He had a lovely flying change but his depart from the trot was ragged. He was greener than I thought when I bought him but isn't that the way? Regardless of how green he is, I still admire him because to me he has the mind, movement and scope to be a 4 Star horse. By the time he gets to that level, I will not be riding him because well, that age thing?
I got to ride more horses, the longer I was at Copper. I particularly enjoyed a 4 year old German riding pony named Biscuit but sadly I did not have enough time with him to make the progress I would have liked. I averaged about 2.5 lessons per week on my horse and got to compete Story at Galway Winter Event and some clinics and a jumper show.
I rarely cantered jumps all winter because Story would get too short in neck. Taren Atkinson did a great job with us, trotting jumps.
These young girls I worked with are competent. They can drive a loaded 40' trailer through LA, buck hay, grain, blanket in the dark with great efficiency, ride very well, take orders, multi task, smile when they feel like crying, handle a crisis, be polite when pissed, sleep anywhere, shower anywhere, eat irregularly, work side by side with former lovers and jump big jumps. I admire them and consider them friends.
If you are old and want to be a working student, be prepared to do things around the barn differently than you have been. You will learn a lot. When you finish, you will be humble and good around a horse. You will intuitively know how to handle situations, you will be competent and useful to have around.
I have moved on, headed north but stopped in Santa Ynez for a week to play some music shows, visit our daughter in Santa Barbara and watch and learn with Agapito De la Cruz at A and A Equestrian. He can soften a horse's eye in a short time. My horse gets the message. He slows down and balances himself. Agapito is a vaquero. Rides all day long, 12 a day.....
Cody went to the other place on the evening of Jan 29 2015.
I picked Cody up at our valley shelter in spring of 2012. The bottom photo reflects his imperfection and shelterness that made him so appealing.
We lost Cash my JRT that spring while I was in California and Steve had him in Idaho. Cash had taken to wandering in morning (we let him :( ) and chose to head south on 75 where he was hit and killed. I was powerless to do anything in California. I was furious, desperate and inconsolable. We never found his body, my friend Susan saw it briefly driving by and called me. We only saw some blood on side of highway.,
,My wise mentor, Betsy Pearson saw me grieving over Cash and said in her direct, kind way, "Why don't you get another dog? All they do is give and receive unconditional love..." I went to the shelter right then... I was in the shelter "aquaintance pen" checking out a little white bitch, when I heard a bark. I followed the sound and it was this dirty little poodle who picked me. He had just been picked up off the streets of Ketchum, Idaho and he looked like hell with kennel cough, long matted poodle fur and bad teeth. We found each other. He was perfect
I had the pleasure of his company every day and night for almost 3 years.
Last Thurs morning in Ramona, Cal., I heard the coyotes yipping about 5AM. The yipping attracts domestic dogs like a magnet. I was awake with a cough and writing a song called "In the Alley in the Rain" the darkest darn song I ever wrote. I let Cody and Steve's little Lux out about 6. It was the light between the darkness and the dawn. I continue writing, absorbed in the darn song figuring they will come in like they always do. Then I hear Steve's JRT, Lux barking furiously, I call them. She comes, Cody doesn't. He comes eventually and I say "great Code, your here". He lay at my feet. Upon examination I find punctures, staggering etc. Steve took him to vet. He was in ICU all day. Had a damaged trachea, lung and God knows what else. We brought him home to our trailer that night with fluids still running under watchful care of Steve. He died about 9PM while I was reading a book right next to him.
Like Victor, my Mexican friend said in Spanish, "He was your right arm."
Cody I sure miss you.
I am literally working my ass off. Learning a lot about my horse, training and how to act and think. Made many new friends and having a great time. Tomorrow I'm headed to Bozeman Mt for Steve's Mom's funeral. These are end times.
I'm sallying forth and taking train from Escondido to Oceanside, switch to Amtrak to Union Station in Central LA, then Fly Away bus to LAX then shuttle to Westin Hotel. Sat. our plane leaves LAX. Love these adventures. I will meet our Anna in LAX. She is driving down from Santa Barbara the old fashioned way.
Looking forward to seeing everyone at the service and remembering Marcia Edsall.
Don't have many warm cloths. So. Cal. is amazing weather.
Thanks for reading.
Both horses are having down time now while I wrap up my record. That's been a bigger project than I thought but will be fabulous. Thanks again to my backers! I couldn't have done it without you.
Banner had an thorough MRI at WSU and he may make a come back! He is resting until Feb/ March. Fox is on semi lay off as well. Last year at this time Banner and I won at Intermediate...things change so fast.
I have taken an assistant trainer position at Goose Downs Farm in Galisteo, NM for winter. They provide a house so Steve can come too. He plans on biking. We are planning a trip back east to see my lovely Mom late Oct. and visit Fair Hill Event. Early Nov, I will load up dog, Banner and Fox and head down there. Should be fun , hard work and I always learn alot. Being back into total horse immersion will feel good after a vacant season of lameness and mucking about.
Steve took Banner up to WSU for an MRI. Results indicate that Banner is gently retired for now. I still have hope that he will be my dressage horse by spring. He will go with me to Goose Downs this winter and enjoy their retirement program.
Fox is on trial at a nearby place with a student of mine. So far so good. I'm shopping for another horse.
Fox completed the Novice 3 Day at Rebecca Farm Event in late July. He bucked me off the previous week and I was pretty sore so I sensibly hired JM Durr to ride him. A N3D is alot to ask of a greenie like Fox but he rose to the occasion and finished on a numerical score with a few stops and spooks. We are proud of him. He is a very powerful ride. I attempted to sell him at Rebecca. He is an upper level prospect. He is probably more horse than I should have at my age. I like his power, I would be bored on anything less. I like a horse that can really jump. Those kind buck and carry on because they are athletes. So now that I am healed, I forgive him his buck transgression. He has been going like a dream since then. Banner is lame again so am giving him til next spring. More later ...:)
Here are some vids of Fox and JM from world famous Rebecca Farm.
About my OTTB (Off the track Thoroughbred). His name is Go Fox Go. He was foaled in 2007. I bought him April 2013. His last race was Jan 2103. He had 29 life time starts.
With Banner on layoff, Fox has been #1. He has been in one event and some derbies and dressage shows . He is entered in the Novice 3 Day at Rebecca Farm 2014.
I plan on going as slow as needed to jump clean. A tour through water may be indicated also. He doesn't like umbrellas so we are working on that.
Big Red Horse Mia Edsall
Before the man says go
I hit my watch
You are off
like your never gonna stop
feel’s like your runnin,
from the gates of hell
our fans cheer and yell
I never dreamed,
We’d get this far
Big red horse thank you
What joy, what a ride, what a heart
When you were younger
you couldn’t canter straight
we shied, we piled, we clashed
I couldn’t dominate
Now you’re confined
On lay off holiday
Maybe just one more month
of NSAIDS grass and hay
That carney road life
in 10 x 10 puck stalls
miles, money or nothing
and that ain’t all
now your voice in the morning
jump starts my day
you count on me for food
and that’s ok
I’m sitting on a rocket
Right between my knees
Since the day I threw the money down
And brought you home with me
I show you the flags
At a high rate of speed
You gather up and jump
That’s the only fix I need
All rights reserved Mia Edsall 6/2014
Banner is my horse.
He is a 16.2 hand high, chestnut warm blood gelding. He was born in Idaho in 1999 out of a TB/ Hanoverian mare by a Dutch stallion.
I first met Banner in late summer 2005 in Kuna Idaho. The round pen he was in at the time looked like it may not hold him. He was spooking and cavorting
around because some kids were playing up above him. I studied him as he tore around the pen. He had power. He had short canon bones, a lovely kind eye, solid healthy feet, low hocks and balance. I could draw a square around him and he stood over the earth comfortably. Best of all, he had presence.
I was told that he was a sale prospect but that he needed more training before they would let him go.
Banner's trainer, Gary was an advocate for us both. I sealed the deal and brought him home in Sept of 2005.
Following the advice of a knowledgeable friend, we spent that fall on the trails. The Aspen tres were turning gold and the footing was good. Banner was willing to go out alone as a green 6 year old. He was always watchful and very aware of where his feet were.
That winter I boarded him at an indoor and we worked on mostly dressage. I rode him too low but we muddled though. He is an extra ordinary mover. I was told by one clinician that his dressage scores could be in the 80%. The next spring, he went lame. It was in his foot so we couldn't get a very accurate diagnosis without an MRI. I laid him off for about 3 months. We suspect a ligament inside his hoof was strained. I bought sand for his pen so he would have a soft home.
He came sound and we went eventing. We entered camp in Chase BC and various low level events. He had scope, power and jump. I moved up to Training level skipping Novice level. I wasn't helping Banner much then. My hands were too high and busy. I 'rode the spot' and we left the ground too long too many times.
In the next few years we kept eventing at Training. We had stops. Our record shows win or stop.
One winter in January, he ran away with me for a mile on an icy patched road. His head flew up, and he started running for home with more power than I have ever felt. I pulled, he wasn't home. It was like pulling on a stone wall. I got up in galloping position and set my hands down to ride it out. Falling off on to the frozen road at that speed was not an option. We made it around 2 turns and I feared the next one was too icy. He had borium on his shoes but could still slip easily. Then three broad women appeared in the road. They were out for a winter stroll. Banner viewed their broad image and re balanced the same way he does at a big jump today. Then I was able to stop him. Whew, my knees were shaking when I got off!
Those woman were angels. I have never seen them in our neighborhood since that winter day.
I called Gary. I said, "Gary do I cull a runaway?" he said "No!"
So with great fear and trepidation I kept on with the big, red Banner. I added the martingale as necessary equipment.
There were clinics and more Training level experience. I earned my Level 2 ICP Certification and became more educated and disciplined.
Through my connection with ICP I learned that Boyd Martin was coming to the July Rebecca Farm Event looking for catch rides. I had seen him ride cross country on Neville Bardos, in the mud at Fair Hill and win handily. His position and hands and the way his body stayed still before and over the jump made a huge impression on me. He rode Banner in his 1st Prelim at Rebecca and as he says "destroyed the field" and won. It is really fun watching a great rider on your horse.
I left Idaho that winter with Banner and was lucky enough to get a paying job at Lone Tree Farm near Modesto, California in 2010.
To be continued.....