It was the year 2002, or maybe 2003. I received a phone call from my neighbor asking me if I was interested in a horse she knew that was for sale. His name was Odyssey, and he turned out to be the horse that introduced me to the world of giving lessons. If I wouldn’t have picked up the phone, or told her no, my adventure into teaching probably would have never been started….
Odyssey had a full, fancy Arabian registered name, Aladdin’s Odyssey. He was an older gentleman that ended up with me because he didn’t live up to his blue-blooded pedigree and become a winning show horse. He had training as a halter horse, and then again more training in western pleasure and lucky for me, he wasn’t good enough in either show ring.
I will never forget meeting Odyssey, he was a golden bay in color, but his fur was patchy and he was totally bald on his chest and only had patches of hair on his neck. He also was missing his two front teeth, and when he nickered to us, he had a bit of a lisp. He was a gentleman on the ground and rock solid under saddle. We bought him to be our “extra” horse, and for John to ride out on the trails.
He was a great trail horse for us, and when other people came over to ride we would saddle him up for them. He had the most rough trot anyone here had ever ridden, but his canter was rock solid and it felt like you were riding a rocking horse. I have countless of pictures of different people riding him and have heard many boasts of them being able to ride the Odyssey trot. I told you his trot was rough, right? I’m not kidding! More people fell off of Odyssey at the trot, than any other horse on the property, at any gait! It was something else.
He also was a little bit skittish, and one day I found out he was a great jumper. I don’t know why I had a lunging whip in my hand, or why I cracked it while standing right behind him while he was tied up to a green panel fence and eating his morning grain. Maybe my brain left my head, or I just wanted to see if I could crack a whip. It doesn’t matter why, I can tell you I have never done anything like that again, because when I cracked that whip, Odyssey came unglued, he lifted up his head and took off, dragging the panel from the fence with him. He turned towards the driveway and jumped our 4 foot high wooden fence with the green panel attached, ran down the driveway got to the house, turned around and ran back towards the barn and jumped that fence, again with the green panel still attached, then he stopped about 200 feet from where it all started. I hadn’t even had time to move, I was too busy standing there with my mouth hanging open, looking at him, then at the whip in my hand. I had never seen anything like that before and I hope to never see it again. That was one of the first of many lessons Odyssey taught me! Never, never, never crack a whip behind a horse. Never do it, unless you want things to get a little “western”!
A few months after Odyssey came to live with us, another friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to donate riding lessons to a local theatre for a fund raiser. At first I said no, I wasn’t interested in teaching people how to ride, and quite frankly, I was a little shocked that people didn’t know how to ride from birth and had to learn how to do it! Boy….. did I have a lot to learn!
Eventually I relented, mainly because I thought whoever bought the ticket probably wouldn’t call me and schedule a “lesson”. I made up a certificate and sent it to the theatre, and then pretty much forgot I donated.
Fast forward a few months later and I get a phone call. The person that “won” the certificate wanted to collect the lesson for her daughter. We set up an appointment, I hung up the phone and panicked! Then I thought of Odyssey, he had all kinds of fancy training! I bet he could help me teach a little girl how to ride. The day of reckoning came, the girl and her mother showed up and Odyssey and I proceeded to show her how to groom a horse and then I put her up on his back, and Odyssey took over. The little girl seemed to love it, her mom was smiling, and Odyssey and I had a good time too. After the “lesson” the girls mom asked me if she could come back. I answered, “sure”. We set up a weekly appointment and our lesson program began. I can’t remember what we did during that first lesson, I mostly remember being nervous, then the laughter and smiles on mom and daughters face. I saw Odyssey “strut” his stuff as he moved around the arena and it seemed as though he enjoyed it. He was the center of attention, regal, and beautiful. He did everything that little girl attempted to ask him to do and introduced her to the world of horses in a gentle and safe way. I most definitely was not the teacher in that lesson, he was!
Well, Odyssey and I were hooked. I started working with other kids in the neighborhood, then adults started coming to us, then we started working with owners and their horses and doing a little bit of training. All of this happened because he didn’t “make it” in the show ring, but he did make a difference in this world. He showed countless amounts of people how to develop a relationship with horses, he gave people confidence, and he gave us his heart. He truly was a trusted friend, companion, teacher, and partner. He has been gone for 11 years today, and I still miss him. I carry his imprint in my heart, I feel it when I teach, and I hope I am able to show my students, my horses, and anyone else I come into contact with, the gentleness I learned from him. Here’s to you sweet Odyssey, I hope someday I meet you in heaven and I get to hear that sweet nicker again, I miss you, and I always will.