During my travels and work, I’ve met, ridden and trained hundreds of horses around the world. In this blog series I will go through some of the most impactful experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned from the horses I’ve had the pleasure of working with around the world. In the very last blog of this series, I’ll tell you about a Welsh pony called Branca. I couldn’t handle her at all, fell off hundreds of times, and she taught me most of what I needed to know about horse riding before going out into the real world.
Branca, a feisty little Welsh pony mare, crossed with Haflinger, became mine when I was 9 years old. I had her for 8 years, and even though she became another little girl’s pony over 7 years ago, I still think about her almost every day. She was way too much for me. She was 14 hands, extremely strong and muscular, with the personality of a Welsh mare, and the power of a Haflinger. I was overwhelmed by her power every time I got on. She would bolt, buck, and basically do anything to get me off her back. She was successful almost every time. She’d gallop off and bolt over jumps when I was trying to cool her down after training, bolt straight into (and occasionally, right through) fences, and cause many concussions. By doing so, she did teach me everything I needed to know about horse riding in a very short time. Everything in this case being the basics. When I ride a new horse now, I never experience a fear of falling off, and that’s because of Branca. During the first 4 or 5 years of riding this adorable looking Welsh pony, I developed quite a sticky seat. Even when our connection on the ground and in general improved, she still managed to buck me off about once a week, but over the years it happened less and less. I truly have her to thank for my ability to sit out most bucks, rears and bolts.
I didn’t feel a connection with this pony right from the start, especially because I felt like she kept trying to kill me every time I rode her. I was devastated, and remember running to my mom to tell her that this pony didn’t want to be friends with me, and I didn’t want to be friends with her either. Thankfully my mom, also a horsewoman, told me to give it some time. So I gave it some time, and because I became quite nervous to ride her, I spent a lot of time with her on the ground. This also didn’t go very smoothly in the beginning, as Branca was hell-bound on testing me out. She would come running towards me as soon as I stepped into the field, ears pinned, and I’d run away every time. This pony had the absolute time of her life chasing me around the arena, fields, and even the stable. My mom told me to not run away when Branca came running, and after a few days I’d built up the courage to stand my ground. From the second I did this, our entire relationship changed. I hung out with her in the field, in the stables, and overall just spent a lot of undemanding time with her, and I finally felt connected to her. This connection was different from the ones I’d had with other ponies and horses over the years, and I really felt like she’d become my best friend. My very first horse-shaped best friend.
When things didn’t go very smoothly yet, I was sure this pony wasn’t meant for me. I remember so well the day that I went to my dad’s home office and told him I don’t want to ride Branca anymore, never again. I expected him to get angry and tell me to buckle up, my dad also being a horseman, but instead he remained very calm. He just told me that it’s fine, we’ll just send the pony to slaughter then. Now, I am very aware of the fact that he didn’t mean that and that he was joking. However, back then I didn’t, and it gave me the motivation to keep trying with Branca. I didn’t know that this breaking point would occur so many more times in my life, and that this was the first sign that I’d never give up on horses.
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