Updated: Nov 30, 2020
A Love Story
Written by Memaw
Maximum Horsepower is a gorgeous bay Quarter horse gelding. But, when he arrived at the stables, he was incredibly malnourished. He needed at least 200 pounds and he also had severe food anxieties in the form of digging a hole in the stall floor while eating.
After arriving at the stables, it took 3 days before he trusted anyone enough to open his mouth. His upper jaw had been fractured at some point in his life and was never treated. His teeth were at such bad angles he could not graze or chew properly. This explained why he was so underweight.
The next week, the vet x-rayed his jaw to insure it had healed properly and the dentist fixed his teeth. The fracture had healed but while it was healing, Maxi learned to play with his tongue to help alleviate the pain. He still plays with his tongue.
It took about a month after the visit to the dentist before Maxi’s food anxieties calmed. And on day four of his recovery while he was quietly munching on some hay when a 7-year-old, blonde haired blue-eyed little girl walked into the barn. He took one look and fell head over heels in love with her. She was his princess.
NO ONE got between Maxi and his princess.
During a photo op, a fellow student pushed his princess away from Maxi. He promptly bit the fellow student on the neck, not too hard but enough to make his point. He then returned to a state of bliss when his princess took the lead line from the crying student.
During his training to become a princess carrying stead, he walked into the arena where the barrel pattern was set up from a previous lesson. He emotionally, melted down. He started digging up the arena, shaking violently and sweating profusely.
For the next month, at the end of each lesson, his princess would walk him around one barrel then dismounted, unbridled him, and lead him across the arena to be untacked. The following month, at the end of each lesson, his princess would walk him around two barrels then dismounted, unbridled him, and lead him across the arena to be untacked. The final month, his princess would walk him around all three barrels, then dismounted, unbridled him, and lead him across the arena to be untacked. At the end of ninety days, Maxi could be train by his princess in an arena with the barrel pattern set up. This is called trust!
Most trainers, lead, halter, saddle, and mount all from the left side only. Additionally, most horse are lunged to the left first so often that going to the right is a novelty. Maxi was not an exception to this.
One day during a lesson, Maxi decided he would only trot going to the right with his Princess riding. For the next few lessons, her goal was to get him to walk around on the lunge line at a walk going to the right.
For an eight-year-old, she demonstrated incredible patience during this process. She was on lesson five when she finally got Maxi to walk one complete circle to the right. She coached him through the entire circle, telling him they could do it and this is EASY. When he completed the walk circle, she stopped him, loved on him, dismounted, unbridled him, then announced to me they were done, he accomplished his task. As she led him across the arena, she asked her daddy, “did you see? I got him to walk a right circle!”
Just like the barrels, he now trusted her enough to walk to right without fear.
Everything things happen for a reason. After months of preparation, Maxi and his Princess made it to their first gymkhana. She was walking him around on a lunge line when he started limping. His princess was shattered because she knew she would not be competing.
Once back in his stall, Maxi acted devastated. He did not eat or drink. He stood in his spot with his head down with an incredibly sad look.
When his princess showed up her eyes were swollen from crying. Maxi did not move to greet her which was so uncommon that Maxi’s Princess’ Momma asked what was wrong with Maxi.
His princess entered the stall, Maxi did not even lift his head to look at her. She went over and gave him a big hug with the words, “I still love you and I always will!” As she gave his neck a kiss, he lifted his head turned and touched her blonde ponytail with his nose. As he moved his expression changed from being devastated to an expression of love.
When the stable owners found out Maxi was lame, they reviewed their lease papers on Maxi to determine how to return him early to avoid the vet and farrier bills. They determined the best way was to shut down the stables.
Maxi’s family drove sixty miles to talk to Maxi’s owner face to face to make sure his owner had all the information regarding his lameness treatment plan and to see if she might sell him. Maxi’s Princess at age 8, sat across the table from a formattable business owner and asked if she would please be allowed to purchase Maxi. This was a huge act of bravery.
The owner said yes and at a price they could afford because Maxi was lame and had an extensive six-month physical therapy plan prescribed by the vet. Very few people want to spend the time necessary to rehabilitate a lame horse. Maxi’s Princess is not one of those people.
She started with hand walking then moved up to hand walking and trotting. As the months progressed, she transitioned to riding him but still limited his movement to those of his treatment plan. Until the trash truck incident.
Maxi was living at the Big E’s Stables in Loma, which has an arena below the road. Maxi was walking the short length of the arena when a trash truck popped over the north hill. Maxi does not like tractors, trucks, or cranes. He took off running.
His princess hung on until he made a sharp left-hand turn then she biffed. After checking to make sure she was okay, she mounted back on Maxi and finished his walk trot exercises. But deep down, this scared the snot out of her because for those few moments she had no control of Maxi.
A week later, he spooked again. Same scenario, a big truck came over the hill. This time however she was determined to control her stead. She asked him to stop using proper body position and a voice whoa command. When he did not respond she told him to stop by lightly pulling back on the reins. When he did not respond, she MADE him stop by putting his head to his chest.
When he stopped for her, she immediately started backing him up to the spot where he started running. She did not lose her temper or get angry. She did discipline him but in an appropriate manner.
The Mesa County Sheriff Posse is a huge blessing to the community. In addition to youth-oriented gymkhanas on a regular basis, they offer their arena for open ride times. About a month after the second explosive runaway from the truck, Maxi was at an open ride, when a tractor started at the end of the property. He took off like speeding bullet.
What do you do when a horse takes off? First, do not panic. Second, gather your wits, then give them a whoa command. The whoa command is a nonoptional command. The word whoa means stop all movement. Freeze in place.
Max at full speed was coming around their instructor when she saw his princess give him the whoa command. To reinforce his princess’s request the instructor gave him the whoa command from the ground. He stopped with his reins inches from the instructor’s hand, so she grabbed them. His princess thought the instructor stopped Maxi, leaving a linger doubt in her mind about her ability to control him.
At the next gymkhana, Maxi emotionally melted down. He was so upset that the instructor led him through the barrels and flag races. He was on the muscle and prancing making him terrifying to ride.
The following week, they were back at the Posse grounds when Maxi’s Princess told Maxi that this would be their last ride together. During the days and weeks that followed, there were a lot of tears, frustration, mix messages until Maxi’s princess learned to be Maxi’s voice. Finally, Maxi’s Princess state that Maxi hates gymkhanas and they would no longer be attending them instead they were going to try Western Dressage.
Maxi’s princess is a people pleasing peacemaker. She had just become an intermediate peer mediator at school therefore becoming his voice was exceedingly difficult for her. She grew as a person because of her relationship with Maxi.
For the next ninety days, they practice dressage, she learned the pattern and they prepared for the end of season show. Because of the size of the dressage arena, Maxi and his princess had to train at another location with a school next door. Maxi’s does not like barrels, trucks, cranes, tractors, and schools.
Poor Maxi had another complete nervous breakdown over the school. He was shaking, pawing the ground, and sweating profusely. In preparation for another nervous breakdown, Maxi traveled with an oral tranquilizer and it was administered. This did not deter his princess training him, but instead of riding, she spent the time grooming him with a constant dialog of loving words.
By Maxi’s third lesson next to the school, he was cool as a cucumber and allowed his princess to lay on his back while he grazed after the lessons.
Maxi and his princess put in hours and hours of practice. The Friday before their first show, they practiced in the arena where they would be performing arriving back to the stables after dark.
Maxi and his princess perform Western Dressage Introductory Test 2 on both Saturday and Sunday. Western Dressage Tests increase in difficulty as the horse and rider progress upward from Introductory to Basic to Level 1 all the way to Level 4. On both days, Maxi and his princess won the class over the other junior rides, but more importantly they passed Test 2 on Sunday.
The remainder of the fall, they deepened their relation by trail riding with friends. This led to the discovery that cows needed to be added to the items that cause Maxi to have a nervous breakdown. They were calming riding down the trail when Maxi heard a cow moo. He started prancing and sweating profusely then when he saw the cows, he started shaking. As they followed the other horses away from the cows, he began to relax. On the return trip back to the horse trailer, Maxi walked/jogged past the cows without a severe reaction.
At the beginning of 2020, Maxi’s Princess laid out a training plan for Maxi with the 2021 Western Dressage Association of America’s World Show as her finale. She chose to skip 2020 because the junior division was all participants 18 and under. In 2021, the junior division will be divided into two parts: twelve and under, and thirteen and up. She was leery about competing against old youth riders.
Her plan for 2020 was to pass all the Introductory tests in the first two Grand Valley Dressage Society shows of the season. Then move up to Basic during the last two shows of the season. She was so excited to see what they could accomplish.
She was determined to meet her goals, so she practiced in the cold of January. While waiting for the lesson to start, Maxi’s Princess was sitting on Maxi talking to another student with her hands in her pockets when a truck came over the hill. Maxi took off running and without a thought his princess said “easy, whoa!” And he stopped with her hands still in her pockets.
This was a pivotal moment for Maxi and his Princess. She could now control his spooks with a voice command. This gave her a ton of confidence and they practiced and practiced for their first show in April. It was cancelled. She wanted to sign up for the June show, but she was scheduled for a vacation. Her vacation got cancelled so she signed up to show in June. Because of the missing April show, she signed up for all the Introductory level test. She was so excited so she if they could get through the Introductory tests.
Photo used with permission
On Saturday, Maxi struggled with the wind and the barrels, but his Princess showed off her training skills and managed to get him through all the tests even passing three out of four. By Sunday, they put it all together, they passed all the tests and won Reserve Champion beating everyone but one adult. They both strutted around for a week or two like a proud peacock.
With no vacation on the scheduled, Maxi’s Princess spent hours and hours at the stables. She would talk to the other students before and after she practiced with Maxi. They talked about starting a horse rescue in the Grand Valley to save horses like Maxi and for the other children in the community to have the same opportunities with horses.
Princess and the other students dreamily talked about the rescue and the upcoming dressage shows during the hot summer days. They were picking out their music for the freestyle class and deciding what color shirt to wear. They were in their safe zone, their pod away from the pandemic.
Then a random lightning strike changed everything. The mountains to the north of the stables were on fire. Life was no longer safe!
Maxi’s family including his Princess decided to go on a camping adventure. They stopped by the stables on their way out of town and told Maxi that he was on vacation while they were gone then left him with a box of his favorite mints. Most of which he ate before they pulled out of town.
While Maxi’s Princess was gone, the winds shifted. The smoke from the massive wildfire started blowing directly into the valley. With each passing day, the smoke got heavier and ash started falling from the sky. When Maxi’s Princess arrived back in town, the first thing she did was to call the stables and check on Maxi. With a shaky voice she said, “it is dark, hot, everything smells like smoke and it is raining ash! Is Maxi okay?”
Maxi was fine, but the fairgrounds started housing the firefighters. The August show was cancelled. Maxi and his Princess found out about the cancelation the second day back to school. It was extremely hot, smoky, and there was no reason to practice so for the last two weeks of August, they just hung out together and he listened patiently about how bad all the new regulations were at school because of the pandemic.
During this quiet period at the stables, Maxi’s Princess and some of the other students start moving forward with the horse rescue. They built a website at GVHR.org. They formed a Board of Directors. They also started planning their launch event.
In an interesting twist of fate, the Western Dressage Association World Show went virtual. And as an extra bonus, competitors did not have to compete at the level in a competition prior to showing in the World. Therefore, Maxi and his Princess could compete at the Basic level at the World. The kicker, they would have compete in a small arena and they had never practiced or competed in a small dressage arena.
Maxi’s Princess was given a choice between competing in the local October dressage show or the World. She debated this decision for a long time then asked a direct question, “if I compete in the World and win the whole thing, would it help launch the rescue?”
She decided to go for the World Show and the World Show Greenhorn Award which is award to the horse and rider neither of which have shown at the world before, so of course, over the next three weeks, if something could go wrong with the arena preparations it did. The tractor broke down, the drag needed to be rebuilt, and it flooded numerous times. Maxi and his Princess practiced anywhere possible except the arena. To relief the stress, Maxi, his Princess, his stablemate RoeSea and her Princess Patience made up a hoof pick song.
In an effort not to procrastinate, Maxi was scheduled to practice the tests on Monday and perform them on Tuesday of fall break. Monday, the arena was too muddy to drag but was looking good to be dragged on Tuesday. However, by Tuesday morning, it was flooded again. Maxi’s Princess sat and stared at the arena for over an hour before composing herself enough to spent time with Maxi.
Maxi stepped foot into the small arena for his first practice on Thursday evening. On Friday afternoon, Maxi and his Princess completed three out of their four tests for the World show. On Saturday, the other students had a gymkhana and being the team player that she is Maxi’s Princess went to cheer them on with the plan of finishing Test 4 later that day. However, the gymkhana went exceptionally long so it was rescheduled for Sunday morning.
Everything happens for a reason! When Maxi and his Princess where just getting acquainted, they had a Sunday morning lessons while Daddy watched, drinking his coffee. The magic of those lessons years ago was still there. After one dress rehearsal, Maxi and his Princess performed Test 4 making it look like they were floating on a cloud. In Test 4, there is a serpentine and as Maxi comes towards the camera the dust hung in the air showing a perfect serpentine.
Maxi’s Princess was riding him bareback after the test to cool him down when she started walking circles to the right in front of her Daddy on a very loose rein. “Look Daddy, I can walk a circle to the right bareback” she said with a huge smile and giggles.
While still floating on the clouds, Maxi’s Princess decided to take Maxi to the next gymkhana at the Posse arena. Partly because it will be big announcement for the Grand Valley Horse Rescue and partly because she wants Maxi to learn, like he has done with the barrels, trucks, and cows. It will be interesting to see how they do.
If you would like to see how well Maxi handles the gymkhana, please join Maxi and his Princess at the Mesa County Sheriff Posse arena, on the corner 25 road and F ½ on Halloween, October 31st starting at 9.