Grand Times Eventing

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

2017 was a huge learning experience for me as a rider and a horse owner.  Aleta has taught me so much, things that can help me as a rider and things that will just make me a better person!  At the beginning of the year, there were many rides where I would end up crying and upset, both from fear and frustration.  Aleta had developed a crazy head shake after jumps and would lurch forward almost uncontrollably at times.  My parents were so worried and upset.  While we always say “Once a Habenicht, always a Habenicht”, it got so bad that they discussed selling her, but I could never do it.  I am so thankful I didn’t, because it turns out she was acting out because she was in pain.  Basically, her ovaries were “miscommunicating” with each other.  We had an ultrasound done and her right ovary was full of blood and about the size of a grapefruit.  Don’t worry, this story has a point and a good ending!  My mom immediately got Aleta fixed up and she’s went back to herself immediately, but it was a hard, long few months of figuring Aleta out.


Because of all this, I have learned a lot.  One thing I have learned is patience.  I think patience helped me stay strong and not give up.  I always knew once we figured everything out, we would be awesome, but I also knew it might take a while.  Even without the health issues, Aleta is a strong, opinionated girl, but we usually tend to agree on most things!  Another thing I learned this year is the true meaning of loyalty.  The few months when it was really bad, I stayed loyal to Aleta, because I knew this just wasn’t her.  My parents supported us and did everything possible to make the situation better – new saddles, medications, training ... you name it and we did it.

I also learned to have softer hands and to be more confident, to believe in myself.  Even though the “bad” behavior wasn’t really who Aleta was, I still learned so much during those rough rides and I continue to learn from her every day!  I have stronger legs and a great seat, and I definitely have a quicker reaction time.  I’m so glad I stuck with her because we are really awesome now – we came in 5th out of 30 at the War Horse Event Series Maiden Division Championship which was the highest placed junior rider!

award 1

This past weekend we were also awarded with the NCDCTA Horse of the Year Main Eventing Champion! Given the way 2017 started, we are all so proud of these accomplishments.  It’s beyond what I could have hoped for us to achieve.  Things just started coming together – both health-wise and new partners-wise.  Every day she impresses me more.  She isn’t just a horse to me, she is my best friend and I love her more than I can explain.  I can’t imagine walking into the barn every morning, or at night and not seeing her.  I can’t wait to see how 2018 goes, and I’m so happy I get to go into the year with my favorite partner in crime!

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

We boarded Aleta at Kibler Shamrock Farm al year, while our other horses and donkeys were at our house.  My mom bought her young horse, Dodger, around the same time we got Aleta and with so much going on, we felt it would be a good idea to wait to bring her home.  So after a summer of planning, refencing paddocks, ordering supplements and getting Aleta's feed needs met - she's home!

 aleta home b

While we aren't going to put Aleta out with Dodger and Theo yet, they met over the paddock fence and over the fence in the pasture.  There was very little drama. At first, she was very concerned about the donkeys - she trotted all around with her head and tail up, but by the next day she was obsessed with Riley and herds him around the paddock.  He pins his big ears at her and she looks away embarrassed!  I didn't realize what a difference it would make having Aleta at home, I knew it would be fun - we've jumped everything on our property and gone on a few trail rides already, but there is a lot of work bringing a third horse home.  A LOT more poop, longer time to feed, walking horses in and out for turn out.  We used to just open the stall doors, but since the boys and girl aren't pastured together yet, we bring them in and out.

Another thing that has changed is that I am in middle school now, I started this week.  I am enjoying it.  I think it'll be some hard work, but I like all my teachers, friends and my schedule is really great.  I will definitely have to get better time management skills though, I am a bit slow moving in general - my mom compares me to a snail - I just like to take my time!  So I am trying to figure out how horses and homework and chores all fit in during the week.  Luckily my mom works from home so she does a lot of the work too.  We work well together ... most of the time!  lol

aleta home a

Aleta and I are finishing the fall at maiden, going to a few War Horse events and then trying for a few jumper shows.  We plan to move up to BN next year and I think we are ready.  We've taken our time, truly know and trust each other, as well as knowing each others "bad" habits.  I think this past year, while though in some ways, taught us both a lot and made me a better rider because of it.  I am looking forward to Aleta being in my backyard so we can continue to grow and become even better partners.  Her personality is funny and already we are seeing things at home that we didn't maybe notice as much at the other barn.  She was a diva at Kibler though and has managed to keep that title here!

By Finley Habenicht
Grand Times Eventing

I have always had a mental block about going over ditches.  My mom tells me that I am the one stopping at the ditch, not Aleta.  And she's right.  Since I plan to move up to beginner novice this year – this is a problem that needed to be solved!  When I ride up to ditches, I sort of stop riding, assuming Aleta is just going to go over it – which she does not.  She feels me stop riding and slows down and eventually we end up looking peacefully into the ditch.  We recently went to Kingfisher Park to XC school and my only goal was to practice getting over ditches – not Aleta getting over them, but me!  I really wanted to practice just riding a ditch like it was just another jump on course.  We warmed up and felt great, popped over a few jumps, then it was ditch time.  I told myself “Finley, just get over the ditch!”

We picked up a nice canter, cleared the first jump and turned to the ditch.  I pushed Aleta a bit forward - pretty much to make sure she knew I was ready this time - tapped each of us with the crop, kept my eyes locked forward, not down.  I wanted her to know I wasn’t going to stop so neither should she!  The, without any hesitation, Aleta was up and over the ditch without a thought.  I was so proud and excited afterwards that I yelled and cheered a little bit loudly but it was so great to conquer ditches!

We ended our day jumping our first keyhole which was so awesome.  The whole day was great and as with every ride with Aleta helped to show me how great things are when everything “clicks” into place.  As long as I show Aleta that I am there for her, she will always be there for me.

keyholeAleta and Finley - Kingfisher Park, Mooresville, NC

We’ve been working a lot on dressage lately too and recently rode with Ashley Parsons of Tryon, NC.  She was very helpful and explained things similar, but a little different, from Brett, which was good to hear.  I like it when I ride with trainers that say the same things to me but sometimes in a different way, it helps me to understand better what they are looking for in my riding.

With all of our prep, I feel like we are ready for our first beginner novice in a few weeks!