People ask me all the time if I have a favorite school horse, and every time I answer without hesitation: Stanley. Stanley (aka Loristaan, a seriously badass show name by all accounts) is not only my favorite school horse, but one of my favorite all around horses of all time. What follows is not so much a biography as a love story:
(Me and Stan)
His first career was as Aaron Vale's grand prix show jumper/derby horse. He was a high junior jumper next, then came to Stanford with his junior rider and became a part-time team horse known for his ground-eating stride and big time jump. Eventually he was leased out to a nearby hunter/jumper program, where he competed happily for several years until some front foot lameness began to slow him down.
(One of the world's cutest faces, without question)
The summer after my freshman year, Stan came back to Stanford for some rehab and a reassessment of his potential job going forward, as it was pretty clear that his jumping career was over. The only problem: Stanley had never done any serious dressage in his life, and he was famous at the Red Barn for being extremely high energy even to the point of being aggressive to people on the ground (especially men). It was unclear whether he would be able to transition into a new role as a more beginner-level mount.
(Classic Stan expression)
I volunteered to be his go-to rehab rider, and over the next few months we walked, and walked, and walked. At first he was extremely distant and withdrawn, but every day he came out of his shell a little bit more. He had never been checked out for hacking around the property (as he had a famous and violent spook), but slowly we explored every inch of the Red Barn property. By the time we were up to trotting and cantering, we had become fast friends, and he would look out over his stall with ears pricked when I approached.
(Begging for candies, something he would never do when I first met him)
Once school started up again, I didn't get to spend nearly as much time with Stan, but I was still delighted to see him happy and sound in his new job as low-level dressage and flat horse. In the fall of my Junior year I got to be reunited with him for Stanford's first ever home IDA show, where we pulled off a win at First Level.
Then, it wasn't until today that I got to ride him again. I was worried that he would be dull and lazy, as he has mostly had inexperienced riders between then and now, or that he would feel as distant to me as he had in those first days.
But he didn't. As soon as I got on, he instantly perked up, puffed himself up, and felt absolutely amazing. It was like reuniting with an old, old friend after a long absence. I actually got choked up, it felt so good to ride him again.
(What a champ - ps: Stanley is NOT small, if that wasn't previously clear)
Plus, know who else got to ride Stan recently? MOM ERICKSON! Ma has grown to love Stan from a distance after years of listening to me gush about how awesome he is, and so when she visited last weekend I arranged so that she could take him for a brief spin. They had a blast! Mom did a great job and Stan, being the unbelievable worth-his-weight-in-gold creature that he is, was amazing.
(Wahoo! Look how great they look!)
So basically, Stan = one of a kind. I'm so lucky to have had this amazing horse (all 18.1hh of him!) in my life.
(Love you, Bud!)