Inspiration-by Jo Ann (sounds like a line of greeting cards)

Jo Ann and Mickey- a pretty good lookin' pair.

Jo Ann and Mickey- a pretty good lookin’ pair.

I met Jo Ann when about five years ago when Jordyn was two. I had gotten talked into helping out announcing at a horse show and if I did, they would find little Jordyn a horse to ride in the leadline class. So one of Jordyn’s first horse show experiences was with Jo Ann’s then  27 year old, black, OTTB named Hershey.  He was perfect for her.

Later when Jo Ann was looking for a place to board her old man, Hershey (then 31) and her superstar Quest, our vet Lynn, recommended our place to Jo Ann.  It has been a good fit.  Due to a series of adventures, good and bad, Jo Ann has been left without a regular horse to ride, Hershey was saddly too old and Quest moved on to greener pastures.  She came back to riding dressage with Nancy Lindsey and my go-to pony, Snowboy.

Not to give out state secrets, but Jo Ann is older than I am by a few years.  And we all know I am really old.  Jo Ann and I have had some serious run-ins with medical professionals but while mine have been orthopedic hers have been some fairly critical medical issues.  In fact it seems a little more than a month ago Jo Ann had some pretty important surgery.

I am a fairly competitive person.  That may be an understatement.  I used to be a competitive horsewoman and spent my childhood in lessons and shows.  By the time I started college, I was pretty done with all that.  I rode because I enjoyed riding.  I did some shows off and on through the years but usually to prove I could or to help Ally or Lauren out by riding their show horse prior to them riding.

I have been watching Jo Ann as she has continued to ride, in spite of not having a horse right now, in spite of the heat, in spite of her medical issues and had a little “A HA” moment.  Jo Ann has worked her way up to riding Lauren’s jumper, Mickey.  There is something dynamic and exciting about watching this cow-bred Paint, excel at something else he was not bred to do.  He was never bred to jump and he has soared.  He was never bred to bend and float and now Jo Ann has him doing dressage.  What a special guy he is!

I have been riding my new horse Nova pretty consistently and wanted to take a lesson with Dev once I got her going pretty well.  Of course, part of it was me-the getting going part.  Coming back from the hip replacement surgery and my nine other orthopedic surgeries in this decade have made my muscle tone and strength not what they were. So, that was a good excuse as well.  I had told Dev that I would do a lesson this last weekend, but wouldn’t you know it-Nova came up lame.  Reason enough to put that off until she was better.



But watching Jo Ann on Friday night, Competitive Cindy (that is like Malibu Barbie), said to herself, “You know I could do this!  This lesson thing-I could be open to criticism, praise and getting to be a better rider.  I could do it!”

Mickey and I doing just fine.

Mickey and I doing just fine.

Sunday, for the first time in 40 years, seriously, 40 years, I took a horseback riding lesson.  And I did just fine.  And I did it on Mickey.  Who did his best for me (at least mostly).  So, what is the big deal?  For 40 years, I have been content to listen to other riders, to read books and articles about riding, to watch clinicians and videos but I have not be willing to put myself out there where the focus as direct and on me-specifically.

Canter, please.

Canter, please.

I had watched my friend Jo Ann take lessons.  Honestly, at first I really thought she probably couldn’t ride that well, I mean she was old like me.  But then I watched her turn in better and better rides on a variety horses and I had learned that if I wanted to get better and get serious, I had to learn more.

We never quit learning or getting better.  Sometimes we have to be brave enough to face the criticism that may occur when we step out into something new.  I did not even get criticized during my lesson (George Morris was not available for a crtique).  Instead I got nice words about my position and quiet hands along with suggestions for doing things even better.

And to you- Jo Ann-Thank you for the inspiration.  You will see in these videos what a lovely rider you are.  Bravo to you, for hanging on and moving forward.  I believe you showed these kids around here a few things as well.

As John Wayne reportedly said, “Courage is being scared to death and climbing up into the saddle anyway”.  I am glad I climbed up in the saddle again to learn.

As always thanks for riding along!

Lauren and I taking a lesson together-first time ever.  She is on Owen.

Lauren and I taking a lesson together-first time ever. She is on Owen.

Lauren’s horse biography

Lauren’s trainer, Dev Branham, has launched a new website with help from rider Amy Heidbreder and asked each rider to do a little bio on themselves.  Here is what Lauren put together for the website ( ).

Lauren Davis

Hi, I am Lauren Davis and I was the first of the ‘southside’ to start riding with Dev almost seven years ago.  I keep my horses at home, in Wharton, which is a scenic 175 mile round trip to Tomball.  I was just dragged along into riding when my sister and mom had horses in Florida. I don’t believe I ever made a conscious decision to ride, there were always just horses in my life.  I started riding competitively over 16 years ago and have been blessed with some great horses over the years.  Most memorably, is Irish Midnight, aka Mickey, a small but determined bay horse who will be coming to live at  Dev’s soon.  I started out in walk-trot with Mickey and have won blue ribbons on him up to the 3’6” jumpers.



Although just 15.1 hh, this little horse will teach you to ride, to find your spots, to see the distance and to succeed in the jumper ring.  Together we have made USEF Zone Finals three times, won many year-end schooling championships and grown up together. With the arrival of two six year-old horses on my farm, Mickey has not getting the rides he deserves so I hope his transfer to DSH will give him a chance to shine again while some of you get a chance to ride my favorite guy.

About 18-months ago, a young Irish sport horse who was still growing into herself stepped off the trailer from Florida.  Sired by Flagmount’s Freedom (a top-notch eventing horse), we knew this mare should be able to jump but had to overcome some initial issues like not ever wanting to get in a trailer again, being terrified of crops, fly spray and people before we could adequately ride and show her.  It has been a lot of work, some of it tough, but I am proud my mare, Flagmount’s Irish Freedom, aka Feather, has progressed from the 2’3” hunters to the 3’6” jumpers in this short time.  She has also learned to load, be clipped, endure fly spray and most importantly enter every arena with a calm, business-like attitude.

Feather and Lauren at their last show.

Feather and I at our last show.

I don’t know where this mare will take me.  I do know we have not yet begun to see the top of her jumping limits but love the horse this mare has become!

My next horse I blame on Dev and yet applaud Dev for sending to me.  Huge, 17.2 hh, six year-old Bruno came to me solidly lame last November.  Many of you may have read my mom’s chronicles of his fight to return to soundness after hoof surgery at Teas A&M Vet Hospital last December.  Over five months, Bruno stayed in his stall as I learned every conceivable way to bandage a hoof, deal with a giant, crazy OTTB and have a horse I had barely even ridden lodge himself solidly in my heart.


Bruno has been back under saddle now for a couple of months.  It is a little like riding a runaway freight train.  Bruno latches onto the bit and away we go.  My mom may tell us to come down from the canter to the trot, but she doesn’t realize I have been trying to get him to slow down for the last two laps of the arena.  We are just starting Bruno’s education over fences and it has been a little slow.  He is nothing like the natural jumper that Feather is.  But maybe we just have not set the challenge up enough for him yet.  Dev says Bruno may be my Derby horse and with an unextended stride of over 15 feet he will eat up the lines in the jumper ring.

Also, hanging out at my farm are Snowboy and Mr. Kid.  Snow, of course, spent some time at Dev’s and now is my niece’s show pony.  Mr. Kid is 112 (okay, really almost 32) but keeps Bruno company and is my mom’s old horse.

In my spare time, when I am not managing the family farm, I am attending college, and buying/selling some ponies and horses.

p 051513

Pony, Pixie, will be for sale soon.

Dev has been the perfect fit for me as a trainer.  I have learned so much working with him over the years.  I have not always liked what he had to tell me but I have come to realize he is usually right!


Leaving the arena.

Leaving the arena.

We had to leave the much-anticipated, much planned for horse show, days early on Friday when Feather unexpectedly and inexplicably became ill.  She had swollen legs and a bad stomach.  It was like a late blow in already tough fight, we were not ready for it and we could not withstand it.

But what has some time and distance given me in regard to this matter? Well, some retrospective insight, helped along by my friend Kathy.  Really, so much of the why we attended the Fiesta Classic horse show, had already been answered in Feather’s arrival to and participation in classes on Thursday.

We had some concerns.  Not the least of which was would Feather measure up against the horses in her division when we tried to show at this higher level of competition.  Already we had spent some time in these Great SW Equestrian rings courtesy of the schooling shows.  Not only that but Feather had entered the ring and shown against some top trainers and some nice horses-so this was not a huge stretch.  Still, Lauren’s nerves were likely to be bound a little tighter, which could affect the mare as well.

And what was going to happen to my schizophrenic mare who came to us scared to have her head touched, the clippers turned on or her face handled when we added the top down cleaning, clipping and braiding that goes along with a big show?  I was very concerned that getting her mane and forelock braided might undo the fragile balance we had constructed in this horse.

Additionally, making it all a little more challenging, Lauren had all brand new tack, a saddle and a bridle that she had never even ridden in before much less jumped a jump.

But oh, retrospect!  First, we learned that while it was lucky to have a braider that went slowly and carefully with my horse, she stood quietly as almost 50 tiny braids were laced into her mane and forelock.  We learned in our 24 hours at the show that Feather would go into the show ring, despite wind and rain, and jump every jump in front of her cleanly and easily.  While we did not win our rounds, Lauren and mare had respectable courses. It was clear the things we could do to be better the next time they entered the ring.

We learned that she settled quickly and easily into the stall like it was the one at home.  And further, I learned once again, that I am sometimes the luckiest person in the world, to essentially have my vet on speed dial no matter the time of day.  When I needed to talk to Dr. Criner, she was answering my call, personally, and with clear knowledge of my horse.  She had me off to the pharmacy for vet supplies to help the sick mare, before most vets would have even returned my call.  As usual, her advice was clear, concise and competent.  Her advice included “take Feather home now!”

Retrospectively, we proved what we set out to do.  To get Feather in the big ring with the top horses.  We will be back for more rounds in future-you can count on it.

Feather joining the big league with style and grace.

Feather joining the big league with style and grace.