Timex shows off his smile.
As riders, we know there’s a special connection between us and our horses that’s hard to put into words, but this bond is so strong that even non-riders can sense it. In an effort to better understand this relationship, our staff Photographer, Kristi (one of the few non-riders at SmartPak), will be visiting a different SmartPaker’s barn each month to watch them interact with their horses and learn more about their story as a pair. She will document her experiences in this monthly blog series along with some of her photography, because we all know that a connection so special is hard to describe simply in words.
Timex stands in the aisle of the main barn, waiting patiently. Colby Balazs grooms him carefully, showing off his new Soft Padded Leather Halter in Havana/Blue. I tell the six-year-old, 17 hh horse he looks handsome and pat his nose. He searches my hand for a cookie and not finding anything, tries my pocket instead. “Here,” Colby says, handing me a cookie. “Give him this and you’ll be friends forever.” I hold the cookie out and he takes it gently. She was right—we are instantly friends. Colby takes a few more minutes for some last-minute touch ups and then we’re headed outside for some pre-lesson portraits.
Colby and Timex take a stroll before their lesson begins.
Outside, Timex is on his best behavior, but I can tell he’s fighting the urge to grab a mouthful of grass (who wouldn’t?). He smiles on command and looks genuinely happy with Colby by his side, nuzzling her hand and vest pocket (surely there are treats somewhere!). When I ask my typical “How did you two meet?” question, she smiles. “Timex was the horse I tried not to buy,” she says. “I was looking for more of a green project horse that I could bring along vs. something more finished.” On a trip to Virginia she found herself down the street from where he lived and couldn’t face missing such an opportunity. “From the moment I saw him on the crossties, I was done. Riding him was just a formality—I loved his personality and couldn’t wait to make him mine.”
Once Timex gets tacked up, it’s time to see the two of them in action. I have the privilege of watching a lesson on this beautiful, early fall afternoon. The ring at Orchard Hill Equestrian Center is picturesque, overlooking the surrounding landscape. Colby’s trainer, Karen, mounts her own horse and they ride together. “We’re taking it easy today and just doing some smaller jumps,” Colby tells me.
The lesson begins!
Even though Colby’s owned Timex for a year, they have just begun their partnership in the past few months. “He had a bit of a misadventure right after I bought him and ended up spending last winter in training.” Despite this, they make a beautiful pair. An outsider (like myself) could never guess that this ride wasn’t years in the making.
“How’s he feel?” Karen asks Colby. “Great…really great,” she answers. I can see Timex’s personality shine through in every step he takes. He is graceful and precise, doing exactly what Colby asks of him. Both seem to take their jobs seriously while having fun in the process.
My concerns about interfering with the lesson prove to be unfounded—they are too focused to even notice my presence. “He’s doing really well,” Karen tells Colby at the end of the lesson. She smiles in agreement. I give Timex a pat on the cheek and thank him for letting me intrude. He puts his nose against my hand, showing his sweet and social nature, then proceeds to search my pockets for more treats. I can see why Colby fell in love with him instantly.
Orchard Hill Equestrian Center makes an amazing backdrop for this afternoon lesson.
Finishing up our interview, she tells me of her high hopes for their partnership. “Winning Pine Top this past Spring was a huge highlight, but I hope that it will be the beginning to a long story,” she says. “I think we have the makings of one of those partnerships you read about.” I smile, because I know she’s right.