Houdini was a ‘surprise’ that I received when I was 10. I had ridden him in lessons and the intention was for me to lease him, but my parents actually purchased him and didn’t tell me about it until after! Houdini is a 1996 Spanish Mustang gelding, he’s just under 14.2hh and a bay roan, and I have to say, we got pretty lucky with him. He and I really learned the ropes of eventing together, starting at Beginner Novice (before there were Goldilocks or Green as Grass) and working our way up to Training level. Houdini comes from a managed herd of Spanish Mustangs that is located in Oklahoma. There is a roundup from this herd each year in order to control the population, and the year that Houdini was part of the roundup, he was purchased by an equine veterinarian named Dr. Sherm Mathey. Dr. Mathey kept Houdini for several years, broke him under saddle, then sent him to my trainer, Diane Hanrahan. Houdini was part of the lesson program at South Star Stables for a while, which is where I met him. We did our first cross country schooling on a bit of a whim and very soon after made the jump from local schooling shows to recognized events.
We were not immediately successful.
Houdini is many things, but submissive he is not, and I soon learned that dressage was not his favorite activity. He would drag me around any cross country course I put him on (literally drag me around, I was ten and weighed maybe 60 pounds), but he fought every step in the dressage arena. We did dressage schooling shows, tried every bit we could get our hands on and any tricks we could find to try to soften him, but he never became a dressage prodigy. We have both made great improvements over the last 16 years, myself as a rider and him in terms of softness and submission, but I’ve come to accept that he is simply not a classical dressage mount.
Remember how I said that dressage was not his favorite activity? It turned out, jumping is! He is quite athletic and could be bold on cross country and careful in stadium, which sometimes made up for our shortcomings in the dressage phase. We got the hang of the whole eventing thing eventually and after 3 years of competing at Beginner Novice, we finally determined that we were ready to move up to Novice. We continued to grow our partnership and moved up to Training level in 2007.
We got seasoned at the level and were pretty successful until Houdini suffered a bowed tendon in 2010. We spent a long time rehabbing and brought him back very slowly and, fortunately, he has been able to continue eventing at the lower levels. He is semi-retired at this point but he really does love being in work and getting to go on field trips, so when my schedule allows, I try to give him as much time out as I can. His most recent competition was in April 2017 after a very long four year stretch without competing, and he didn’t miss a beat! He was foot perfect the entire weekend, and though it was only Beginner Novice, he was so happy to be back at it that I may just have to take another spin on him this season.