The high school student who met Zen seven years later was also looking to bounce back. Kelly wanted a first horse to help her build up her confidence as a rider.
Finding Something Special
The first thing you notice when looking at pictures of Kelly and Zen is how snuggly they are. They clearly have something very special together. Over their first year, both have made great strides, even though Kelly was unsure what to look for in a horse when they met.
Zen was living at a nearby farm, after her retraining through TPR. But the owner’s schedule had grown too demanding. So, TPR stepped in to help Zen find a new horse-human partnership where both Zen and her rider could flourish.
Kim reached out to Kelly and her trainer, and they went to visit Zen with no expectations, just to see the horse.
The Day Kelly Met Zen
Kelly describes their first meeting: “I remember walking into the barn, meeting the owner, and I walked into Zen’s stall. And the horse turned around to face me. And it was basically love at first sight. That horse walked up to me and started nuzzling me and was super affectionate. And I gave her a peppermint and she wouldn’t leave me alone from that point on. I was thinking ‘I am taking this horse home’ even before I got on her. ”
Kelly did mount up for a test ride, and discovered Zen’s “lovely floating trot.” Once Zen settled in to her new barn, they got down to work.
“When I first got her she had only been ridden a couple of times a month because of her owner’s busy schedule. So the first thing I started to do was to just get her back into condition.” Kelly herself had recently recovered from an injury a few months earlier. “So I was also trying to get my confidence up. And that was the biggest struggle for me.”
An Exciting Discovery
Kelly knew Zen hadn’t been jumped a lot when she first got her. And so they worked on the basics. As they marked their first year together, Kelly discovered Zen’s phenomenal ability.
Kelly and a friend were working with Zen over fences. Kelly set up the jumps while her friend rode.
“We were just kind of playing with her. She doesn’t really make any effort over anything small. She doesn’t need to! So we popped her over a three-foot jump. And then we just kept raising the jump, because she was going so nicely over them. Her ears were pricked up, and she was going forward. She listens so well to your leg. So we just kept raising the jump up. And we got to three-nine. She had no trouble at all! And we were astounded.”
Kelly knew Zen had not really jumped much at all before. They never expected such a smooth, easy experience their first time over higher fences. They ended the day facing their first oxer, and Zen easily sailed over it. “No problem!” Kelly remembers.
The day came when Kelly knew it was time to try Zen over fences herself. “I’m still working on my confidence, slowly but surely.” It was Christmas day, and she and Zen were “playing around,” and started to work on jumping. “And she was doing really nicely. So I just kept raising the jump. She was so calm, so nice, and she listened to everything. We ended up jumping three-foot nine. It was my first time over three-nine, actually! And she took great care of me.”
“I am so glad I have her. She is so great.”
Zen’s Bright Future
When she’s not riding, Kelly attends classes at NOVA and is studying for a real estate license. What does the future hold for Kelly and Zen?
They enjoy the hunter shows at the barn where Zen boards. Kelly and her trainer are planning on going to Culpepper this year for the Thoroughbred classes there, and hope to show in Upperville as well.
“Now, looking back on when I first saw her and now, she’s like a totally different horse – she’s progressed so much. I’m so proud of her and I can’t wait to see what it will be like after another year.”
This Happened Because Of You
Our donors are the reason Zen is loving life with Kelly right now. Your generous gifts make it possible to save horses like Zen – talented, big-hearted former racehorses who enrich the lives of people they could never meet otherwise. Zen and Kelly can look forward to a future of building courage and confidence together. Your donations make this possible – thank you.