2017 was a huge learning experience for me as a rider and a horse owner.  Aleta has taught me so much, things that can help me as a rider and things that will just make me a better person!  At the beginning of the year, there were many rides where I would end up crying and upset, both from fear and frustration.  Aleta had developed a crazy head shake after jumps and would lurch forward almost uncontrollably at times.  My parents were so worried and upset.  While we always say “Once a Habenicht, always a Habenicht”, it got so bad that they discussed selling her, but I could never do it.  I am so thankful I didn’t, because it turns out she was acting out because she was in pain.  Basically, her ovaries were “miscommunicating” with each other.  We had an ultrasound done and her right ovary was full of blood and about the size of a grapefruit.  Don’t worry, this story has a point and a good ending!  My mom immediately got Aleta fixed up and she’s went back to herself immediately, but it was a hard, long few months of figuring Aleta out.Finley Habenicht and AletaMe and Aleta

2018 NCDCTA Horse of the Year Main Eventing Champion 2018 NCDCTA Horse of the Year Main Eventing Champion!

Because of all this, I have learned a lot.  One thing I have learned is patience.  I think patience helped me stay strong and not give up.  I always knew once we figured everything out, we would be awesome, but I also knew it might take a while.  Even without the health issues, Aleta is a strong, opinionated girl, but we usually tend to agree on most things!  Another thing I learned this year is the true meaning of loyalty.  The few months when it was really bad, I stayed loyal to Aleta, because I knew this just wasn’t her.  My parents supported us and did everything possible to make the situation better – new saddles, medications, training ... you name it and we did it.

I also learned to have softer hands and to be more confident, to believe in myself.  Even though the “bad” behavior wasn’t really who Aleta was, I still learned so much during those rough rides and I continue to learn from her every day!  I have stronger legs and a great seat, and I definitely have a quicker reaction time.  I’m so glad I stuck with her because we are really awesome now – we came in 5th out of 30 at the War Horse Event Series Maiden Division Championship which was the highest placed junior rider!

This past weekend we were also awarded with the NCDCTA Horse of the Year Main Eventing Champion! Given the way 2017 started, we are all so proud of these accomplishments.  It’s beyond what I could have hoped for us to achieve.  Things just started coming together – both health-wise and new partners-wise.  Every day she impresses me more.  She isn’t just a horse to me, she is my best friend and I love her more than I can explain.  I can’t imagine walking into the barn every morning, or at night and not seeing her.  I can’t wait to see how 2018 goes, and I’m so happy I get to go into the year with my favorite partner in crime!