By Emily Grimstead
“It is the difficult horses that have the most to give to you.” – Lendon Gray
I’ll start with a little background on Goosebumps. My parents bought Goosebumps five years ago, from a hunter barn in North Carolina, for $1,500. I had taken lessons at the farm, and knew “Goose,” but usually rode a different horse in my lessons. My husband was in the Marine Corps and we were stationed on the other side of the country. My parents purchased him with the hopes that he would be an asset to the Girl Scout lesson program where my mom works. Goose was not the best fit for the lesson program, after all. He was difficult to ride, difficult to handle on the ground, and quite naughty. So when my husband and I moved back home, I took him on as my own project.
I started riding dressage on Valentine’s Day, two years ago, by chance. My barn was having a dressage clinic and I thought it might be fun to participate. We showed up in our jumping tack and casual clothing, with a very casual attitude. But before the end of the lesson, something happened and I knew Goose and I would never look back.
Goose and I had to start with the very basics. He was completely dead to the leg, had no feeling in his mouth, and wouldn’t even stay on the rail. It was such a challenge and extremely frustrating, but I was enjoying every second of it. I went from riding once weekly, to riding almost every day after work, and did some research about opportunities for adults riding dressage on ponies. It was then that I discovered the National Dressage Pony Cup (NDCP). The NDPC encourages dressage at every level, for riders of any ability or age, and ponies of any breed. Getting there was all I could think about, and I made it my goal. I bought lots of dressage books and starting planning for our first dressage schooling show.
My husband was on board with my new obsession and even purchased a small horse trailer, for Goose and me. When the day came to go to our first show, we loaded up Goose and started to pull down the driveway. We were barely down the driveway and Goose reared up in the trailer, snapped his lead rope, hit his head, and almost flipped out the back of the trailer. He was shaking so hard that we pulled him off the trailer as quickly as we could. I had to get my dad to call and scratch us from the show because I was crying so much; we had worked so hard for months. He was so scared and obviously had some pretty serious emotional baggage. Feeling super discouraged, my husband and I decided to sell the trailer and buy a different one. This time we went with an open, stock-type trailer. After several weeks of feeding Goose in the new trailer and convincing him that it was okay, we went to our first show.
At the horse show, Goose was very nervous and flighty. We actually had to be led into the arena because he would not go into it on his own; he kept rearing and tried to run back to the trailer. I pulled everything that I had together and had to keep convincing myself not to give up. I remember the first time I took him to my trainer’s farm for a lesson. Goose ran away with me and jumped over the side of the dressage arena. She said, “Well, that’s not good!” But, I wouldn’t give up. I kept trying and I kept pushing and hoping that we could do it.
In September of 2015, I noticed that Goose had some discharge coming from his ear. After investigating with a flashlight, I could see a tumor down in his ear. We were sent to a specialist, and Goose had to end up having two separate ear surgeries (the first one was not successful). We were told that Goose may not be able to hear, that his face may end up being disfigured, and that he may never be able to balance himself well again. But Goose pushed through and luckily, now, has completely recovered. He barely even has a scar!
I became curious about Goose’s history before we bought him. My family had so much time and money invested in him and I really wanted to find some baby photos of him. I got lucky and found a video of him, when he was for sale in 2008. I contacted the lady who sold him, Ashley Waldrup, and she informed me that Goosebumps had been rescued by Cindy Bellis-Jones, in Kentucky, from slaughter eleven years ago. Goose had been abused, and found himself in a bad situation. He needed a helping hand to get back to a better place, and Cindy and Ashley were the people who helped him. I can never thank them enough, as this pony is absolutely priceless to me.
This year, after two and a half years of so many ups and downs, Goose and I finally made it to the Kentucky Horse Park for the National Dressage Pony Cup. It was a dream come true, just to get there, and I am still pinching myself! Goosebumps was the Appaloosa Pony Champion of the show and, together, we placed fourth overall in the Adult Amateur USDF Musical Freestyle. Cindy even came to the horse park to see Goosebumps, after all of this time! I could not have gotten to Kentucky without the support of my family and without the help of my super positive and motivating trainer. This whole journey started with a dream that seemed completely impossible, more times than one. But, I never gave up and I always believed in my pony.