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My first practice rides and drives are under my belt! WHEW! Since it’s still pretty early in the season, not all of the horses and ponies are quite ready for me. But I did get to enjoy a few of my four-legged best friends, and it was wonderful.

Just hanging out on Jolly, watching Tammy, Tyler and Derrick work horses.Just hanging out on Jolly, watching Tammy, Tyler and Derrick work horses.

I swear, time in the saddle makes me a nicer person. I consider horses to be my Snickers. Like, “Ali, you’re getting pretty cranky. Why don’t you go ride a horse?” Don’t mind if I do.

One of the horses I got to ride is Jolly Mon Sing, my hunt seat horse. He is a huge, dappled grey giant, and I’m pretty sure that he’s half elephant, half unicorn. Basically, one of my all-time favorite horses. Tammy and I have really been focusing on this division lately, and we intend to bring Jolly along to every show we attend this season that offers a hunter class. Right now, we’re working on gentler transitions, flat walking, and not bucking at the hand gallop (I suppose there are worse issues to have).

I also got to ride another fellow I am really excited about, Billy Deluxe. A chestnut gaited pleasure horse, he was a World's Champion of Champions in a very successful career with Cece Hagan, and I can totally see why. Billy is one of the happiest, kindest and most athletic horses I have had the pleasure of riding. We debuted at Chattanooga Charity last year, and it was … interesting. Those of you who were there may remember a horse racking sideways into the judge’s stand. That was us, and I promise you, we are working on it! 

Heartland High Tech and I cheesin' in the stall.Heartland High Tech and I cheesin' in the stall.

I got to take a spin on Callaway’s Naughty And Nice, who is a peppy, fired-up three gaited mare. Right now, I’m working on just keeping up with her. Something about those chestnut mares keeps you on the edge of your saddle. Also in the three-gaited division, I practiced on Northern Asset. I’m really, really excited about this gelding for a number of reasons. For starters, he is perhaps the most affectionate horse in the stall that I have ever met. He wraps that giant neck around your whole body, rests his big head on your shoulder and just soaks up the love. I believe there is a good reason his former owner, Elisabeth Goth, nicknamed him Monkey. He is also coming along beautifully, thanks to the efforts of Tyler DeVore, who has just started training him. Tyler has him feeling very fit and confident, and he’s becoming a seriously game mount with a mouth like butter (excuse me while I brag on my trainer, but goodness gracious, Monkey is serious fun).

Kristy Lee and her fellow retired homegirl.Kristy Lee and her fellow retired homegirl.

I also got to head over to Majestic Oaks and visit my ponies. We have owned the road pony Romeo’s Kristy Lee LF for several years now, and she is really a mare that is close to my heart. Every time she hit the ring, she gave 110% of herself, and that made her an absolute joy to drive. She is now retired in the pasture on Rich and Maureen Campbells’ farm, and it filled my heart right up to see her out there, thick-furred, muddy, living the life of an old, wild pony. On top of that, some overdue cuddle time with my buddy of many years, Heartland High Tech, really made the trip special.

We head to the Tampa Charity Horse Show in early March as our first show ring experiences of the season, and I am so excited. It’s a great show, full of wonderful people in a city that is way too much fun. I’ll be showing Starlight Voyager in his new division, Adult Three-Gaited Country Pleasure, as well as Billy Deluxe in Gaited Pleasure, Jolly Mon Sing in Hunt Seat, Callaway’s Naughty and Nice in Amateur Three-Gaited and I’m even bringing a pony- Regal’s Prime Rate LF - for the Amateur Road Pony Division.

I wish everyone the best of luck, and I really look forward to seeing all of your faces!

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