A few years ago I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to purchase ESB Irish Justice from Edith Kane. Justice had been her wonder horse - she brought him on from a youngster and together they climbed the Young Rider ranks to represent Australia at the Trans Tasman Young Rider champs against New Zealand. For a year I stalked Edith at competitions, asking if she was ready to pass him on. Eventually, the persistence paid off and she rang to offer him to me. He was my 40th birthday present from my mum - which shows the scale of inflation, if only she'd bought me a pony when I was a kid!
Within 3 days of having him I'd started the process of getting to know him - by falling off! 12 months of stacks and we were partners - consistently picking up 1* placings and confidently tackling all the big tracks. I learnt how to ride xc in a rhythm, saving my flapping for the water jump. Water jumps...crafty old fella always had a trick in store there. A stop, a duck, at best a clamber and always a photographer to capture my graceless flop on landing - but if you could get him in, you'd always make the skinny out because having resigned himself to getting wet feet he'd get back on the job.
Ditch & Brush after the water at Werribee 1* - wet belly as proof he went in!
Dressage was to be endured - Justice is the best trained horse and works from the most subtle of aids, but is also the most passive-aggressive bit chomping, hip high, four beat canter master. My worst moment was his suspensory finally giving way in the ring at Ballarat. I'm sure he would never have let it happen on xc, but was happy to throw the towel in the dressage ring.
A careful rehab and Justice was sound - but the stern words of my vet said never again to compete at FEI level. I was given the option to do dressage or showjumping with him, but no more gallop fitness work. I couldn't make him suffer dressage so showjumping it was. He'd always jumped by braille, so I wasn't sure how that was going to work out but I was so happy to have him back, sound and happy - who cared how many rails we took.
Justice and I have had a fantastic year pottering around showjumping competitions, hacking around the vineyard and doing the occasional half pass in his jumping saddle. Every outing is pure joy, and ironically he's never jumped cleaner or felt sounder. The lovely Katherine Jamieson captured this picture of us at a local comp - there's a whole series of them and I'm smiling in every one.
Thank you Justy for being in my life and reminding me to sometimes stop chasing goals and simply enjoy the ride.
PS. I hope he forgives me but I've entered him next week in 1* at Werribee but won't run the xc - hope we both get a laugh out of heading up the centreline in our jump saddle and that he gets a thrill from hearing the horses head out on course, even if he can't join them!