My name is Josephine, although many people did not know that simple fact when I was younger. I was very shy and would not introduce myself to anyone. In fact, I hardly talked at all.
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To help me overcome this obstacle, my mother convinced me to play a few sports, and I was not bad. Even though I could play fairly well, I would get very nervous before every game because I was afraid I would lose the game for everyone. I felt like my life was handicapped by my complete lack of confidence.
Then my confidence began to change. When I was eight years old, I was given a horse. True, she was only three feet tall, her short skinny legs looked too weak to keep that big round belly up, her palomino coat was shabby, and her mane and tail were tangled but to my young eyes, Jazzy looked like the most beautiful horse in the world.
Jazzy may have been beautiful to me, but even I could not ignore her attitude. Jazzy had to have her way, or else teeth and hooves would go flying. She never hurt me, and I don’t think she ever would, she just put on a show to get her way. I often put a lead rope on her to take her for a walk, but usually she was the leader, and I just held onto the rope. I was too timid to take control of her.
Jazzy’s life changed on September 3, 2004, a few years after I got her. I had just finished showing my lambs at the county fair and wandered over to the horse arena. I had always wanted to be in a horse show, but I never thought I would. To me, the competitors in the ring looked like professional riders with personal trainers and thousand dollar horses. I felt like they were in a league way ahead of me and Jazzy.
Then I spotted another miniature horse. It was chubby and short just like my Jazzy. The difference was this little pony could pull a cart. I watched the horse zoom around the ring, and I decided I would train Jazzy to do the same.
It took me all summer to research and train her, and Jazzy wasn’t always the most agreeable horse. She refused to take a bit in her mouth, and she despised the cart. Sometimes she would see the cart and run all the way out to her pasture.
Slowly, though, she began to realize I was not going to give up so easily. She stopped biting and kicking and actually started to do what I told her to do, as long as I had lots of treats. I was so surprised when she started to progress.
By the end of the summer, Jazzy transformed from a naughty stinker horse into an obedient sweetheart. I was super proud, but the greatest challenge was yet to come. I signed up for the Horse and Pony Project in 4-H which meant the next year I was going to show my horse with those professionals.
The winter came, and Jazzy had a few months off; although, I did try to have her pull the cart through a foot of snow. It did not work very well.
The moment the snow was gone, Jazzy and I hit the trails with the cart. I practiced everything I could think of, and Jazzy even started to lose some weight.
When the show day came, I woke up at five and double-checked all of the equipment I had packed the night before. I was too nervous to eat, but I made sure Jazzy had a good breakfast. Then I cleaned her coat before loading Jazzy into the trailer, and we headed to the fairgrounds.
Driving Reinsmanship was one of the first show classes, and way before my nerves were ready we were at the gate waiting to enter. I was having serious doubts. What if Jazzy doesn’t listen to me and we look like idiots out there? What if I accidently do the wrong thing and mess everything up? What if a wheel falls off the cart and the whole thing tips? I was about to tell my mother that I didn’t want to do this and we should go home, when my class was called into the ring.
Jazzy didn’t misbehave at all, and I knew exactly what to do. We trotted around the ring a few times, and the wheels stayed attached. My hands were shaking so bad I thought I would drop the reins.
Finally, we lined up to hear the placements. I sighed in relief. We made it through without any major catastrophes. That’s all I wanted for our first show.
The announcer said, “Forth place ribbons go to numbers 345, Susan Collins, 562, Mike Smith….” and so one. I was sure I was going to be called for a fourth ribbon, and I became nervous when I wasn’t. I started to think perhaps I had accidentally entered the wrong class and my name wasn’t going to be call. My anxiety rose when the third and second place winners were called, and they were leaving the arena to collect their ribbons. ‘What if I’m the only one left?’ I thought.
Then I heard, “A first place ribbon goes to number 786, Josephine with her horse, Jazzy.”
I was too stunned to move. Luckily, Jazzy didn’t want to be the last horse in the ring and followed the other horses. I was given a blue ribbon with a shiny “1st place” on it.
I couldn’t believe it. I had just hoped to get through the class without making an idiot of myself. I never expected to get a blue ribbon. After this experience, I learned that with a little determination and confidence, I could accomplish much more than I ever imagined. A few years later, Jazzy and I became Wisconsin State Reinsmanship Champions. I wonder if the next champion is looking up to me, and thinking I look like a professional driver.