….Both horses and man, broken in many ways, but with all the potential in the world, came into my life just in time to be saved….
Now I am not saying I saved them per say. But the reality was all four of us misfits needed saving of sorts. Both Colicchio and Cagney needed a rider that would let them fly their freak flags without getting flogged. The Dane needed a strong support system; a cheerleader to keep reminding him how much he had to offer as an entrepreneur, a horseman, and a partner in life. And I needed a horse. Ha! Well of course I did. No, I needed to be swept away. And all three of these magnificent creatures did not disappoint.
But Cagney and myself are just the sidekicks to this story; Colicchio and the Dane are the true stars in this tale. Though it must be said that the two horses over time developed a full fledged bromance, and simply put, Colicchio would not be complete without Cagney in his life. I am apt to say the same about me and the Dane, but that story is a bit too spicy for this blog!
While he would rarely admit it at the time, the Dane knew in his core that the Stallion was going to be his once in a lifetime horse. Even though Colicchio was looking better then ever, like an over protective first time father, the Dane constantly worried over the sensitive horse, paranoid that his previous issues would sprout up unexpectedly. He maintained Colicchio on a strict diet prescribed by the vet, which excluded hay from his meal plan. He also kept the stallion on his Equsani product, X-FIT, a highly soluble Free Fatty Acid concentrate that kept the then 6-year-old, looking like a sexy beast.
The Dane ensured the Stallion got a wide variety of mental and physical workouts, including hill work on trail rides, dressage based flatwork, and gymnastic style exercises in the jumping arena. To build a strong, well-rounded horse, the Dane exposed the Stallion to uneven surfaces, core exercises to build up his back and hind end, and allowed him to leisurely wander and play, keeping his mind just as busy as his growing body.
So while Cagney and I were beginning to get to know each other’s little quirks, the Dane spent that year preparing Colicchio for his first show. HITS Thermal 2015 was the first time the four of us became a travelling caravan. The duo only entered a handful of classes, nothing beyond a 1.15M, but the Stallion loved every minute of it.
His instinctively curious nature made the show a spectacular playground for his wandering eyes. Nothing really phased him, in fact if there was something out of the ordinary in front of him, his gut told him to run directly towards it. What is that? I want to see it up close? What happens if I poke it with my nose? A full fledged goofball in the making.
And he immediately began to turn heads. But not necessarily where the Dane had hoped. It was the hunters’ heads that were turning and they took an immediate liking to Colicchio’s loping gallop and forward plunging head. Even though the Stallion was jumping well over the fences, he hung in the air like an eagle, legs loose, low and open. The little Stallion was also stunning to look at with his dark shiny coat, doe like eyes, and flowing locks. He had the makings of a fine Breyer hunter pony. Not exactly the budding image of the World Cup super jumper the Dane had in mind.
A few months post Thermal, after a blissful year and half spent in Laguna Beach, the Dane and I packed up the horses and moved up to my home town. The beautiful San Fernando Valley! Oh yeah, the Dane was just as excited as it sounds. The reality of life in the Valley, or any place in Los Angeles for that matter, is the fact that horses simply do not belong. There are not many facilities that offer ample turnouts, trails, and a variety of working arenas to satisfy the Dane’s plans for the young Stallion. So with an hour commute each way to Hidden Valley where the horses were happy and healthy, we quickly decided to continue our journey north and moved up to be closer to the boys.
This transition proved to be much more difficult then I had anticipated. Selling my beloved house of over a decade, moving away from my store in Burbank, being miles from the few friends I had managed to maintain with my gypsy lifestyle, and then finding myself immersed in a new social network of people that I had absolutely nothing in common with, no bueno for Renee! But I did it for my love of the Dane, for my love of the horses, and I did it with full confidence that we were moving in the direction of our dream life. Not sure what that dream looked like yet, but I was certain it was going to include the 3 of them!
The next couple of years went by in a flash of horse shows and holidays. Never a moment of rest when you are trying to make a living in the Equestrian world. The Dane and the Stallion did a variety of California shows from Del Mar to Sacramento. Slow and steady the Dane moved up Colicchio from 1.15 to 1.35 over the course of 2 years, taking his time to master the stallion’s unconventional style. Colicchio liked to lollygag around the arena, then launch himself over the fences, spending a lot of time in the air. Time was never on the Dane’s side, and while the fences never came down, it was not uncommon to hear me shouting on the sidelines, “go faster damn it!” Have I mentioned I am a crazy competitive person?
And while the hunters’ continued to swoon over the flashy and slow motion Stallion, the Dane’s jumping peers looked at Colicchio, and were like…”eh.” Ok yes they could see he had some scope but the general consensus was Colicchio wasn’t anything to get too excited over. He was small, he was slow, and he had no snap in his jump. And the Dane, who had ridden and trained horses for the past 20 years of his life, might as well have been invisible to the other riders. He was just a sales guy. A really nice sales guy that everyone liked, but not a rider. Not a real rider.
I remember one day at Showpark I was watching the Dane and Colicchio in a 1.20 Classic, and a trainer I knew said, “Oh I didn’t know the Dane rode, that’s so cute.” Cute?? Cute!!!! It took everything I had not to lunge at her and rip that smug know-it-all smile off her face. Did I also mention that I am Sicilian?
So while I smiled and nodded like the good sales person I am, my general attitude towards the jumping nay-sayers and non-believers over those first couple of years eventually became “fuck ‘em.” Fuck ‘em all.
Just wait. They’ll see. They’ll change their tune. And, well, they did….
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