Jezebel

The Little Jack Russel Terrier.

jezebel.jpgThe year 2000 was one of the most satisfying of my professional career, due in large part to Dr. Julie Ballard-Haralson’s mare Katinka. As the competition season closed, Julie and I discussed her and her horses training goals for the winter. We agreed that she could benefit greatly as a rider if she began riding Katinka. Julie also wanted her other Dutch mare, Jezebel, to progress towards FEI if possible. So in late November, Jezebel came to Touch ‘n GO.

I looked forward to another challenge. Jezebel was a flashy mover with smarts too. Over the last year she had learned how to pull Julie’s strings and made showing very unpredictable. I appreciated the elastic movement and physical talent the horse possessed but she had a lot of thoroughbred in her breeding and mentally she was all mare. Jezebel never took “no” for an answer. At first she was obstinate, disobedient and occasionally, down right nasty. She had numerous, well-rehearsed evasions and constantly tried to shift out of alignment. That first month left me pulling my hair out.

Jezz’s advanced case of “mare mouth” also had me playing musical bits until I finally settled on a Racing D. The schooling sessions began to improve as I started to understand her nature. The little mare reminded me of a Jack Russell Terrier more than a horse. Once she got wound up, you better know what to do with all of that energy. I funneled it into strength building exercises. Some trainers might assume that Jezz and I started developing a relationship. It might be more accurate to say that Jezebel realized that the rider on her back was every bit as stubborn as she was. Once we had that meeting of the minds, we started working together.

The month of January was lost to a viral infection but Jezz recovered and we picked up where we left off when she returned. By March 2001 we had began to see eye to eye. Schooling progressed at a much better rate and I looked forward to our first competition. Julie had explained that Jezebel needed five scores above 60% at Third level to advance in the KWPN mare keuring process. I knew that little Jack Russell had it in her. I just had to find a way to let her shine in front of the judges.

Shining was not what Jezebel had in mind as we went down centerline together for the first time. She couldn’t stand still at the halt…. any halt! She tried to evade. She tensed and jigged. Basically, she tested me at every point in the test. Still, somehow, we left the show with three scores well above 60% in the Third level tests. I have always said horses are tremendous creatures of habit. Despite our success at home, Jezebel had tried to slip into every bad habit acquired in the show ring. There was still a lot of work yet to be done.

Through the summer I introduced her to the double bridle without much trouble. Jezz and I spent those hot, hazy days building a real relationship. With newfound trust, that little mare went to work each day and did her best. She became a real character in the barn too. Jezebel would pin her ears whenever anyone tried to give her a treat. Then she’d give them a kiss when their back was turned. The mare had as much personality as talent. I really started looking forward to my Dutch Terrier ride each day.

The marks at Third level improved as we began the fall show season, scoring as high as 70%. In the last month of eligibility I entered Jezz in three Fourth Level classes. She earned her qualifying scores right away. The Regional Dressage Championships were held in Georgia during a rainy, windy fall weekend. I had high hopes for the Third level Open class but we had never shown in the mud. She came through like a trooper and I felt quite proud to tell Julie that her little mare won Reserve Champion. Much to my surprise, Jezz put in a solid test in the Fourth - Open class despite her inexperience at that level. We managed to place third against a seasoned field.

Each year I look forward to the uninterrupted training the winter brings. Without limitations imposed by an upcoming competition, Jezebel’s progress quickened. Her pirouettes became steady and her two-tempis were reliable. Even the one-time changes were improving when 2002 rolled around. As the spring shows approached I began to feel a resistance during collected work. By then, I was quite used to Jezz giving me her best effort every day. Sensing that something was physically wrong, Julie and I decided to give her a break from training.

Jezebel came back nicely and Julie was soon showing again. She moved up the Adult amateur levels to Prix St. Georges and earned her USDF Silver Rider Medal aboard the little “Jack Russell” in 2004.