Rev was a five year old Canadian Thoroughbred when we bought him as an off-the-track, ‘trained in dressage’ prospective 3-Day Eventer for Georgia. We were assured he had been over a ‘few jumps’, but it was clear he had done no jumping at all. But he was an awfully nice mover so . . .
Georgia was eleven and had been riding since she was seven. She had a good trainer and between them they thought that they could bring Rev on–it would be a project. Georgia’s old horse had taken great care of her, and we thought she knew enough about jumping to be able to learn along with Rev. How arrogant we were, never realizing that her old school-master had put himself underneath her over every jump. So, all that winter Georgia and Rev trained for their first horse trials at Camus Meadows the following April, where the Arlen family were to learn a very stern lesson in humility.
Rev was, and still is, a character. He was a typical thoroughbred: intelligent, sensitive, he had an opinion about everything and through that first winter he voted. The first thing he saw at Camus was a heard of llamas grazing in a meadow. It set the tone for the weekend.
Georgia’s trainer was a good dressage teacher, but not much on jumping that is why we have so few photographs of them show-jumping and even less of them on cross-country in the early days. We were literally too terrified to focus a camera. We enlisted show-jumping trainer, Nelson Mittuch, and cross country trainer, Amy Tryon. And to keep Rev mindful of his obligations, the master disciplinarian himself: Jeremy Beale for dressage. Slowly things began to happen and we stopped buying all the show jumping photos of Reveille being an ass with Georgia trying to keep him under control with those huge eyes of hers as big as saucers.
There were a lot of things Rev could do well, he was really good at escaping from temporary stalls at the local horse trials, clinics and events. He was a past-master at entertaining people at gas station when we pulled in. I have never seen a horse throw more hay at people. He had some interesting quirks, twirling Georgia’s hair with his lip was often an indication that he was about to do something truly terrifying. But, he was adored by his rider, and in turn he did his best to adore her. As Kyle Carter once said, “Rev has an ego the size of Canada and he doesn’t know jack-shit about jumping.”
Meantime, we did quite a bit of this. Usually, after Georgia had finished her dressage test.
Over the next two to three years Georgia and Rev worked hard at their show jumping and x-c. They would place first in dressage and then it would all start to unravel from there. I have watched Rev wearing Georgia as a hat as he refused the water jump at Rebecca Farm. He also liked to return to the barn from the dressage arena at his speed. They were, at seven and fifteen, about the same mental age. There were moments of great self-discipline and maturity, and then there were days when I thought wistfully of swim-team: all you needed was a swim-suit and a pair of goggles and if you forgot your towel you weren’t eliminated.
As they progressed up the levels things began to come together. AT times, there were beautiful moments. But I never lost my horror of that moment when they left the start box on cross-country. I rode when I was a girl, but I never had the physical courage to compete in 3-Day Eventing. But I watched Georgia learn patience, patience and more patience and, above all, dignity and humility. I never saw her loose her temper, never once did she stand under the result board outside the show office in tears because she hadn’t places. There were a few after-show parties when she was eighteen, I would like to forget, but hell at least she wasn’t talking about getting married or in drug-rehab.
We drove down to Temecula to Galway Downs and their first CIC ** together. It was a straight 24 hour drive from Washington to S. California. Rev behaved beautifully: he looked down his nose at beginners and didn’t shove Georgia in the back when they did their trot out. All those years of dressage had put so much muscle on him you could only tell he was a thoroughbred when you looked at his pretty face.
In those days a 3-Day was just that. Day 1. Vet check, trot-out and dressage test. Day 2, endurance: a warm up of trotting roads and track, a timed fast pace over steeplechase jumps, vet. check and then the cross-country course. Day 3 show jumping.
Day 2 was huge fun. After each phase of endurance we had to cool Rev down, keep Georgia hydrated, and then after the vet. had checked him they were off to the start-box for cross-country.
We waited for Georgia at the water jump!