Amanda spends several hours a day at Fiore Farms with her horse, Zip, a spunky five-year-old black quarterhorse. Translated to human years, he’s twenty-one to her twelve—but, as they say, boys take longer to mature.
Amanda, whose parents promised her a horse when she was old enough to take responsibility for one, fell in love with Zip the moment she first saw him in March 2009. Zip was only three and not ready for steady riding, so a trainer spent a year working with him.
Unfortunately, the traditional methods she used—emphasizing discipline, coercion, and obedience—sent him into a tailspin. He began rearing and bucking under saddle. “Your horse isn’t safe,” the trainer told Amanda and her mother, Angela. “You should consider selling him.”
The thought devastated them. Zip followed Amanda around like a lovestruck teenager and was always gentle in her presence. They knew Zip had a fundamentally sweet nature. Something had gone terribly wrong during his months of training.
They couldn’t sell him. Amanda couldn’t ride him. It seemed like a hopeless situation.
A year later, under the ongoing tutelage of James Cooler, Amanda and Zip are best friends and companions. Zip carries her on his back willingly, trotting around the ring with his head low and his neck relaxed. He backs up at the shake of his lead line, does graceful side passes, and canters in easy circles on a lunge line.
Angela homeschools her daughter so she has time for Zip. Rain or shine, Amanda is out at the farm, taking lessons with James, playing with Zip, learning to understand how he thinks, building a trusting relationship with him. The proof is in the pudding. He’s never bucked her once.
James calls Amanda his number-one student and marvels at her stick-to-it-iveness.
She’s an inspiration for us grown-ups, who may need a few horse years to catch up to her.