I remember the first time I ever rode Petunia.

It was at last June’s FCHJA show. My trainer had already ridden her in several over fences classes, it was brutally hot, and she asked if I’d ride her in the flat class. I quickly said yes, since I’d be drooling over the majestic bay mare ever since I first laid eyes on her. Next thing I knew, I was getting a leg up and walking into the ring. Didn’t even have a chance to get acclimated to her in the schooling ring. Talk about a catch ride.

Needless to say, it didn’t go well.

Nothing catastrophic happened, but she was a much more complicated ride than I’d anticipated and I could barely canter her in a straight line without her wiggling or swapping her lead. I was a little deflated. I’d had visions of  blue ribbons on her from the get-go.

Since then, I’ve started leasing her, shown her a handful of times, made a plan to buy her, and have bonded deeply with her. There are numerous jokes about how she’s the horse version of me and “like mother, like daughter” jokes about us (usually when she tries to steal whatever is in my red solo cup).

Won our Eq O/F round today! #fchja #warmblood #adultammystrong #equitation #hunterjumper

A photo posted by Devon Stiles (@devon_stiles) on

Over the past 8 months, there have been meltdowns and tears, but there has also been progress and maturity. I’m so proud seeing my sweet mare who couldn’t canter in a straight line grow into this lady who gracefully and confidently adjusts her stride, makes tighter jumper turns, understands when she’s supposed to change her lead (even though they can be a little sticky – I blame that big butt of hers), and can execute difficult exercises even when I forget how to ride (without pitching a hissy fit).

One of the reasons I love Petunia so much is her desire to please me. She wants to be good. She wants to make me happy. But sometimes, she just gets a little confused and easily frustrated. On a scale of 1 to demonic small pony, I’d say her hissy fits rank about a 3 – some head tossing, stomping of the feet, and a baby buck here and there. It’s almost cute to watch her giant self have a mini tantrum. It could be SO much worse, but I’m grateful it’s not.

The other weekend, we did an exercise in our lesson (deemed “The Thunderdome” by Anthony) that was reminiscent of the Circle of Death (that caused major meltdowns just a few short months ago). 

I’m not sure what was going on with me that morning, but I couldn’t tell my left from my right and I forgot how to ride. Instead of getting frustrated and losing her cool like she had in the past, Petunia stepped up and carried me through the exercise. She was a saint. I was so proud of her that day. It was so rewarding to see how the months of hard work had paid off.

Fingers crossed this newfound maturity sticks around for our show this weekend. I’m bored jumping 2’3″ at shows and I know she is too. A solid weekend would mean a move up in the near future, and I think we’re ready.

#marecrushmonday clip from my lesson over the weekend doing a baby course. Gotta fix that sticky lead change!

A video posted by Devon Stiles (@devon_stiles) on

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Devon Stiles


  1. It’s the best feeling when they finally figure out their job, isn’t it? I have a 17 year old that I’m afraid will never do that… but my young horses seem to be game to learn.
    Good luck at the show this weekend! Hope you tell us all about it!

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