By Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse JournalMarch 15, 2013
That's me and my little brother, Travis, who is sporting the fresh and shiny buckle that he won at the 2009 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. (Tara Christiansen photo)
In our family, just one lone soul carries the luck of the Irish. That would be my brother, Travis, who calls March 17 his birthday. The Christiansens don’t boast one drop of Irish blood, but Travis seemed to inherit a little Irish luck from St. Patrick’s Day.
Travis’ good fortune was apparent at an early age: He was the only Christiansen ever be able to look into a patch of clover and instantaneously spot the four-leaf variety. My younger brother is the person who finds money on the sidewalk; all I ever find is somebody’s old gum.
Given his affinity to opportunity, it’s only fitting that my brother saw a good deal of success his first year of horse showing. Back in 2005 he declared that he was hanging up his soccer cleats and going to give this horse-show thing a whirl. As my parents tried to decipher whether Travis’ newfound horsey-interest was a fad or the real deal, they struggled to find him a mount worthy of his first year in the show pen.
My parents’ predicament was a tough one: Do you try to make do with a horse you already have in the barn, or do you go in search of a new steed?
At the time we had a couple broodmares who took to mother-dom following their own successful show careers. Asking them to return to the ring seemed like quite a bit for the ol’ girls who had already given us so much. As my dad pondered a solution, he let Travis ride his coming 4-year-old, Blues Nu Boon.
“Bunny” was the firstborn of one of those aforementioned broodmares. Still green, Bunny got a little show-pen experience as a 3-year-old. She competed in a pre-futurity and then the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada, where she saw some success and a trip back to the intermediate non-pro finals.
So Travis putzed around on Bunny, learning the basics of reining and the boxing side of working cow horse. My dad kept looking for the perfect horse for Travis; we even tried out a nice, experienced gelding and we went so far as to have Travis show him in an NRCHA youth limited class (the equivalent to AQHA’s youth boxing).
As we kept searching high and low for the right horse, it finally clicked that we already had the right horse – Bunny. She was as honest as Abe Lincoln and always quick to please her 14-year-old boy.
Their first year together was charmed. The things that 4-year-old mare did for her Novice rider amaze me to this day. She’d run true, she’d stop hard, she’d turn around fast. Bunny would do anything for Travis. My brother knew for the most part what he was supposed to do, yet his cues weren’t always consistent, and maybe not textbook correct. But Bunny never held that against him.
Truthfully, Travis did much better than we could’ve ever expected for his first year of showing. It wasn’t just his first year competing – it was his first year even riding consistently. Up to that point he rode once, maybe twice a year. So we attributed Travis’ small-time success to his luck of the Irish.
By the time Bunny turned 5, though, it was like a switch had been thrown. No longer would she pack Travis around. If he didn’t ask right, she wasn’t going to do it right. And that frustrated Travis to no end. What he wanted to know was why she couldn’t do all the things she had done so well before. My answer to him was always, “She finally caught on to the fact that you don’t know what you’re doing!”
Looking back, maybe it was a little of that. But I don’t think so now. See, I had Bunny down here in Texas with me for about two years and I had the pleasure of showing her. I thought I knew this little mare that we had raised; the same horse that I showed in my first derby and hit rode from time to time. Yet I didn’t really know her like I thought.
Sometimes we don’t give horses enough credit for what they can do, especially when it goes beyond their physical talent.
I honestly believe that mare knew she had to take care of my younger brother in his first year competing. And she knew when it was time to cut the cord and let him learn to ride.
Travis only showed Bunny those two years. After that I went away to college and he inherited my youth horse, TC Lena. “TC” was a whole different ride from Bunny. Had Bunny not put Travis through his paces, he would have never been ready to step up to TC that next year.
In his first year showing TC down the fence, Travis clinched the bronze trophy in working cow horse at the 2008 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show. The following show season, Travis and TC won the youth bridle class at the Snaffle Bit Futurity, one of the toughest youth reined cow horse classes any given year. My brother hung up his spurs and set aside his cowboy hat after that ride; he wanted to go out on top, and that he did.
I miss my brother, and I miss the times we spent showing together as youth. Travis turns 22 on St. Paddy’s Day, a fact that he’d rather disavow. So would I. Getting old puts us that much further away from the good times of our childhood, a thought made even more distant by the 1,826 miles between us.
I can’t wish Travis a happy birthday in person (Bunny can, though, since she’s back in Washington). But I can say thank you: Thank you, Trav, for all the laughs and moments I hope I never forget.
Now that I think of it, maybe I do have a little bit of the luck of the Irish in me yet: I must have all the luck in the world to have a brother like mine.
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