Did you know that prior to his current career as a sleigh-driving, gift-dropping, pimp-suit-wearing holiday celebrity, Santa was an upper-level eventer? Kate Samuels has the story.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
Every horse that we ride has a lot to teach us. The longer we ride, the more we can pick out skills that specific horses have taught us along the way. However, there is always one horse that starts it all for us. The one that teaches about riding and makes us into the rider we are today. This new series is going to tell the stories of the horses that started it all. This week, I got to chat with Santa Claus about his eventing reindeer, Blitzen.
Eventing is a sport that goes on around the world. However, it is not widely known that there is a North Pole Eventing Association. Because the conditions vary so much from the rest of the world, it is difficult for the participants to go international in their competing. Reindeer are the primary mounts, although, in some cases, polar bears can be used.
A few hundred years ago, Santa decided that he wanted to try this sport, but he knew that he would need a very special mount. He had no desire to mess around with taming a polar bear, as his job took up a lot of his time. He needed a mount that would be easy to bring along. At the time, Santa had 9 reindeer to choose from, all cows. (It is a little known fact that all of Santa’s reindeer are cows. Bull reindeer have no antlers in winter.) Santa had a preference for a cow named Blitzen, which is derived from the German word for lightning. He loved her personality and her ability to be very quick on her feet. One could say she was lightening fast. North Pole Eventing is very similar to our sport, but due to the snow and ice, things can get a bit precarious at times.
Santa and Blitzen’s training started off great. Blitzen really seemed to take to eventing, especially the cross country. She didn’t always score well in the dressage, as she could have some “redhead moments,” but she always came through in the jumping phases. Santa says,
Blitzen and I didn’t always see eye to eye in the dressage arena, but my girl always pulled through in the other phases. Being such an important figure around the world, I had to make sure that I was sitting on a mount that would take care of me in the jumping. Those ice flows and the pull of the full moon can really make cross country courses interesting. You just never know what you’re going to get. You need a mount that is brave and quick on the draw.
Santa and Blitzen soon began moving up the levels together. They were consistently in the top 3 at every event. Always aweing the crowd with their fluidity over the fences. As time passed, Blitzen started to accept the dressage phase, and the pair became unstoppable. They became #1 at the Advanced level, and were getting ready to compete in their first three star. Unfortunately, a month out from the event, a rouge bull reindeer got into Blitzen’s lot. Santa immediately called out his vet. Blitzen had suffered some injuries during the scuffle. The vet was also worried that she might be pregnant. Santa was devastated. He had been really looking forward to his event, but it just didn’t look like it was in the cards for them. Seven months later, Blitzen gave birth to Jingles, a bull calf.
After the heartbreak of missing out on his first three star, Santa decided to retire from eventing to focus more on his career. However, Santa says,
Eventing Blitzen taught me a lot about myself and my reindeer. You have to give yourself 100% to this sport at the upper levels, or it is just too much. Patience and perseverance are very important in eventing and life. Blitzen has a heart of gold, and she gave me 110% in everything. I am so blessed to have her in my life.
Blitzen has had a few more calves since then, but she is still brought out on Christmas Eve to help pull that special sleigh. She is as spry as ever and is always lightening fast at dinner time.
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVENTING NATION!