Justine & Tuff Stuff...what a beautiful picture! - photo courtesy of Andy Jacobson

Justine Griffin is a 23-year-old living in Fort Lauderdale, FL who is a reporter for the South Florida Sun Sentinel…I guess you can say she “likes Words”.  I am sure there are a lot of us Horse Junkies out there who can relate to Justine’s story…I sure know I can!

Thanks very much for contributing to HJU Justine!!

From Justine:

One of my most painful memories to date was having to sell my horse.

I felt like I was abandoning a child. My horse was my partner. Although tragic, I know I made the right decision selling my best friend to a new family that had the means to care for him. As young adults, either still in college or just entering “the real world,” owning a horse is an unrealistic burden for most of us. We all know how expensive it is to own and care for a horse. These animals require a lot of space, exercise, strict feeding schedules, regular vet and shoe care, performance supplements, and the list goes on and on.

All too often I see horses in bad situations being given up for free or abandoned because people cannot afford them. Rescue groups see the negative effects of what happens when a person cannot afford to care for a horse everyday. The burden is passed from horse owner to farm owner, to who knows. And most of the time, these owners are young adult riders trying to cling to a hobby that was once funded completely by their parents.

I was in my early 20s and a very busy college student when I sold my warmblood gelding whom I had owned for more than 10 years. My parents agreed to fund Tuffy’s (short for Tuff Stuff) trip to college during my freshman year. After that, I was on my own if I wanted to keep him around. As a sophomore, I was showing on my university’s intercollegiate dressage team. We would travel regularly for competitions and practiced several times during the week. Tuffy wasn’t a part of the program.

During my junior year, I still competed for my college, but also participated in an equestrian mascot program for my school (we were the knights,) which required me to care for several more horses each week. I worked endless hours as a server in a restaurant to pay for Tuffy’s expenses. For a while, I was struggling to work and keep up with my classes.

Eventually, I found two young sisters interested in leasing him.

Moments like this are the greatest. - Photo courtesy of Carolyn Carnes

They took Tuffy to local shows, where he cleaned up in the crossrails divisions for them. He taught them how to find their balance in the saddle, how to jump and how to canter. In return, these young girls spoiled him rotten.

When their mother approached me with an offer to buy Tuffy, I was confused and offended. The thought had never crossed my mind. But as I sat on the offer for several days, not to mention with my graduation date looming over my head, it began to make more sense.

I sold Tuffy to this family, where he lived out his days doing some small hunter courses, participating in 4-H programs and being loved by two very sweet girls.

I graduated and moved away to take a professional job, one that would not pay me enough to responsibly care for my own horse. Tuffy would have suffered if I had selfishly clung to him. And instead, he was spoiled and well taken care of.

 ….To Be Continued …

Justine