by Enya Hughes

Addicted to Coffee – Leaving the love of my life behind to venture into the real world

Addicted to coffee - photo by Christina Kaplan Rohan

Addicted to coffee – photo by Christina Kaplan Rohan

I have had the pleasure of finding my equine partner; the one horse I want to spend the rest of my life with. Yet, as always happens with life, there are too many complications in the way that force me from running off into the sunset on her back. How am I supposed to part from this mare who I love with all of my heart, and openly returns that love?

Let me explain about this magical mare I seem to be describing. She is the bad girl at the barn. She was mistreated in her past and so now she is very aggressive. She openly kicks out, and she is not afraid to bite you. She needs someone who can stand up to her – and that’s what I did. She seems like a demon mare because, well, she really is. She is a pain in the butt. And yet, I cannot stop myself from loving her. She is an advanced ride as well. Just like she is aggressive on the ground, she is quick to take control and do what she wants when being ridden. You have to be a confident rider to be able to negotiate with her.

I say negotiate, because she’s a mare. All those mare lovers out there will understand, you can’t just tell them what to do. Riding a mare is frustrating and difficult, but the most rewarding experience you will ever have under saddle.

This mare, Coffee, fits the typical mare description. Moody, bossy, and stubborn.

I have been riding her for over two years and I still don’t have her completely figured out. I have become a better rider, and she has become used to having me on her. We know each others’ signals, and yet it’s still complicated and amazingly fun to ride her.

My first lesson on her, I was TERRIFIED. I couldn’t even tack her up without the help of my trainer, and that alone had my knees trembling. Everyone at my barn kept assuring me “She’s much better under saddle” but I didn’t know if I believed them. She’s not particularly large. She’s a 15.3hh draft cross, but she presents herself as if she were a 17hh stallion. I got on her back, and I was already out of my element. She didn’t want to move off my leg, and yet she didn’t want to slow down either. She was extremely heavy in the bridle. I was a bit too experienced to know how to keep her in a frame, so I just let her hold her head incredibly high. That first lesson, I learned the most I have ever learned in a lesson.

This was not love at first ride. I can openly say that I hated Coffee for the majority of the time that I rode her. We had our fair share of bucks, rears, jump refusals, and genuine ignorance of all of the aids. When she was bad, she would charge around the arena on her own to assert her dominance. When she was good, she was the best horse you could ever ride – collected, in a frame, and the boldest jumper you will ever meet.

I did most of my learning how to jump on her. Other horses taught me about half seat position, and did little jumps, but no horse challenged me like she did. She LOVES to jump, so when she does she will charge at the fences, and jump from a stride away. It took me over a year and a half to be able to collect her to a canter that I wanted to the fence. Yet, I always knew if I got the distance wrong by a half stride, she would still jump it.

I learned to trust this mare with all of my heart, and that developed into my immense love for her. After jumping her for at least a year of the two years I have been on her, I knew that she would take the distance even if I f***ed up. I also learned that when jumping jumps perpendicular to C or A at the end of the ring, she needed a lot of encouragement. Coffee is the only truly bombproof horse that I have ever met. If she started bucking, it was my fault – not fault of the squirrel in the arena.

I wanted to stop riding her in the beginning. I begged my trainer to put me back on the quarter horse that I had leased the summer before. But both she and I knew that he wouldn’t help me accomplish my goals, and now I am in that situation with Coffee.

Coffee is around 23 now, so she is no spring chicken. She is also not my horse; she’s a lesson horse. I have never had the financial means to buy a horse of my own, so I just take weekly lessons. When I say I have ridden her for 2 years, I mean 2 years of riding her once a week in lessons.

Herein lies the problem – Coffee is too old to be pushed to the level I want to ride at. She has arthritis, and it is not beneficial to her health to be jumping 2’6″ courses every week. She has brought me to the point where I can jump around 2’3″ no problem. She taught me that it isn’t the height of the jump that is difficult to ride, it’s the technique. She taught me how to make rollback turns, how to NOT charge fences, how to adjust a canter stride, and when I need to ride the deep distance. You could say that I learned all of the fundamentals of jumping on her.

Coffee holds all of my heart. We have a great relationship now, and when I get to the barn I holler for her in her field and she lifts her head with the expression “YOU’RE HERE?? YAY!!” She then waits for me by the gate to come and get her to ride. We both enjoy being together. She gives me kisses, and we lean our heads together in sentimental moments. My favorite thing is to give her a big hug from my saddle and kiss her neck. She is the love of my life, in every possible way.

Coffee

Coffee

I know I will find this kind of horse love again, hopefully. I reassure myself that I’m only 18, my entire life is ahead of me. But how do I leave this magnificent horse behind? How do I leave the horse that has taught me everything? I know she won’t help me accomplish my goals, but isn’t it worth it to just love her for a few more years?

I leave for college in three weeks, and leaving Coffee is like having my heart ripped out. I know I can’t afford her, and I need to focus on college. I know she’s older, and she can’t help me accomplish my goals. And yet, leaving is the hardest thing I have ever had to do – even though it’s the right thing.

Enya