It's much better with love. photo by Cheryl

When I was a mere child, I received my first horse as a gift. I loved and cared and loved and provided, coddled, doted, attended to his every need. We talked for hours each and every day. I shared hopes, dreams and fears with him and no one else.

He was my greatest treasure. No one ever told me this was right, wrong or even expected. He was my best friend. When I went away to college, he went with me. When he was too old to come along any longer, I made sure he had the best care in my absence.

He had a soul, a heart of gold.

I knew nothing of his past, races or ribbons he might have won or other children he might have raised. All I knew was he was mine and I was his.

I did not compare him to my friend’s horses. He was not bigger, better, brighter or prettier than theirs. He was mine and I was his.

The love was simple and mutual. I gave him food, brushing and lots of my time. In return, he carried me safely over fences, across fields. But more importantly, he stood by me in happiness and was there in heartbreak. I felt his joy and he eased my pain. I’m proud to say I never outgrew him. He passed in my sleep only hours after a ride.

When my son was a child, I gave him a horse. I never had to tell him how to love that horse. He just knew how.

I could not have been a prouder mother. Not for the titles or ribbons they won, but that I watched as my son love so strongly and unconditionally, a mere little horse.

My son and I have both lost horses and learned to love again. I never had to teach my son that a horse was more than a tool to win titles and ribbons with, but should always be first a companion, a treasure with a heart and soul. My son just knew.

We are picky when we choose new partners. The choice is never made on record, title, breeding or training. We have learned if the heart is in the right place for both rider and horse, both will go through fire for each other. Winning is not everything. Riding is even better with love.

My heart broke a little the other day as I sat cleaning tack. I overheard a conversation between a mother and one of the trainers. The mother spoke of how they had to find a new horse. It had to be a horse with a certain record and breeding, precise training, the ability to show NOW at a certain level, with the expectation to always win. There was no mention of the need for companionship, compatibility or love. This horse just needs to be a tool to win ribbons.

I felt so sad for the horse they’d acquire, and even sadder for the rider who will never learn everything is better with love.