by Liza Oestreich
I suppose I am in a very different place than most people who visit this website. My horse has reached the end of a long glorious dressage show career and is living out “the good life” at a lovely hunter/jumper barn on Long Island. He was returned to me from a lease about a year ago.
Mantis and I have been together (aside from a few leases) for 11 years, no small feat for any relationship, let alone one with a horse. As an adult (now amateur again) rider I’ve learned that my relationship with riding has changed drastically in the last year.
One trainer many years ago, when I was contemplating selling Mantis, warned me that I should never write a “right of first refusal” (for those of you who don’t know what that means – it means that if the new owner of your horse decides to sell him, they have to offer him to you first) into the contract because by the time the new potential owner decided to sell him I’d be living in a studio in New York City working a corporate job, making no money, and would never have time to ride and would feel guilty for not being able to buy him back. I never sold him. It was the best decision I ever made.
Fast forward about 7 years, I live in New York City in a studio apartment and work a corporate job in advertising. I don’t have a lot of time to ride, a lot of money, or a house in the country, but I treasure the time I have with him more than ever.
The moments of pirouette perfection and tempi changes that still get Mantis riled up like a 5 year old. Standing in front of his stall allowing him to massage my neck and give me big slobbery kisses. Grazing him and going for long walks in the back field. Spending quality time not worrying about our next ribbon, horse show, or clinic. Retirement. For both of us really.
Mantis still needs a job, he is one of those horses to who loves to work and loves to spend time with people. Hopefully soon he will start teaching young riders the art of flat work (something that seems to be skipped over entirely at most jumping barns, in my opinion).
He has no problem letting a rider know when they’ve asked for something wrong but is a kind teacher. Usually he just stops dead and turns he head around to look at the rider like they are crazy, as if he were saying “Excuse me? When you ask correctly and I understand what you want I’d be more than happy to give it to you. But until then I’ll just stand here and chill”.
That said, the past year, as trying as it has been with my crazy schedule, and frankly financially as well, has taught me more about commitment (I spend my weekend days with him, not laying on a beach in summer or skiing in the winter) and the joy of companionship than all of my years of competition and training.