Reggie looking cute before one of our last rides together. Photo by Justine.

Reggie looking cute before one of our last rides together. Photo by Justine.

Looking at an empty stall had never been harder.

It had been days since Reggie loaded up in the trailer and rode off toward his new life before I could bring myself to clean out the tack room of his belongings.  Reggie, a seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding I trained for eight months, had found his new partner and I was once again horseless and heartbroken, mourning the loss of my friend but begrudgingly thankful that he had found a great home.

Luckily the barn manager was sympathetic, but with two new boarders coming in and my horse long gone,  I knew I couldn’t put off collecting my tack and Reggie’s remaining items any longer.  So when I returned to Holly’s barn, days after Reggie’s safe arrival at his new home, all the same feelings came rushing back to me.

I went through his stall, fingers rubbing over the rough rivets he made on the door when he kicked in the morning during feeding time. The water-stained boards were still there, tainted from the time he had disarmed his automatic water feeder and flooded his stall – and half the barn – in the middle of the night. The holes where cross ties were once screwed in were still there in the barn aisle, which were violently yanked from their position when Reggie went through his “can’t stand for anything but carrots” phase and would rip through them and tear down the center aisle of the barn.

Heck, even the mangled fence he had unsuccessfully tried to jump over during a midnight escape was still there, pressed up against the back of the barn with a thick layer of dust accumulating on top.

The little trouble maker had come so far in the eight months he spent with me. But his mishaps along the way had certainly left their mark on his temporary home.

I spent a few weeks at home without horses, cleaning tack and putting my tack trunk into storage. Holly invited me out to ride her horses, a barn full of friendly furry faces that had once been Reggie’s pasture mates. It was hard at first, finding the will to ride something other than Reggie, but eventually I guess it began to feel normal.

My new friend, Sassy! Photo by Justine.

My new friend, Sassy! Photo by Justine.

I met a woman through a friend of a friend who needed some help keeping her four-year-old thoroughbred mare exercised while she was busy studying for medical school. Sassy, an adorable, big-bodied flaxen chestnut mare easily melted my heart. She lived up to her name too, and was feisty but level-headed and all business when it came to under saddle work.

She was quite green, and had only been under saddle for less than a year. Our first ride was short, but the start of something new. My mind was a whirl with the opportunities to enhance her education and bring her along as a hunter.

It didn’t take long for me to find a connection to Sassy. She was an affectionate young mare with so much personality. There was so much to teach her and it was rewarding to work with a horse that is such a quick learner and is so willing to please. I still think about Reggie often, and try not to compare Sassy to him, even though it’s hard sometimes. It’s nice to have another horse to give all of my love to, but I do still think of that gelding, and what he’s doing at his new farm. Whether or not his new rider has perfected his lead changes, or if he still rears on the lunge line. I can see him in his stall after dinner, wind sucking the night away, already day dreaming of his next meal.

Here’s a short video of Sassy and I working on the flat, several weeks into working together.

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