by Ariel Haver
Horses are in my blood. My dad was the youngest of 6 children, he grew up on a horse farm in rural Quebec, Canada. In his teens, my dad recalls living in the barn. As the story goes, the stable held 120 Thoroughbreds at the time and it was foaling season. As far back as I can remember, horses have been the topic of conversation in my family. I can’t even recall the number of times I have heard stories about Pickles, the infamous pony that taught each of the children how to ride and lived long enough to show a couple of grandchildren the ropes as well.
When I was around 5 years old I fell in love for the first time, I was at my aunt’s horse farm in rural Ontario, Canada. I walked out of the little barn holding my dad’s hand and it was love at first sight – a beautiful chestnut Thoroughbred mare with a large star, named Ivy. I remember being awestruck and begging my Dad to let me ride Ivy instead of the trusty old school ponies. I was very young, but the memory is vividly real in my mind. From then on I knew what I wanted, I wanted my very own horse.
At the age of 14, my 5 year-old dream came true. My father graciously bought me my first horse. A gorgeous grey Welsh cob x TB mare – with an attitude to match her looks. Not 30 minutes after having brought her home, she kicked me in the thigh and had me running back to my old pony sobbing. The first two weeks of owning the mare she kept things interesting and kept me questioning why I chose her in the first place. She was anything but perfect, but she was mine.
I had my own horse, at the time the possibilities were endless. I started making plans and setting goals for us to work towards as a team, but then life threw us a curveball. That spring, after our first show together, she went lame. My coach had assured me it was just the poor footing at the show, but she was off for the following 8 months. I was crushed, as a teenager it felt worse than any thing I had ever experienced. Boys were the least of my problems, my horse was playing enough games with my heart. I remember feeling frustrated and angry that my friends were upgrading when I couldn’t even take my horse on a hack.
After several opinions from different vets over the years we never were able to figure out what caused her unsoundness. It came and it went. We managed to compete for one full season without any mishaps. She behaved so well at shows and loved to compete. I was devastated all over again when she went lame again the following year. My dad and I used to joke about how we sure knew how to pick them. Nonetheless we loved her, she was apart of the family, and fortunately a couple years later my little sister was able to get some mileage on her.
If someone had asked me during my early stages of competing what my dreams and aspirations as an equestrian were, I probably would have responded with: to eventually compete at the Royal Horse Show, Spruce Meadows, and to be competing at that level continuously.
During my later adolescent years it would have been to have my horse stay sound for an entire year.
Today, I am grateful for the experiences the sport has allowed me. I feel unbelievably fortunate to have spent almost a decade with a beautifully dynamic horse who taught me more than I ever could have imagined possible. I still have dreams and aspirations as an equestrian, but I have learned that dreams don’t necessarily come true, they evolve.