I know you well. The workman school horse. The chestnut coat. The white blaze that runs the length of your nose, starting in the center and then fading to one side. We rode together nearly every ride I had in class. It was like you were mine.
I hadn’t ridden for a long time, and when I started back, and you were my guy. I was so nervous. You were too. You must have wondered, “Who is this scared woman? And what does she want me to do?” I couldn’t remember the proper aids half the time. But you didn’t hold it against me.
You dutifully carried me around countless lessons, loyally taking care of me both on the flat and over fences. You helped me remember how to ride. And you reminded me why I love to ride.
When I started jumping again, you taught me to get up into my two point position a little early so I didn’t get left behind with that funny partial stride you seem to throw in before every jump.
You forgave me hitting you in the mouth when I forgot to release early over the fence.
You showed me that you were the one who had to get us both over the fence, that I couldn’t carry you over. My inner “control freak” forgot that from time to time.
You showed me that your lack of rhythm was not a character flaw, but a training opportunity. And when you were completely warmed up, and I put on the speed, you could find a beautiful rhythm, but it was definitely your own, and unlike any other horse in the barn.
You were brave for me, doing a makeshift cross country course through the park, which you had never done. But when I asked you to go, you went with gusto, including a downhill jump and a glorious gallop up the hill and home.
You put up with my pathetic braiding skills before a show, and my nerves during the show. And you floated us around the ring like we were on a cloud. And we both knew it.
You’ve made me look like a rock star in front of a group, with the flying change you only give out when you’re in the mood — which is rare.
I know your vulnerable spots, like that place on your nose at the bottom of your blaze that’s pink, and really needs some sunscreen. But I also know you hate the way it smells. And I laugh when you try your hardest to sneeze it all off, and onto me. It makes my outfit complete.
I know your sore spots, like the way your hind legs stock up, and the stiffness in your hocks, probably from arthritis. We figured out how to work through them together. I wrapped your legs precisely and lovingly, before every ride, hoping they would take down the swelling. And now I help the other people who ride you get those wraps just right.
I know your bad habits, like fading to the left over jumps. We’ve tried lots of things to break that habit, but it’s pretty deeply ingrained at this point. So using the old fashioned method of lots of left leg and right rein, and we at least got to where we didn’t knock over the standard on that side.
I know your character flaws, like your deplorable ground manners. I made excuses for you, like the way you snap at everyone when you’re in cross ties. They just don’t understand you!
But I have figured you out in places, too. Like your territorial nature, which I respect by asking before entering your stall. And while you don’t love it, you acknowledge my efforts by not pinning your ears, and gently approaching for a small neck scratch when I come to your door, look down, and wait. When you’re in a really good mood, you drop your head let me scratch your forelock. And you get that silly look on your face.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been damned mad at you too. Like the lesson when we spent the entire hour going sideways. Or the time you bit my hand and drew blood. I still have the scar.
You’ve made me cry. Like when you spun madly in your stall, refusing to let me put on your halter and kicking the walls, leaving me shaking in fear. Or when you ran off with me, and we went so fast that I couldn’t catch my breath.
But even though I now have my own horse, I still stop by your stall with apples, even before I go see “my” horse. I always will. And even though you’re not “my responsibility,” I still get you nice tack for Christmas because you deserve it.
You see, you’re the horse that made my horse possible. You gave me the confidence and experience and passion that I needed in order to be an owner in my own right.
And for that, I will always love you.