As I sit here waiting to see which shoe will drop first, rolling or manure, I can’t help but reflect. Horses: they consume our lives. I’m not sure I can go an hour in a day without mentioning horses to someone, even if it’s on social media.

Some horses enter our life for a short period of time, some grace our lives for many years. Not every horse leaves a mark, but there are those that change your life. A lesson pony that teaches you what it means to feel free as you canter along or your horse of a lifetime that makes you feel whole. We’ve all had that one (or many) horses that have changed our life.

I’m lucky to have had many lessons taught to me over the years from various horses. Horses have taught me to have confidence, humility, and what unconditional (and conditional) love feels like. Out of all the horses, none has impacted me the way Donnie has. Sometimes it feels like my soulmate was put on this earth in the form of him, an ornery, sometimes mean, very opinionated, stubborn, plain bay gelding.

I’ve owned Donnie for five-years now. After taking a three-year break from riding, I finally gave in and bought the lame, uncoordinated, and sweet looking gelding from New Vocations. At the time he was very sweet. His lameness ended up being an abscess, and while he still can be uncoordinated, he’s carried me around multiple prelims safely across the finish line. As I sit here, waiting to see if he will need to be tubed or need surgery, I think about how crazy it is that this thousand pound animal feels like my soulmate. Just the idea of living without him brings me to tears. We were supposed to go cross country schooling together and compete at Sporting Days 2 this weekend. Maybe if things work out that will still happen, although at this moment it’s the last thing from my mind. Right now I’m sitting in the barn isle holding back tears waiting for the rustle of movement as he tries to roll again and praying I’ll hear the sound of him passing manure.

Many horses are colicky, but not Donnie. In the last five-years he’s gotten cast countless times, had soft tissue injuries, and arthritis issues. Colic has never been something that we have had to worry about. Losing my best friend has always been something I feared, but never something that I’ve had to hold back tears at the thought of what if it gets that bad. The what ifs have crossed my mind, but they’ve never come close to fruition. It’s always been something that has happened to other pairs but not to us.

Some riders may compete for the ribbons or glory. I’ve personally never found there to be glory in a $1 ribbon and being covered in dirt with a bad sunburn underneath. I ride for the freedom. I ride because it’s the one thing in the world that makes me feel whole. Whether I’m mucking a stall, jumping cross country fences, or enjoying a countryside hack; horses make me feel complete. Spending time with Donnie, grooming him, walking out to his field with a carrot, these are the things I day dream about at while working.

Of course, I don’t deny dreaming of competing at Rolex one day. I have summer goals of completing the CIC* at Richland this summer, that’s why I went to Aiken in the first place. As I sit here, that all fades away. None of it really matters. Sure, I would love to finally do an FEI event. Yes, I wanted to compete this weekend, that’s why I entered the event. Despite those dreams, they wilt in comprising to bigger dreams. Owning Donnie until he’s in his late 20’s and is a crabby old man and leasing him out to watch him teach a kid how to really ride as he terrorizes them around beginner novice. Having my best friend be there through all the joyous and heartbreaking moments of my 20’s and 30’s, whispering in his ear or crying into his neck over the latest things I think are a big deal. Those dreams mean far more to me than any level of competition or riding. The small moments, the ones you keep in your heart forever, those are the moments I’m not done with yet.

Some horses enter our lives and leave without making a significant impact. Some change our lives forever. There are those horses that stay in our life longer than we need and teach us lessons a bit too tough. But everyone should get to experience their horse of a lifetime. The horse that feels like their soulmate, hopes, dreams, happiness, and world all wrapped into one furry package. Every rider deserves to experience the happiness; frustration, and other emotions that come with having that horse.

Competing this weekend would be nice, but in the end, all that matters is having my best friend by my side. Tonight I am sitting in the isle sending wishes and prayers to whoever will listen that my best friend will have many more days to torture, adventure, and enjoy the big and small moments together.