I had a strange dream the other night about my all-time heart horse, a black and white paint gelding I loved more than anything or anyone else when I was still just a junior rider.

It’s been nearly a decade since I sold him. After teaching me how to ride the “big stuff” as an aspiring equitation rider in middle school, Tuffy and I had a very successful career throughout my high school years and into college. At age 17, I thought it was time for him to take a break and I sold him to a family at my barn, where he taught two young girls how to ride.

Not even two years after I sold him, I got a call one afternoon that he passed away during an unsuccessful colic surgery. I still remember the call, where I was and what I was doing at that exact moment in great detail.

I was devastated.

I still think of Tuffy often. His goofy, puppy dog personality. His huge heart. His willingness to jump the moon for me and the girls who came after. I find myself using the techniques he’s taught me on the horses that came to me long after he’d left my life. I still keep part of him close… in the form of a black and white bracelet, which is laced together around my wrist from the two-toned strands of his long and wavy tail.

This recent dream was so strange. In it, I was looking for him, trying to hunt down where he ended up as if he was still alive and had been sold by the family who bought him from me. I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart racing, confused by it all. In the days after the dream, I find myself still thinking about it. It makes me sad to remember how heartbreaking his passing was for me and for the girls who had grown to love him just as much. It makes me nostalgic for all the memories we had together.

But ultimately it makes me grateful for having known such a tremendous and kind animal in the first place.

There will never be another horse like Tuffy for me in this lifetime. He came to me when I needed him most. And the love I had for him allows me to love the horses that have come after him, in different ways of course.

Despite the roller coaster of emotions I’ve experienced this week because of such a strange, “blast from the past” kind of dream, I feel humbled by it. I am thankful for a reason to open up an old photo books of us. I’m thankful that his memory still lives on in me.