By Madi Hunter

We have all learned to make sacrifices: our free time, our social life, our bank account, our relationships, the list goes on. We have also learned that our horses and our riding come first. I’ve made a lot of sacrifices in my life, but not many of them have been in the world of horses. My horse, Jack Sparrow, has always gotten everything he has needed: a new blanket, an expensive new saddle, extra vet visits, new shoes, the more expensive grain. We have worked really hard in the year that I have owned him to get to a place in which we are both happy with our performances. On October 9th, we completed our first horse trial since we had a pretty confidence shaking fall two months prior, only adding 3 time penalties on XC to our dressage score to finish just inside the ribbons. I was beyond thrilled with the way we performed on that beautiful, and chilly, Sunday. I came across the finish flags with the worlds biggest smile and happy tears streaming down my face. We had both conquered our fears and we had done it as a team, there was nothing more I could have asked for-except maybe that he didn’t get distracted half way through our dressage test by XC horses.

That next Friday, nearly a week after our event, I got the results back of a recent MRI of my back. I have had back problems for years, so I didn’t think we would learn anything new. Turns out, when I fell two months ago, I cracked my vertebrae. I had just learned that I had broken my back and I didn’t even know about it! And just as I learned that news, my trainer texted me saying that Sparrow had stepped on the clip of his loose shoe and was lame-no lesson that day. My doctor said that I needed to go and see a specialist, and that they would most likely put me in a brace and tell me to sit on the sidelines for a few months. Now come the big questions: If I am benched, does Sparrow stay in work or does he get the winter off? Will I at least get to hack him out once or twice a week or am I only allowed to admire him from a distance? How many months will I be forced to stay on my own two feet? Will I ever be allowed back in the saddle? When/if I am allowed back in the saddle, will we click just as well as we do now? How much will we lose over the next few months?

I could go on and on with the questions running through my head. Here is what I know now:

1. I have a serious injury that needs to be healed before it becomes worse.

2. Healing this injury is going to take me off of my horse.

3. Riding is something that has saved me from myself and my depression for as long as I can remember.

4. I love my horse and I will do what I need to do to keep him happy and healthy.

I have been prepared to make sacrifices in all aspects of my life except for this one. I never once thought that I would be forced to make a decision like this, to make such sacrifices. Do I choose to be selfish and not let anyone else ride him while I heal or do I get someone else to take over the reins and keep him fit and in work? There are sacrafices to be made in each of these choices. Which is the lesser of two evils? And how far am I willing to go to keep my horse happy? What am I willing to do to keep myself happy? I will find out in a week what the doctor will or will not allow me to do, and we will go from there. Until then, Sparrow will continue to get carrots and all the special attention he deserves. What a way to celebrate one year together, huh?