2016…As I look back at this pivotal year, I honestly cannot believe how much has happened in such a short period of time.
We started the year back after a tropical vacation (for me–The Mare enjoyed a snowy one back in Ohio) and in the very first lesson of the semester, I ate dirt over an oxer (but don’t worry, things got better from there).
We spent our last semester as Otterbein students making tremendous strides in our riding, our partnership, and in life outside the saddle.
I went out on a limb, and talked to my horse via an animal communicator, and got a really cool insight to my horse and how she sees the world.
The Mare was there for me as I culminated my undergraduate career in the best semester I’ve had academically, and graduated with a 4.0 GPA in my final term. I attribute this in large part to her; she kept me sane when biochemistry mechanisms swamped my brain, or grading papers for the classes I teaching assisted in and thesis paper drafts consumed my evenings.
She was there as I finished my last semester showing as an IHSA athlete, where I had the immense honor of being the team president my senior year. She watched me coordinate home shows, draft emails and run a well-oiled machine of a team.
She was there after I received the greatest phone call of my life-the acceptance into Veterinary School-ensuring the next step of my career path.
She was there (quite literally) as myself and my roommates hosted our graduation party at the equine facility where we lived for 2 and a half years. She didn’t care about the high honors and 20 cords I had around my neck, or the department and honors awards I’d received; she was just happy that my mom had brought horse muffins with her.
When just a few days later, we started to say goodbye to friends and moved out of the barn apartment, she was there to comfort me as I ended one of my favorite chapters of my education and life.
Of course, we couldn’t just leave Otterbein cold-turkey, and so she was there for all the shenanigans we could pack into one last, amazing summer.
If there was any way I could have chosen to spend my last summer in Columbus, we did it. I worked 4 jobs my last semester (among everything else!) and saved relentlessly to have a nice show fund for the summer. While I dropped my retail job for the summer, I picked up one last season of being a camp counselor for Otterbein’s summer equine camps.
The Mare was able to show off her progress to some of our returning campers who saw us the very first summer we were together. She was also a patient and tolerable demo horse for braiding and mane pulling, physical exams and TPR, horse parts and palpable structures and other activities we did with the campers.
Easily, the highlight of the year for me was our show season.
Because I was only in Columbus until mid-August, we were only able to compete in less than half of the show days for the series, but we made the most of it!
We started showing mainly in the 3’0″ division, but quickly added 3’6″ classes. We finished showing in just the 3’3″ and 3’6″ rated divisions; something I couldn’t have ever dreamed of before this summer, or before this horse. She made an impression on the series, and bested bigger, fancier horses. She tried her heart out, and it showed. Out of all 5 show days we competed at, we only walked away without a ribbon twice (my fault both times), and only 2 of our ribbons were not blue or red (again, my fault). We ended up Champion and Reserve Champion on 2 different occasions. And, despite only showing at less than half of the shows for the series, we ended up with multiple year-end division placings (6th in the 3’0″, 11th in the Low Ch/Adult and 8th in the High Ch/Adult Jumpers after just 1 show
in each of the last 2 divisions) . My goals were not ribbon-based; but The Mare gave me more blue ribbons and amazing classes in those 5 show days than I have ever had showing any other horse.
I crammed as many lessons as I could into my last week at Otterbein, and we finished the semester the same way we started it-with me eating dirt (over a set of barrels this time…not how I wanted my last lesson to go, but hey, at least it was memorable).
And when the most amazing, enjoyable, truly fun, summer came to an end, The Mare was dutifully packed up into the trailer next to my couch and mattress as we departed for Indiana and vet school. When I relocated outside of my native state of Ohio for the first time in my life, she was my first friend. I was still adjusting, meeting hoards of new people each day and juggling some massive change, but she was something that was constant. Without her, I think my adjustment would have been (terrifyingly) much harder.
In September, The Mare suffered a set-back that tested both our patience, and a kick from a field-mate caused a cellulitis that resulted in massive swelling. Amid long days of vet school and studying for endless exams, The Mare ended up on a total of about 12 weeks of stall rest with a trip to the vet hospital for radiographs, ultrasounds, a total of 3 rounds of meds, and an eternity of wrapping. It put a great deal of stress on my schedule, my bank account, and both of our sanity. Luckily, we dodged some major bullets and have recently returned to full work.
We also recently changed to a new barn, in hopes of finding a more conducive environment for both of us. While this new barn isn’t primarily English, they people are super friendly and the care is great. I plan on spending winter break building some basic jumps so The Mare and I can resume work over fences after the New Year.
And now, after all of this, The Mare is still there for me as I finish up my first semester of veterinary school exams.
Most people thought I was crazy to have a horse with me while I was in undergrad with 2 majors and about a million other things, and having a horse in vet school? Surely I must be deranged. But I honestly think she has kept me grounded. She has maintained my sanity, given me a friend when I didn’t know anyone, reminded me of my passion for the veterinary field, and comforted me when life got complicated. We have had an amazing ride this year, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!