Hand a girl a pony, and you’ve given her a friend for life. When we fall in love with our horses, we choose the lifestyle that comes along with them. Late nights waiting for the vet while we’re paralyzed with fear in the barn after we got a call saying “He’s not doing so well, I think it’s colic”. Gasping to ourselves when we get the vet bill days later, we question whether or not we should speed to the barn and bubble wrap our horses. We question whether or not the equestrian lifestyle is for us, sometimes. But that is just as OK as falling in love with every horse you ride, every muzzle you kiss, and falling asleep with hay in your hair. These are the choices we make when we choose to take that lead rope, and fall in love with the pony at the other end.

It doesn’t really matter whether you’re five or twenty-five when it happens. Some of us are born with the itch to feel the freedom the back of a horse offers. That itch gets under your skin, and it doesn’t go away until you scratch. Maybe you’re interested in making new friends so you choose a barn with a big community. Maybe you would like for your daughter to get into a competitive sport so you choose to drive two hours each way to a premium facility with a great reputation for making winners. There are hundreds of in-between choices, but it doesn’t matter which you choose. You’ve chosen horses, you’ve scratched that itch.

You might not drive the newest car because you pay board every month. You may not get to go shopping often, or even update your phone on time because you have other priorities. Instead of going to the movies with friends, you save your allowance to take an extra lesson each month. Even if you’ve never worn a new pair of jeans, your horse rests comfortably in new blankets each year. Maybe you’ve never had a massage? You bet your horse has! You’ve chosen horses, and you’ve given what you can to them.

Instead of joining a sorority, maybe you chose to ride on the college team. The girls on your team come from different backgrounds, but you all share the same thing: your love of horses. And maybe you don’t choose to ride on the team. Instead, you volunteer at a rescue where the management brings in at-risk girls who you tutor. You get your fix by breathing in the straw-scented air in the mornings when you feed the horses before the girls come. Wherever you go, you bring your choices with you, and all of them are perfectly fine.

We trade weekends with our friends at parties or get togethers for weekends in a hotel room, getting up at the crack of dawn to prepare our horses for the long show day ahead. We choose a day at the barn over a day at the pool. We might miss group events but… we’re choosing a love that inspires us, pushes us, and drives us. It is the choices we make that enable us to have horses in our lives. Whether we choose to ride horses competitively, to love them away from the show ring, or to give of ourselves to them, it is the choices we make that lead us to fall in love with the pony at the end of the lead line over and over again.