In February 2016, three days before the end of my maternity leave and my return to corporate America, I led my 9-year-old Appendix Quarter Horse mare in from the frosty pasture. She was wearing her signature purple halter, and I had just managed to squeeze back into my riding tights. Instead of stopping in the barn or turning into the arena speckled with jumps, I kept walking, her slow hoofbeats reflecting my own shuffle as we made our way to the front parking lot. 

She huffed out visible breath at the shining trailer pulled across the drive, but stood quietly her head at my shoulder, waiting for whatever I asked her to do next. I handed my phone to a stranger to take a picture of us together. I smiled and Olive perked her ears up for the camera.  Then my stranger handed me back the phone, but left her hand out. I placed the lead rope in it, and turned to kiss the diamond on Olive’s nose. I told her I loved her, and that I would miss her.  Like the good girl she was, she picked her way up the unfamiliar ramp, and within minutes the drive was once again deserted around me.

I walked back into the office quickly, my hands were freezing and I was ready to be out of the wind. My daughter cooed from her carseat on the barn office floor, and my Dad stood up awkwardly when I came towards them. He’d been watching the whole exchange while keeping my infant out of the weather. He seemed to be waiting for some kind of explosion, a hot temper runs in my family and I guess he figured if it was ever going to come out – this would be that moment. 

Instead I hugged him, and felt my heartbeat in my throat. At the forefront of all my emotions was the most sharp feeling of failure. My brain knew that this was the correct choice, that Olive would have the best life possible with her new family. A family who wasn’t intent on showing or jumping scary jumps; who would love her, ride her, and stuff her full to the rim with treats. In my head I knew that we weren’t a match any more, and that I had to let her go. But all my heart felt was the first day she nailed her flying changes, or the faces she made when she drank from the hose, or how big my dreams had been. 

Olive has been my favorite stupid decision of my adult life. No fresh out of college, barely affording rent individual should buy a horse.  But I knew I would regret not having her in my life.  She ruined plenty of plans…like the days she refused to be caught, or when she blew an abscess a week after my wedding, or threw not one, but two shoes, the day before her first horse show.   But now that time has passed, those indiscretions have faded, leaving only laughable memories of the bad things. Now I can focus on the really great memories, like winning our first blue ribbon in the teeny weeny hunter classes or the fact that I accredit her to finally having my baby since we went on a really long walk the night before I went into labor. I know that by 22 you are supposed to be grown up, but I think that owning Olive, and by making the choice to sell her last year where some of the most important moments of growth in my life. 

I hope that someday in the future, I can find another horse who will affect me like she did, and who teaches me as much as she did about myself and what I want. She set the standard pretty high and I’m so grateful to her.

Written by HJU Blogger Contestant Genny Macy