Next month, I’ll have owned my current horse for a year. It’s such a shame to be drafting up his sales advertisements on the heels of our first anniversary.

I bought Mikey, a big-boned, goofy OTTB gelding last April, not long after having lost my heart horse to a terrible colic episode. What immediately bonded me to Mikey is that he is everything my mare was not – a super affectionate, “in your pocket” silly gelding. He is slow and methodical under saddle with all the promise of being a talented upper level hunter for me one day. I had ridden mostly green horses for other people before Belinda, my Hanoverian mare, came into my life. So I wasn’t scared of taking on a green Thoroughbred.

There was no timeline, no immediate goals, no pressure, for him to become anything too quickly. I just wanted another horse in my life, and for this gelding to learn a job at our own pace. It was bound to be a healing process for me, and a way to end the grief and start a new chapter. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately I did not foresee the inevitable.

With every horse there are ups and downs along the way, especially with an untrained one. When health issues started to arise for Mikey, I took it in stride. He’s off the track and was dirt cheap, I told myself. There were bound to be problems. He stopped sweating. He developed ulcers. He dropped a ton of weight too quickly. His attitude soured and he became dangerous to handle on the ground. My once-fitted saddle no longer worked and was causing him soreness. We had the dentist out twice in six months. Whenever I fixed one problem, another popped up to take its place.

As such, Mikey’s been unrideable more than he’s been rideable this last year. It’s been frustrating, emotionally and financially draining and honestly, just plain depressing. At some point along the way, going to the barn became a chore. The constant disappointment sucked any joy I used to experience right out of it. When I usually left feeling rejuvinated and looking forward to the next time I could come back, I found myself dreading it.

Who am I? I’ve been a lifelong horse lover and owner, and never experienced anything like this before.

I’ve ridden horses in the past that weren’t the greatest fit for me. I knew it deep down, but as a poor college student, or a junior between mounts, or an adult amateur strapped for cash, I was always grateful for any time I had in the saddle and was able to find joy in just about any ride.

With Mikey, we started to resent each other. I’d walk into the barn, he’d see me, and immediately pin his ears, anticipating being poked, prodded, or having medicine shot down his throat. He became mean, and I was heartbroken.

** Stay tuned for part two of this journey in a second installment.**

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