My entire life I was the girl that wanted the horse. I remember drawing pictures of horses at the age of eight, and religiously reading The Saddle Club books. I remember being so jealous when the girls at my lesson barn growing up would take their horses out on trail rides while I rode different horses in group lessons and watched them headed down the trail, giggling. While I am thankful for growing up riding so many different horses and learning so much, I remember being so very jealous that my parents wouldn't get me a horse of my own. I read books on horses, I took as many lessons as I could, went to shows, watched everything horse related, went to pony camp, leased lots of different horses, and wanted to spend my whole day at the tack store. I was obsessed. The obsession waned a little bit through college and my early twenties, but it was still there.
Almost a year ago (we celebrate our one year together next week) the dream became a reality. And I think, the first six months or so, I was still that little girl who got her first pony. I'm normally a very realistic person, but at the time I was not thinking about pre purchase exams, about training an ex-racehorse, or vet bills, or what farrier I would use, or what I and my horse would need, or how it would really be having a horse, a baby, a job, and a husband.
In a lot of ways I am still that little girl who doesn't have to stare wistfully after the girls as they go out on the trails with their horses. Afters years of lessons, camp, hands on horse experience, years of doing everything to be around these animals, nothing can prepare you for actually owning one. Owning this big, delicate animal, who requires your constant care, love, and attention, and basically the ability to read their mind and figure out what they're feeling.
I think the reality of ownership sunk in the day I had my first barn manager/former friend's farrier up to shoe my horse. The farrier that hated thoroughbreds and told me over and over that this wasn't the horse for me. The rainy, summer day with the monster mosquitoes as I stood in the fog, in the heat, in the drizzle, lunging my horse for an hour as I got eaten alive by mosquitos, and my horse was a hot mess. As the farrier told me that Finn wasn't done yet and I needed to "run him more" so that he could shoe him. Those first six months I would have believed anything you told me about what was best for my horse. I believed that this horse was too much for me, that he wasn't right for me. I let everyone in my horse life control the decisions about my horse. I let the vet do a crap job on my horse's teeth until I had a real dentist out to fix him. I had the asshole farrier shoe my horse and tell me how horrible he was as I held, and pulled, on the chain around his nose. I had the barn manager tell me I had to do SOMETHING with this horse before he KILLED someone. And then, the trainer who we worked with for six months and made zero progress with.
And then, two days ago, I had the vet tell me how wonderful my horse's feet look. How amazing this little guy was, how he was the most behaved horse they had seen all week. And I watched Finn look me in the eye, as I held his head while he was sedated. As he chomped his teeth and buried his head under my arm. All I could think was-- I love this horse. I love everything about him and it sure took me long enough to help him out and be his person. I think about all the stuff he's been through-- from growing up in Florida, to being a racehorse and racing his way up the east coast, to ending up in a rescue, to being adopted to a home that didn't want him, to ending up in the MSPCA, to ending up in multiple fosters for two years, and then finally ending up in my hands, and then moving to three different homes in under a year, all the while thinking I didn't want him either. I think about how he feels about his life, and if he's happy, constantly.
I didn't know, couldn't know, what owning one of these animals would be like. It is not like owning a dog or cat. It is much deeper, much crueler, than that. It seems to go from incredible highs to incredible lows. Watching him free jump and sail over a 3.5ft fence, to dealing with a swollen hock/three weeks of stall rest from a paddock injury and thinking he will be lame forever. It took me so long to realize that this is my horse. My horse that I am not leasing, not just riding in lessons, that no one else's opinion matters but mine in terms of his health and welfare. I'd like to think that I'm doing everything right-- massage, chiropractor, vet, farrier, trainer, friends. All of these people that want to see us succeed and not fail. The most important lesson my horse has taught me this year is to stand up for what I believe in, and what I feel is right for him and me. He makes me be the person I want to be.