When I was growing up, I was “that girl”. The horse-obsessed kid with drawings of various dream horses all over her schoolwork, a different breed of horse written on her Christmas list every year, and a library full of every single fiction book related to horses on the planet. I lived, breathed, and dreamt of horses. It was torture to drive by a barn and not stop to lay my hand on a velvety nose. My only passion, from my first pony ride on, was horses.
My first ever pony ride. My mother used to say, half jokingly to my father, that is was his fault that I was so horse obsessed.
It wasn’t until I was seven that I had my first riding lessons. It wasn’t until I was 11 that I cantered for the first time. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I got to whoop and holler as the horse I was riding galloped (albeit slowly!) down the trail. The ages of sixteen and seventeen had me immersed in all things horse, as I learned the nuances of running a small farm. It wasn’t until I was 19 that I fully understood what it meant to give your heart away to a horse, and to know that it was going to break some day when that horse left this planet.
My life, up until I met this horse, was messy. My father had passed away at the age of 38. I was 10. The next ten years turned my nuclear family into a fractured mess. The first four years after his passing were defined by my mother’s trips to various psychiatric hospitals. The next four were spent in various different living situations, as my mother was deemed unable to care for my sister and I. At the age of 41, my mother’s demons finally got the better of her and she joined my father, wherever that may be. As for me? I had become shattered — a fraction of the person I was, and the person I wanted to be. The only thing keeping me afloat was the promise of a better tomorrow, and the notion of pressing my face into the sun-warmed shoulder of whatever horse was closest.
My mother and I during better days.
The horse that happened to be closest was a 31 year old chestnut Quarter Horse gelding. General Purpose, or GP, was an unremarkable horse to those who didn’t know him. Hell, I was pretty sure he was unremarkable myself. His owner had to practically throw me on top of him herself to get me to ride him. It wasn’t until I sat in that saddle that I realized he was something special. The quiet, dead broke gelding on the ground was a spitfire under saddle, with just the right kind of energy I needed to soothe my soul. The first time we cantered around the ring, I knew that this horse was going to change my life.
He did. We spent countless hours exploring the trails, galloping the trails, swimming in rivers, and getting into trouble. I trusted that horse with my life. He taught me how to love again, and that life was worth living.
My silly red horse and I
I had three amazing years with this horse, until colic took him from us at the age of 34. The night he was put down, I cradled his head in my hands and cried. I cried harder than I ever had over any living being in my entire life. I was about to lose my best friend, and the reason I chose to keep living.
I honestly couldn’t imagine getting another horse when GP died. I couldn’t fathom loving any animal the way I loved him. But, with the encouragement of friends, I began looking. I posted on a local online bulletin board with what I was looking for and scoured the online “want ads”. Shortly after my post on EquineSite.com, this picture found it’s way to my inbox:
My heart skipped a beat. I told it to chill out. I glanced at his picture again, and knew then and there that if nothing else, I had to meet this little black horse. The email described a sweet but guarded Tennessee Walking Horse gelding who had been rescued from a terrible situation five years back. His current mom, a lovely woman who already had a horse to focus on, did not have the time for the one-on-one interactions this guy needed to overcome his past. We wrote back and forth for a few weeks, and the more I learned about him, the more he tugged on my heartstrings. GP had only been gone a few months, but something kept nudging at my subconscious. Now, I am not one to make rash decisions. If anything, I overthink and overanalyze everything. I was also very conscious of the fact that I had just lost my horsey soulmate, and my heart was yearning for something to fill that hole. I wasn’t keen on rushing into something. Yet, even with all of these misgivings, I kept pulling his picture up and studying his face. There was something there I couldn’t quite put my finger on. It intrigued me.
It was time to meet this little black horse, who went by Puff. It was time to see if the nagging voice inside my head was saying things that were true. We set up a date, and I readied myself for two possible outcomes: falling head over heels for a little black horse, or the realization that I was kidding myself and needed to separate myself from the romanticized idea of finding another horse so quickly after losing my best friend.
To be continued.