There’s a meme making its way around social media—galloping, if you will—that features a blackboard-looking image that says, basically, “Today’s Lesson: Life is Short … Buy the Darn Horse.”
The meme creator has a point.
I've been on the brink of jumping back into ownership for a while now, but finally reached the decision in October that I was ready to get another horse to call my own. Circumstances and just knowing "it's time" aligned in a moment of happy clarity, and I haven't been able to shake the idea since.
I’m not wanting a horse with the sole purpose of accomplishing any one particular equestrian goal. My ambitions for climbing the ranks of eventing are long behind me. (Cue mid-'90s background music.) My horse trial heyday was in high school and college, when my superstar (in my eyes, at least) off-track Thoroughbred and I happily careened around cross-country courses near and far. I had my fill of competition then, though one day I hope to do some local lower level horse trials and hunter paces just for fun and to relive that excitement.
I don’t really aspire to develop a young equine athlete from complete scratch, either. Here’s the thing: My last horse was my one homebred, and she was lovely—a beautiful mover and relatively uncomplicated to train in the beginning. But in the process of getting miles on her, I sustained a severe injury that sidelined me from many things for several months. Having gained a pretty clear picture of my mortality through that experience, I haven't been in a huge hurry to get right back to the sometimes-unpredictability that is starting a young horse.
So I took a break from ownership. A long one. During that 10-year hiatus I’ve ridden others’ horses intermittently, piloted a few projects for friends, had some pretty awesome experiences on horseback in Ireland, and have been teaching a few lessons to the mounted patrol. But, as cliché as it sounds, at the heart of it there’s been something missing. For all the writing, editing, and talking about horses I do all day long, most days I’ve lacked the tactile experience of horses, a routine of going to the barn, and the grounding that comes from being an animal's person, and vice versa.
I didn’t really put my finger on how much I missed having a horse until this year. I liken the feeling to crossing a dark room, arms outstretched, reaching for a light switch that you know is there, and, say, running smack into a wall instead. Now, if you’re a horse person at your roots, contrast that experience with the familiar comfort of taking a few steps across a stall to hug a horse’s—your horse’s—warm neck.
After describing this feeling of being horse-lost to a couple of my nonhorsey friends a few weeks ago, one of them replied, matter-of-factly, “Oh. Well, you’re like a bicycle shop owner without a bicycle.” This observation was both apt and amusing, because one of my hobbies I've picked up while horseless is road cycling. I’ve said to people, half serious, that my bike hangs politely in the garage without racking up veterinary and farrier bills or greeting me with a despondent expression when I haven’t been riding it. What's more, it can be much easier to budget for a carbon-fiber Cannondale than a flesh-and-bones Thoroughbred.
But spending time with this geared fitness tool for expending calories and beating stress has not energized me the way the companionship of a horse always has—which is, after all, why I got into this business in the first place as a passionate young horsewoman. Yes, the melodious tick-tick-ticking of my bike as I navigate the gorgeous rolling roads of the Bluegrass does bring me happiness. But that sound doesn’t bring a silly smile to my face the way a happy nicker does.
So, I’ve picked my boarding stable. I’ve selected my vet.
And I’m getting the horse.
Meet my new off-track Thoroughbred, It Happened Again, who comes home to me next week. I am thankful to his connections for taking good care of him and going the extra mile to make sure he'll have a loving forever home.
Merry Christmas to all.
Photo: Courtesy Mallory Greiner/TheHorse.com
My first ride with my new off-track Thoroughbred, It Happened Again.
Photo: Jennifer Redmond Knight/TheHorse.com