It’s been a year and a month (or just about) since I first moved out of my childhood home to start the grand new adventure of college. Honestly, the most difficult part about leaving home wasn’t the fact that I had never moved before, that I would be in a new city for the first time in my life, that I would have to make new friends. No, the hardest part of leaving for college was that I had to leave my horse behind– and at such a difficult time in his life, too.
My horse BroadwaySport (Aki, for short) is a 16hh bay Thoroughbred, 18 years old. He raced at the track as a two-year-old and won only one race. He worked as a lesson horse, show horse, pasture ornament, and just about everything in between, and when I bought him five years ago, it showed. He wasn’t the most attractive horse ever, but we clicked. The moment I got on him, I knew he was the one. We’ve worked together as a team for years, and together we have multiple championships and reserve championships under our belt. He took me on my first foxhunt, my first mini-event, my first successful jump course. I owe this horse a lot, and I’m grateful for it every single day. Especially now that he can no longer do what he loves to do best. Two years ago we both suffered a fall in the pasture, which was then followed by six weeks of weather conditions that prevented me from riding. When I finally got back in the saddle, I knew something was very, very wrong. While Aki’s movement had never been your standard “good” movement, he was drastically lame following the fall. The chiropractor said that the fall messed up the alignment in his sacral and lumbar vertebrae, which increased a pre-existing misalignment in his pelvis as well as weakened, stretched tendons in his hind end. Aki could no longer jump, event, or foxhunt. That year, our last year together before college, we couldn’t even show. I spent my summer with him working towards simply helping him trot and canter with ease, and then I had to leave.
While it broke my heart to leave him in such a state, I knew he was in good hands with my mother and my best friend to look after him. I haven’t gotten terribly homesick for him too often here at school, but the other day a friend of mine posted a picture on facebook that was so touching, and reminded me of Aki so much, that I couldn’t help but cry.
When I got Aki, he came to me with the most awful musculature I’ve ever seen, fairly significant conformational faults, and terrible, terrible hooves. He had been through so much, and overcome so much adversity, but he did it with dignity and grace. I like to think he taught me to do the same. Aki has never bucked me off, but he has told me when I’m wrong, and the times that I have fallen, he’s always waiting, giving me that “what are you doing down there?” look that only horses can give. He taught me to be patient, to be kind, and to accept that 99.9% of everything that goes wrong under saddle can be traced back to me. Better yet, he taught me to fix my mistakes, and to do it quickly and without a fuss. He and I grew so close that I would swear he can read my mind, and he taught me that with the right partner, I can be so much more than just… me.
I hope you have a horse like Aki in your life, at some point, and I hope you have many, many years together. To me, the five years I’ve had with my boy seem at once to be the most precious gift I’ve ever been given, yet still not enough. While I will always wish for more time with Aki, I know there are more perfect horses in the world, just waiting to discover their perfect rider.