It’s never easy to let go of that first horse. Even if said horse has done his very best to put said rider in the dirt more times than the rider can count. My first horse was a long-awaited gift, and as such, I had sky-high hopes. Finally, a best friend, a partner, something I could tell my secrets to and that could comfort me in my times of need. We would overcome obstacles and gallop to blue ribbons and victory after victory. So maybe I didn’t really expect riches and glory, but I had in mind a solid working partnership and new opportunities for learning and growing. What I got completely shut me down.

My first horse was what they’d call a looker–despite his somewhat unconvecnional yet correct onformation, he was a handsome light bay gelding with a sweet face and a super soft nose. He was a good jumper and a sweetheart on the ground. Under saddle, he was a little unmotivated, but I figured that I would become a stronger rider and before long we’d be good to go.

It was somewhere around my third month of owning this horses, and long after I had lost track of the times I had been spun off (rider evacuation method: land after jump, insert head between knees, twist hind end to the side and up, duck off to the side and gallop wildly around arena as rider yells expletives at beloved horse) that I wanted to give up. Even my trainers had given up on him.

I had dealt with project horses, but this was my own, and I was way over my head. To make a long story short, I toughed out a year and a half with this guy and eventually got through his bucking/spinning routine, but knew that I simply had to give him up and find a horse I could really progress on. I loved my first horse, because despite his naughtiness, he taught me everything about riding, about not giving up, about being strong and dedicated. Deciding to sell him was the hardest decision I’ve ever made; he truly was my best friend. The day he finally left was horrible. I knew it was the best for both of us, but it was hard to say goodbye to a horse that had taught me so much.

A few months down the road, I was at Thermal braving the desert winds and trying a few horses, when I saw him. He was entering the very warm up ring I was in, and suddenly the cute gray beneath me all but disappeared. I was deaf to my trainer’s instructions as I watched my first horse warm up and get ready for his class. He looked good–fit and shiny and obediant–but somehow he was a different horse. His personality looked zapped. At that moment I wanted nothing more than to give him a hug and a pat, to poke his velvety nose and see if he remembered me. But at the same time, I realized that though I still loved that horse, I didn’t want him back. We had gone through too much pain, too much anxiety together. I knew he was in a better situation. Still, it wasn’t easy watching him walk into the arena with another girl on his back.

Later that day, I was making the long trek back through the barns when I spotted him in his stall. I couldn’t resist; I ran up to his stall like a complete stalker. As soon as I said his name, he spun around, pricked his ears, and stuck his head out at me. I don’t know if he knew who I was; knowing him, he probably was looking for some munchies. But seeing him and touching him again let me know that even though he was no longer mine, he’s safe and has everything a horse could want–shelter, a warm bed, food and water, and people to care for him. That’s all I can hope for him, and for his rider’s sake I hope that he continues his good behavior.

Every now and then I’ll catch a glimpse of him at a show or see a picture online. I found out that he’s for sale again, which makes me a little nervous. I stand firmly by my decision to sell him, but I hope that he finds a loving family and a good home. He was a good soul and a great friend, one of those horses who would climb on your lap if given the chance, and I think that some riders don’t always make the effort to really get to know their horses on that level. He was one of a kind, in both good and bad ways, and with luck, he’ll find someone who appreciates that and can achieve all those victories that we didn’t quite catch.