By: Barbara Aitken Jenkins
The moment you learned I was in my mother’s belly, you started daydreaming about the moment I would be called out a champion.
The moment I was born, you rushed to see if I was a filly or a colt. You gently reached out and rubbed your hands across my tiny mane. Although I did not know it then, that first touch would define who I would grow up to be.
The moment I left my mother in exchange for a stall of my own, I remember being scared. But I also remember your comforting voice telling me that everything would be okay. I really wanted to believe you.
The moment the saddle’s weight touched my back, my eyes widened in anticipation I could not define. When you put your foot in the stirrup and I heard your voice above me instead of at my side, I was unsure, but I wanted to trust you.
Over time, it did become easier to feel the cinch on my belly. I started looking forward to our time together each day, as you reined me in various directions. I know you thought you were “teaching” how to do different maneuvers, but most of it came naturally to me. Since I felt like I knew how to do it better, I resisted some of your requests. But when you kept asking nicely, I finally gave in. And in return, you released the pressure. I decided I might do what you asked more often.
At that moment, I learned it might be fun to become your partner.
The more I gave, the more you released. Almost every day, we did something new, while building on yesterday’s rides. I found out the more we did, the more fun our time together became. Although I still sometimes felt I knew more than you did about loping or trotting, or turning, or transitioning, I enjoyed the challenge of comprehending the tasks you asked me to complete.
One day along the way, you loaded me up in the horse trailer and took me to a new place I had never been before. You called it a “show” so I knew I would finally learn why you always called me a “show horse”. After introducing me to all of the new sights and sounds, you gave me a bath, dressed me up with bands in my hair and a fancy new saddle pad. You looked different too. You sparkled. When we walked into the arena, I was nervous since I did not know the other horses moving around me. and the noise was incredibly loud too. But as long as you stayed calm, so did I, because you had taught me to trust you.
The days of learning turned into years of developing into a pro at anticipating your every move. I could read your mind and your requests almost before you asked me. Did you know that you crunch your toes before you ask me to lope, every time? I felt it, so I knew.
In those moments, I learned to love you.
At times, I could feel your frustration when I was having an off day, and even when you were having an off day. I always appreciated it when you did not take it out on me, and even when you did, you always came back to me and told me you were sorry. I forgave you, every time.
Do you remember when we were the last team out of the arena? Everyone around us yelled and called our names. I kept hearing the word “champion” and there was just something special about that word. I had a wreath of roses around my neck and we loped around the arena by ourselves one more time. You were crying, but I am they were happy tears. When you got off my back, you hugged my neck so hard. At that moment, I was proud to be yours.
You allowed me to be a “show horse” for many years, and I learned to love loading up in the trailer. The more we showed, the less you lunged me. It became automatic for us to be in sync together. I will admit, my favorite part of being a “show horse” was receiving special treatment, especially the yummy treats.
When we traveled on rough roads, I would feel sore and stiff. Concrete stalls were so hard too. When I hurt, I tried to hide it as best as I could for you. Somehow, you always seemed to know when I was not quite myself. You would take me to the vet, the chiropractor, and fancy water treatments. Sometimes, you would rub liniment on my legs. In those moments, I was so thankful for you.
One day, many years since I first felt your hand on my baby mane, I munched on hay quietly in my stall. I heard a noise and when I looked up, you had brought in a young horse, a baby. You fawned over him, and even though you still took care of me, you eventually started spending more time with him than you did with me. We once spent every day together, training and practicing. But our time became shared with another.
I remember the day you lead me from my stall to the pasture. You seemed sad, and I wished I could brighten your day, if only I knew how. You took off the halter, hugged my neck like you did the day that loud man called us “champions”, and you told me you loved me. You told me my job was done. You thanked me, and then kissed me on my nose and walked away.
I now spend my days grazing and looking forward to the times when you take walks to see me. Sometimes I wish we could train together again, but I walk slower than I did when I was young. I think I am okay with just grazing.
I always look up and watch you load your new horse into the trailer, and I hope he has as much fun with you as I did.
I do not know what the future holds for me, so I take it day by day. But I do know that I have had a good life.
I am so thankful I spent my life being your partner and teammate. I am thankful I could be there for you when you needed a shoulder to cry on, a bright spot in your day, and I loved the moments I could make you laugh with happiness.
I will never forget all of the moments we spent together and Rider, always know that I dedicated my life to you.
Your Show Horse
*originally published in Show Horse Today’s November 2018 issue