I’ve loved horses…well…ever since I can remember, really. I had to be somewhere around the age of 3 or 4 years old when I first saw a horse while on a family vacation at a dude ranch. I remember waving to my mother as she headed out on her evening trail ride and being absolutely mesmerized. Riding was something I desperately wanted to do. Unfortunately, when my family tried to take me on a pony ride just a few days later, I was more terrified than mesmerized, but the love and intrigue continued long past the end of that dude ranch vacation.
My parents weren’t really horse people though. Truth be told, my dad is horribly allergic – to hay or horses or both, honestly, I’m not sure, all I know is that he’s pretty uncomfortable after being around horses for more than a few minutes. And while my mom could ride, as a single mom she really wasn’t into expensive hobbies or ones that required me to be shuttled around. Living in Los Angeles also proved problematic, as there weren’t many farms and if we found one they weren’t all that affordable.
But eighth grade brought lots of changes for me, the biggest of which was moving to South Carolina. In talking with a new friend, I found out that she wanted to ride too, and together we started a neighborhood dog walking company to be able to afford it. And so it started… All my weekends were spent at the stable, along with all of my extra money.
During my freshman year of high school I somehow convinced my dad to buy my first horse – a palomino mare, who honestly, probably wasn’t the best choice for what I wanted to do. I was an avid jumper, and she was not. I loved traveling to horse shows, and she did not. I had a respect for dressage, she wasn’t a fan. Regardless, we traveled the southeast competing.
I also got pretty involved in Pony Club and attend Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park one summer. Horses weren’t just a hobby, they were my whole life and I loved every minute of it.
Eventually, my palomino mare proved too difficult for what I loved – 3 day eventing. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t all that good at it, but I loved it. I was too fearful to be great, but I enjoyed competing at the lower levels. After a somewhat scary warm up before taking the cross country course at an event at Virginia Horse Park, my trainer said she could no longer work with my horse and advised that I withdraw. It was heartbreaking at the time, but allowed me to later lease several other horses with whom I had great success.
After law school I desperately wanted to take up riding again and purchased an off the track thoroughbred gelding named Danny. Quickly named a favorite at the barn, Danny was an older horse that had the energy level of a horse at least 10 years younger. Together we competed at dressage and hunter shows in South Florida for several years.
When I started having kids, I ran out of time and money. After incurring more than one $800+ vet bill, I eventually donated Danny to a therapeutic riding program in North Florida…and promised my husband I’d never purchase another horse again.
It would be fair to say that at that point, I thought I would remain horseless forever…that is, until Hazeline told me she wanted to go to horse camp last summer. In researching camps I ended up finding a stable on Facebook that wasn’t more than 10 minutes from my house. Even better, they offered extremely affordable 3 and 5 day leases for those who didn’t have their own horses. I immediately made an appointment and was matched up with Dayzee, a 20-30 year old grade mare.
I’ve never met an easier going horse than Dayzee. We clicked right away. An older horse, she wasn’t fazed by much, which made her safe and reliable. I used to tease that her gait was so slow that I thought she was going to run out of gas altogether and I was going to have to get off and push. But that was fine with me. We weren’t jumping 2-3 foot fences, but that was no longer my goal. Instead we conquered long trail rides with friends and a few more solitary rides through the park. I thought I would lease her forever.
Then on December 4, 2017, I got a message that Dayzee had died suddenly and unexpectedly. Since horses can’t throw up, abdominal pain is a killer. It’s called colic, and it’s the number one medical killer of horses. It killed Dayzee. I was absolutely grief-stricken. Admittedly, I’d only known her 6-7 months, but I was heavy-hearted for weeks. I couldn’t even bear to think about going out to the stable and not having her there.
After the holidays, I finally felt up to going to the stable and luckily when I arrived the owner was there. She had recently rescued a horse named Sundae, quarter horse mare who came from a rough situation – severely underweight, blind in one eye, feet covered in Florida sores (I’m going to spare you the awful pictures), and beat up by the horses she was kept with to the point that she was missing a significant amount of hair on her face.
Sundae had been at the stable for 3 weeks making steady progress and had just been cleared for light riding days before I went out to talk with the owner. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Sundae needed a rider and I needed a horse. And so it begins, all over again.
Is this permanent? I don’t know. One day I’d like to go back to competing, but with my kids being little, I know that won’t be anytime soon. And ideally with rescues, you want to rehabilitate them and find them a new home, but with a situation like Sundae’s that can be difficult. For a horse that has survived so much, you can just adopt her out to anyone and she still needs months of rehabilitation. For now, the owner of the stable has said I can lease her while she’s rehabing, which is a plus, for both of us.
So this year I have a new ride, a horse of a different color. Not sure what to expect, but I’m embracing the journey. Follow along with Sundae’s progress using the hashtag #SavingSundae on Facebook!