I sold my horse.
If you’ve been following along, this may seem to come out of no where. It happened quickly for me too, but let me back up.
For as long as I remember, I’ve seemingly launched myself into big projects. I’ll write a book! I’ll go to grad school! Let me work another job! Let me find a better career! Do home improvement projects! Throw a party! Train a puppy! And of course, riding.
Aside from my very first horse which was a bad match to no fault of her own, I’ve never owned anything but a green horse. It’s been driven half by budget, half by this desire to chase big dreams. After all, I love a project in every sense of the word. Getting Simon from gangly, green, somewhat-lame six-year-old to my steady partner capable of winning remains one of the proudest accomplishments of my life. I had a lot of help with him of course, but I also put in countless hours myself.
When I bought Poet, I had that same sparkle in my eye that I did when I met Simon. I was smitten with him. He was, and is, so pretty! Even when we were learning how to steer, I had these big dreams in my head for both of us. In the early days, the green horse moments didn’t bother me that much. We had a long way to go, and although I am one of the least patient people in the world even I know that good things don’t come quickly. Through the first year I owned him, I worked on the basics but more importantly worked on building trust and a partnership with him. I don’t immediately bond to horses, even if I like them. It takes a lot of time, but he did slowly show me that he had my back in his own kind of way.
By year two, I was ready to go out there and do the thing. But I don’t have to tell y’all about horses and plans. For a long time, he’s been ready for a braver, scrappier amateur than me to go out and get him around a course. One that doesn’t blink at wiggles and innocent baby horse moves. But I blink. After so long not jumping anything over 18″, I’ve lost a lot of the belief that I can actually do it. The idea of getting around a course of anything more than crossrails on not-Simon feels as difficult as doing a Grand Prix right now.
Meanwhile, life and the big dreams I pursue—both in and out of the barn—continued. Taking on new challenges in my career means additional mental energy. Working a second job to pay for the privilege of having a show horse adds more hours to the clock. I’ve been spinning multiple plates for so long that I don’t even remember what it’s like to work 8 hours, have an easy, relaxing hack on my horse, and come home to watch TV with my husband before bed. Obviously the husband went away abruptly, but the rest has slowly shifted into my current life.
Therapy has helped me realize how the standards I hold for myself maybe aren’t the healthiest. Burnout is a frequent topic. And even though I take a lot of pride in how much I accomplish and all the things I’ve been able to achieve since Tim died, I have to admit some things needed to change.
I love riding. I’m never quitting. And I love owning a horse. But as I began to look at all the moving pieces in my day-to-day, I realized that I didn’t know if I loved owning this horse.
After I moved barns to a program I adore and feel like I’m thriving in, I realized that my idea of a horsey happy place may not be a perfect match with my horse’s preference. Though his flatwork is really quite solid and he’s had a lot of training put into him at this point, he’s still a green horse. For a while now, the green horse moments have felt like more of a chore to get through than an exciting journey. While I work on my own struggles, anything from equitation to high levels of stress and anxiety, I want something further along.
Still, I think I would have stayed the course if it weren’t for Simon. Poet is a character. He has a huge personality, and I love that about him. He’s cocky and confident. He’s a prankster, and a perpetual toddler—always getting into something and cheekily testing you. He’s made me a better, tougher rider and I’ve learned so much from him. But something is missing from our partnership. I love him, but I’m not in love with him.
Now that he’s six and I’ve had him for two years, I’ve been reflecting more on Simon at 6 and how I felt about Simon two years in. The mere idea of selling that horse brought me to tears. Even when we had a frustrating green horse day, I called him a knucklehead and thought he was the greatest creature on the planet. I don’t know if it’s the phase of my life that I’m in right now or just a different personality, but I don’t have that deep love for Poet. And he deserves that level of commitment.
Talking through all of this to trainer, she agreed that it was probably best for me and my horse to find a different situation. He’s not finished, so this was certainly not a flip situation to make a buck (no bucks were made, believe me). Before we listed him, I texted a few trainers in the area who often had clients looking for less expensive projects. My first hunter/jumper trainer in Austin, the one who gave me Simon, said she had a good-riding teen on a budget that specifically wanted a Thoroughbred project.
Monday night this week, I hacked, scrubbed off all the poop and grass stains (only to be replaced by more poop and grass stains I’m sure), and hand grazed him for a long time. I always watch horses when I hand graze. It’s mostly a safety habit, since Simon would panic if he ever stepped on the lead rope so I take special care to keep that from happening. But with Poet I just like looking at him. He’s beautiful. I’ve never owned a pretty horse that turned heads before. Poet is the real-life version of every horse girl dream I had as a kid.
Before I left, I hugged his neck in the stall. And that’s when I cried. They were going to pick him up for a short trial and vetting the next morning. Even though I’d been thinking about this for weeks, the reality of saying goodbye hit my heart with an unexpected whack.
I cried because I’d miss him. This being the right choice doesn’t eliminate the feelings. I’ve sold horses before that I couldn’t stand and immediately celebrated their departure, but that isn’t the situation here. If I had a farm and unlimited money, he’d be my pet. I’d feed him treats, let him lick my face like a dog, and tell him he’s pretty.
More than that, I cried because I had a lot of dreams attached to Po that now aren’t going to happen. I wanted him to be the talented youngster that I brought along (with lots of help!) through hard moments and bruises to eventually have as my lovely, winning hunter. I wanted to loop the reins on that floaty canter and cruise over oxers at Pin Oak. I wanted him to be a heart horse for me like Simon. Those dreams aren’t going to be realized, and that’s part of the sadness.
Just a little over 24 hours after he loaded up to go, I got sent a video of his new kiddo cantering him over some little jumps. She loved him. He vetted fine. Now he’s her horse. He gets to be adored and doted over (which he will think is fabulous). What horse wouldn’t want their own teenager? The family sent me the nicest note about how kind he is, and how excited they are. She’s already posted him on Instagram. I’ll be able to keep tabs on him, and might even see him at the show I’m judging next weekend.
I hope he’s good to her. I suspect he will be. Mostly, I hope together they make some of her dreams come true. Because we all deserve a horse like that, even if he isn’t going to be the one for me.
So—at least for me—this ends the chapter of Poet, Silversteen, Carateracho, my silly dappled creature. May he be her Simon.