I'm keeping my horse.
The following poem has been trending on social media with “author unknown” at the end. I wish I knew the author and if you are her or him, please let me know so I can properly credit you.
That said, with a few edits of my own, I’m sharing this because it’s very much in keeping with my own horse mom position. I haven’t sold a horse in 10 years.
The last horse I sold went to an outstanding home and I can still check on his well being anytime. But selling him was emotionally devastating just the same. I’m not telling anyone this to toot my own horn. Quite the contrary. I am sharing a very painful lesson learned, hoping others may benefit.
The last horse I sold was named Gus. I raised Gus from a yearling. He is a “paint that ain’t” chestnut quarter horse with terrific breeding. He was King Kong in his yearling pasture being bigger, faster and more athletic in every way than the rest of his companions.
I hoped he would be a contender in reined cow horse and started him too early because that’s what that sport demanded. I didn’t know any better, but that’s no excuse. He was pushed too hard, too young. I even know when I should have pulled him from the program, but that’s 2020 hindsight. And I let it go way too long.
Gus was physically and emotionally injured in the young horse program I chose. That’s on me and I own it. The reason I sold him is that I didn’t think I had the ability to help him overcome it all. I sent him to a great trainer who brought him back to soundness and emotional stability. That trainer sold him for me. And I grieved, both for his loss because I loved him and for my own culpability. I also vowed to never make those mistakes again, including my failure to listen to my gut when I first began to doubt those choices.
I currently own two senior horses. Both have taught me so many life lessons. Suffice it to say, I have achieved one of my most closely held dreams because of them. I am a horseman (woman) and that’s a designation I’ve wanted to earn since I was a little girl. Holly and Chance (and many others along the way) have been instrumental in my current state of expertise and I will always be grateful to them for that and the love we continue to share on the road we travel together. They are family.
My horses are safe. I have made arrangements for their care in all conceivable scenarios. And I will be getting one more because I still have dreams on my journey. But my dreams will never make any horse of mine less secure in their future. Ours will always be a safe, forever home.
The poem that inspired this post:
“I kept my horse”
We rode many miles, won many shows, and we spent hundreds of hours side by side.
Now you’re old, you’re retired, and you’re my old man.
I kept my horse when he went lame - every damn time.
I kept my horse when I fell off - it wasn’t his fault, ever.
I kept my horse when I thought it shouldn’t be this hard- I didn’t know that’s how I would learn.
I kept my horse when he told me he couldn’t be ridden anymore - because I know compassion.
I kept my horse when I had a demanding career and struggled with time- because he’s family.
I kept my horse when I was broke- because sometimes times are tough.
I kept my horse when age made things harder because he still tried with all his heart.
I kept my horse when I bought a new one, because he’s irreplaceable.
I kept my horse when I wished I had more room for one that was sound- because I owe it to him.
I kept my horse when the vet bills became more frequent and the cost of his care increased, because money isn’t everything.
I’ll keep my horse when he can’t carry me anymore, because he taught me so much and trusts me to take care of him.
When his career as a riding horse is over- I will keep my horse.
No one owes this horse a retirement except for me, and shame on anyone who selfishly convinces themselves otherwise. I owe him so much more for what he has done for me, but I plan to try and make it up to him without asking him for more.
Because that’s how it should be be.