Some people don’t believe in love at first sight. And frankly, neither do I.
But from the very first moment, he was brought in from the pasture and promptly attempted to chew through the cross-ties on his way to freedom, I have been in love with my horse.
I can be a finicky, picky, and discerning horsewoman. One with 35 years of experience in the tack. One able to objectively look at a horse and consider the pros and cons of its ability for the task at hand. That doesn’t mean that I won’t overlook a fault or two…or three or four…but generally, I can force informed decisions using reason and years of practice. Only to throw all wisdom out the window because “(s)he’s so pretty!!!”
There was no reasoning with Jorge—and there still isn’t to this day. He could have been lame in all four legs, bucked me off and kicked my shins, and he was still coming home with me. Because it truly was love at first bite—err, sight.
My beautiful, strong-willed, intelligent, full of personality (and then some!) Thoroughbred came into my life not even three weeks after I lost my “heart horse” as some call it. My beloved Mouse had unexpectedly died in the pasture from an aneurysm. For a few days I considered calling it quits. But thanks to the overwhelming love and support I received from friends and family, I decided that a Jorna without a horse was like a Presidential debate without gaffes.
Or, more appropriately, a girl without her soul.
So I looked at Jorge, a then four-year-old Thoroughbred, under the guise of “I’m shopping for my next 3′ horse,” implying that I had been schooling and showing bigger jumps on my 14.3h paint with no spots. In reality, I was pretty sure I would never jump 3′ ever again. But the lies we tell ourselves come out so very easily to unsuspecting people we don’t know!
I was living in Virginia at the time and shopping online for horses—I was hoping to use my Amazon Prime account for free shipping . No photo accompanied his two or three line description on . Yet, for some reason, I was drawn to the ad and shortly thereafter I was headed two hours north to see him.
There was no question we were meant to be, at least in my mind, and a few days later I trailered him home as a hurricane was approaching the east coast. Over the next few months, I found my new friend to be kind, bratty, brave, amusing, playful, and an all-around great guy who was incredibly fun to ride. He went trail riding, he hacked out alone, he went cross-country schooling, he chewed on his pasture mates, he broke nearly a halter a week.
He was AWESOME.
So now to finally get to the point of why this has become the #bummersummer.
My best friend Jodie and I have decided to tag this as #bummersummer because her five-year-old daughter demonstrated an acute understanding of the course of events and stated the other day, “All the horses seem to keep getting hurt. That’s a bummer!” Well said, my dear, very well said.
It all started in April. After a pretty decent winter (for Wisconsin), Jodie’s Thoroughbred came up with a ruptured ligament in his right hind, requiring six months stall rest. Then came May when our beautiful hunter/jumper barn was sold to people who are starting a llama breeding program. Yep, our gorgeous 40 acres of mown bridle paths, two ginormous outdoor rings, and breathtaking barn itself now houses llamas. Llame. They gave us 30 days to find a new home for 25 horses and the 25 hoarders who love them.
So immediately following our first outdoor show of the season, we packed up approximately 10 million pounds of stuff and shoved it into a 10-pound sack, moving into our new digs. To say we were a bit unsettled is an understatement, but we are a wily bunch and were generally excited for another fun-filled summer on the local circuit.
After a great first outdoor competition, I was looking forward to moving up a division this year with my seven-year-old Thoroughbred hunter and enjoying my favorite season—sun, sweat, and dust—with the greatest group of barn and show friends you could find.
But then he went lame, and as a result, so did I. A week before the next show we had Jorge’s best friend—Dr. Nicky the vet—come out, and she pulled fluid off his tendon, injected some steroids into it, and away we went. Another good show, another reason to celebrate and shake off the funk that had been following us around like a cloud. Between the move and lameness and general disarray we were due for some fun.
Or so I thought…
Not even 10 days later, Jorge pulls up lame again. At the same time, Jodie’s horse develops lymphangitis in his other hind leg. After a few weeks of trying rest and home remedy, I had the vet back out to do an ultrasound. Her report left me inconsolable for a few days thereafter. My beautiful, bratty, full of vim and vigor horse has multiple tears in his tendon, some calcification in that right hind, and needs about a year off to rehab. The gut punch? He may not jump again. To say I was devastated is accurate.
However, then I realized something. The most important part of this story is that he is still with me. While his injury may be hunter-career ending, it was not a death sentence. There was no hard choice I had to make for his quality of life. I will get to ride my big, strong, amazing best friend again at some point, and, in the meantime, he will be happy to gnaw on anyone in his path in an effort to hustle them for treats.
Jorge is my heart and soul. He’s my personal brand of Xanax. He’s the reason he has nice things and I wear Target flip flops while swilling cheap red wine. And, like you, I’d have it no other way.
So we will make the best of our situation. He’s under the rehabbing care of our trainer, Lane. He has started on a new voodoo diet designed to have minerals work in his body more effectively to aid the healing process. He will have limited space to run in the paddock, as it seemed incredibly unfair to lock him in a stall and drug him for the next however long. He has great vet care. And we both have a tremendous support team behind us, ensuring a successful return to the ring. Accordingly, Lane has also been instructed to rehab me through this process, though likely she won’t need to soak my Xanax in my wine to get me to take it.
I will do whatever is (nearly beyond) financially feasible for me to do right by my best friend, Jorge. I’d like to think he would do it for me, though I’m a bit concerned he’d be more likely to put me in a home in my old age!
I’m blessed to have friends who have already offered up multiple mounts to ride, show, and torture. For this, I am forever grateful and humbled by their generosity as I am feeling a bit empty inside without saddle time. And who knows what opportunities may arise in the future for me, as we all know I’ve adopted a motto of “Just Say YES!”
And in a year or so Jorge and I will ride again. It may be a different kind of relationship and career path for him, but I will ride his lovely rhythmic canter across the ground. Perhaps he will teach young riders in the future. Maybe we will try dressage in the future (wait—who am I trying to kid?!) I can only hope he may come back at full capacity. Or maybe we will just enjoy our favorite activity, hacking the field and taking selfies.
The worst part will be the waiting. However, no matter what, we will be together and that is all I really need.
And with time, a solid program, and a little luck, I will once again enjoy the best view from the best seat in the house. Which will make it all the sweeter to see.
This post originally appeared on Jorna Taylor’s blog in July 2015. As of 10 days ago, Jorge is back in work—walk, trot, and trantering—and doing great! Jorna is feeling better, too. According to her boss, she’s been in a better mood the past few days than she had been in a year. “There’s just something about riding and being owned by this horse that makes me incredibly at peace with the world!!” says Jorna.
About the Author
Jorna Taylor is your average obsessive horse owner, spending countless hours watching friends ride in circles in the dust or rushing home elated to find the new Dover catalog has arrived. She captures the more comical and interesting moments of her riding journey on her blog. Check it out at jornataylor.com.