Most people don’t get the opportunity to bring home the horse they took riding lessons on.
But that’s exactly what happened the summer between my fourth and fifth grade year. Lady Be Good was a 21-year-old retired hunter jumper, and I was over the moon to finally call her mine.
Lady and I rode every trail we could access on four hooves, and we also made the local open show circuit, racking up a rainbow of ribbons, which I proudly hung on my bedroom wall. With Lady, life was beautiful and riding was easy. I think I knew I was fortunate, but I didn’t quite grasp just how much so at the time.
As my first horse, Lady taught me that she and her kind were the most wonderful creatures on earth. She’s the reason I fell in love with horses.
Then came Dee, who tested my newfound abilities.
Horses were still wonderful, but I soon learned just how powerful they could be. Dee was strong and fast—an ex-race horse. She only ran away with me once, and luckily it was within the confines of a small pasture.
Dee was no Western or English Pleasure show horse, but I soon learned to harness her power. Together, we learned to compete in two sports she could excel in—barrel racing and pole bending. She was especially talented at the latter. Dee taught me that if I worked hard enough, anything was possible, even flying on the back of a horse.
P.K. taught me a different sort of lesson: patience.
After Lady and Dee, I was accustomed to horses doing what I asked them to do. P.K., however, had her own ideas about what she’d like to do.
Though she was extremely quick and could make a nice barrel pattern, this wasn’t what she always cared to do. I was frustrated more often than not when it came to working with P.K. And in time, she learned she could get me off with a few well-placed bucks.
P.K. taught me that my ideas aren’t always the right ones. She also taught me to pay attention when a horse displays negative behavior. Sometimes it means they are hurting.
I retired P.K. from speed events, but never parted with her (or the others, for that matter). She and I shared a tumultuous relationship—I never quite trusting her, she never quite trusting me. But P.K. also taught me that a horse’s value isn’t necessarily based on what they can do for you.
When Hershey came along, I was awed by his beauty, but soon realized he might be my toughest challenge yet. He didn’t buck, but he would spook—and at nearly everything imaginable. After hours and hours of riding, he improved, but I could never completely let my guard down.
Training him for barrels was also a task. At first, he didn’t appear to have an athletic bone in his long, lanky body. But we kept at it.
Hershey taught me that perseverance pays off. We started out slowly, but continued to improve over the years. Hershey made my barrel racing dreams come true, winning numerous buckles, a trophy saddle, my hometown rodeo, and even a three-horse slant trailer. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the perfect horse for me.
Of course, there have been other horses, but when I think back on the ones who’ve influenced me the most, it’s been these four.
It’s funny because as riders or trainers, many of us tend to believe we’re the ones teaching the horse—that we’re imparting our wisdom onto them. But I happen to see it the other way around. Each of my horses has been a teacher; they’ve taught me some of life’s most important lessons.
They’ve shown me what kind of person I am, but more importantly, what kind of person I want to be.
So to Lady, Dee, P.K., and Hershey, I say thank you. I surely don’t know who’d I’d be had they never been a part of my life.
About the Author
Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com.