This week, we hear from Kelly Heiser, a horsewoman in Alberta, Canada. She was among the first to register for the inaugural Best Horse Practices Summit and traveled 1,500 miles to attend the Summit with friend, Jackie Davis.
In this short essay, Kelly comes to terms with saying goodbye to her horse. Not all partnerships work. It’s good to routinely assess the safety of your horse-rider connection and either work on areas of struggle or move on with the successful placement of the horse in someone else’s hands.
I think “goodbye” is one of the hardest words I know.
It’s especially difficult when we are required to say it by forces beyond our control. But when it’s the right thing to do for the one you love, saying it can be truly devastating.
As animal lovers and owners, goodbye is part of the deal. I’ve always thought of it as the price we pay for all they give us. I’ve always believed that helping them go when their bodies are failing them is our responsibility. But letting them go when they are strong and healthy and loved is a trial of strength I didn’t understand until I faced it.
I purchased my first horse because he was strong, beautiful, and brave. Riley was talented, healthy, and well-trained. I knew him and had spent a year getting to know him and riding him.
But I didn’t know myself! Not as a rider and not as an owner. I had leased. I had ridden with friends and had ridden barn horses, but I had never been an owner with a horse in my backyard.
The joy I felt the day I brought Riley home was spectacular! I had audited clinics, read books, gone to conferences, taken online courses and picked the brains of every horse person I knew. I was scared, but believed I had done all I could to prepare.
Now I know there are things you can only learn from experience.
This is what I learned about my horse:
He is everything he is meant to be, everything I knew he was before I bought him.
He is gorgeous and strong. He loves his people, especially his little ones and has a big personality.
He is also huge! He is a very heavy built 16’3.
He needs special tack and a large trailer.
He can be stubborn and a little pushy with people, very pushy with other horses.
He is obsessed with food and gains weight exponentially.
He doesn’t care for standing still.
He trailers, but it takes a little convincing and isn’t his favorite thing to do. He needs a job. He needs consistency.
He needs training to finesse his talents and strengths.
This is what I have learned about me:
I love my horse!
His size makes me feel as though he will carry me through anything, like the war horse he is.
His size also scares me. It’s a long way to the ground.
His beauty brings me joy.
His stubbornness challenges and stresses me in equal measure.
His little quirks and sensitivities make me feel inadequate to help him.
He is hard work and I’m busy. Right now, I prioritize my family and home, leaving not enough time for him.
He is too much horse for me. He is too good a horse to not be ridden. He deserves the right owner and, as a good friend pointed out, I deserve the right horse. Now, it’s my mission to find that good home for him. I will hope to find a good horse for me.
I will say goodbye because I love him.