Your twenties are easily the most tumultuous decade of your life. If you’re absolutely the luckiest person in the horse world, you got to take your horse with you to college. (Well, okay, if you’re actually the luckiest, you’re Reed Kessler, and you went to the Olympics instead of college.)
But then there’s your first real job, that graduation trip to Europe, moving in with your first boyfriend or girlfriend, making ends meet on your own — not every horse and rider relationship survives. But if you made the attempt to keep jumping in the ring while you jumped through life’s hoops, then you probably met one — or all — of these horses.
The Outgrown YR Horse – She was the horse your parents got after you got too big for the ponies, and she stuck with you through the best competition years of your young life. You rocked the MoJams together and made memories at every show facility in a 10-hour radius of your home base. You won a little money here and there — though nowhere near what it cost to board at the show that week — but it was still a huge accomplishment. All the same, you know she peaked at the 1.20 meter classes, and it’s time to let her teach someone else. This was the horse that catapulted your dreams, and you’ll never forget her.
The Good Investment – Maybe you took the funds you collected from selling the YR horse, or maybe you just creatively lumped some stuff in with your student loans . . . no one needs to know that his price tag is why you’re buying ramen in bulk. But this young up-and-comer is going to take you all the way, and be your Grand Prix horse. All you need to do is set your alarm for 4:45 every morning and ride, cool out, and race to your first class every day and you can have your cake at eat it, too! But six months into this thing, a few too many snooze buttons, midterms and frat parties are sure making it hard to keep up with a hot-blooded and scopey six-year-old. You might have had to turn this guy over a little faster than you’d hoped, but money is tight and life is complicated.
The Talented Nutjob – Sure, he rushes the fences a little, and bucks after every landing, and tears the show tents to shreds every weekend, and your trainer hints that she hopes she’ll live long enough to see the horse properly buried in the ground where he belongs, but he’s OOZING with talent for the right person, and maybe this guy will pay for your student loans someday! Or maybe he’ll cost you $3,400 in medical bills as he chucks you head-first into a Swedish Oxer. Oh, no health insurance? We didn’t think so. Bye bye Nutjob.
The Glorious Catch Ride – While you’re horseless, your loyal trainer and barnmates aren’t going to leave you high and dry, and plenty of generous owners step up to offer a catch ride or two at the weekend shows. Among them is a 10-year-old pitch black Holsteiner who could jump the moon, and his owners are overjoyed to see you succeeding together. The catch-riding is unreliable from week to week and can change on a whim, but you’ll trade it over being horseless any day.
The Inglorious Catch Ride – As you brush the dirt off your jacket and look around for your pride, you realize you would totally rather be horseless than be the warm-up round rider for the crazy lady in the barn and her twin flame of a horse. This is why you sold your own nutjob. You’re ready to go into debt again.
The Impulse Buy – You got a little pay bump at work, your student loans are slowly getting paid off, and you’ve had enough with the catch rides. You see a splendid chromey Selle Francais jumping the standards at a local show, and you decide to go for it. If only you’d been paying a little better attention when the pre-purchase exam turned up hints at a long future of joint injections, specialty shoeing, ulcer treatments, and a pain tolerance of 0.00. About a year in is when reality hits you that you got a pay bump, not a pay mountain.
The BFF – You’ve learned from your mistakes, and you and your trainer together found the perfect, sound, sane project for you. He needs just the right amount of your time during the week, and is a total sport about being your weekend warrior. When he’s in full training and has been sufficiently lunged, you can put your now-serious and awesome boyfriend on him to cool him out. To be perfectly honest, The BFF is probably not going to be your Grand Prix horse, but you’re okay with that. You succeed together, you have fun together and . . . he kind of reminds you of your old YR horse.