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An Open Letter To My First Heart Horse

An Open Letter To My First Heart Horse

By Ellie Woznica

Sometimes I wish I had never met you—specifically when I am staring at the check I have to write to pay off my insane vet bill. Or when I am out mucking stalls in the subzero temperatures. But, honestly, I could never regret letting you into my heart or the way you changed the course of my life forever.

Before you, I loved horses. I took my weekly lessons and went to horseback riding summer camp. That love for the horse deemed me the “crazy horse girl” in grade school, but it was nowhere near the all-consuming love that led me to the lifestyle I have now.

I used to be able to show up at the barn an hour before my lesson, visit with various school horses, give out peppermints, and that used to be enough to satisfy my horse itch (for the week, at least). But once you came into my life, no length of time was ever enough. Riding for an hour felt like five minutes and the sun would always go down before I felt like I had brushed you enough, despite your sparkling coat and painted hooves.

You weren’t the prettiest horse. You had the typical appaloosa “barely-a-tail”, and a mohawk to match. You were always covered in mud even during dry seasons, and you thoroughly enjoyed staring me down as you rolled in the pasture after a bath.

You were so naughty. You kicked other horses when they rode too close to your hind end, so much so that we were asked to ride in the paddock, away from other horses, during busy riding hours. You bucked me off quite frequently and would then proceed to walk over to me and pretend you didn’t completely understand how I went from your back to the ground.

You couldn’t horse show. Taking you anywhere off property gave you horrible runs that stained your spotted haunches and made you miserable. You spooked at anything and everything to get out of things you didn’t want to do, but you did your best at home-based schooling shows, and tolerated my insisting we enter every annual costume class.

You were already old (29) when my parents agreed to let me keep you after a winter lease, but you were faster than all the other ponies at the barn. We would often race them just to prove it. I couldn’t ever manage to put your bridle on by myself because you’d stick your nose up in the air and out of my reach, so I would just ride you, fully tacked, with just your halter and lead rope.

You developed a tumor in your throat that the vet said was too dangerous to operate on. Eventually you started to wheeze during exercise, so we stopped arena work and only walked out on the trails. But you didn’t mind, you always liked being alone in the woods better than a crowded arena anyway.

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Your eyesight started to go around 35. Trees and boulders that had been on the trails for as long as we’d been riding them started to frighten you, so we stuck to walks around the barn property where things were familiar and you felt safe.

You stopped being able to chew like you used to. You’d nicker and dive into a flake of hay, but most of it would fall from your mouth in wads. You didn’t mind the extra grain and beet pulp that came with your old age, though. You always looked so proud of yourself for managing to get feed tangled in your forelock.

You passed while I was away at summer camp. I like to believe you chose to do it then because didn’t want me to be there, but I still wish I had been. I slept with your flysheet for months because it smelt like you. I wished I’d never met you then. I hated every horse because they weren’t you.

It wasn’t until I finally allowed another horse into the void you left that I was able forgive you for leaving. But I can’t—and I don’t want to—forgive you for creating a hole, a hole that has been filled and broken open, and refilled, but a hole that I will carry forever. I might have been happy with weekly lessons on school ponies if I had never met you, but I don’t regret letting you become my heart horse. Thank you for forming the hole that can only be filled by loving a horse like you, a hole that makes me who I am.

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