Some of you may know, probably most do not know - I have a horse. Her name is Cherry. My mom bought Cherry for me when she was 4, and I was 10 or 11. She is now 20, and I am 26.
Cherry is one of the most important things in my life (so is my cat, Fiona). I have always liked animals more than people. And I LOVE my 2 animals.
For the majority of my life, I have been a horseback rider. I have ridden Western and English. I have personally hauled Cherry in a truck/horse trailer. I have fallen off, I have been stepped on. I have trail ridden, barrel raced, team penned, cross country jumped, done dressage - you name it and I've probably tried it, and I've probably tried it with Cherry. She is truly the best horse in the world. She is small and furry. She is not registered (in fact she is a grade - a mutt of the horse world - part Quarter Horse and part Morgan). She is a huge pain in the ass at times. She is also slightly crazy to ride. She has the best ground manners you could ask for - but sometimes questionable riding manners. I love her in spite of her difficulties!
Cherry's idea of a horse show is to race around the arena as fast as possible. When I first got her I was a barrel racer and that is what I did with her. This is where you run around objects (either barrels or poles) that are set up in a pattern and it's timed, so obviously we were running as fast as possible. We were pretty good! She's a fast horse. We won a lot of awards. I eventually lost interest (AKA she was getting too nutso and I didn't want to die) and I switched to 3 day eventing - the "triathlon" of the horse world because it's made up of dressage, cross country jumping, and stadium jumping. (It's the cool stuff you see people doing with horses in the summer Olympics).
As eventers, we stuck out. I was eventing when I was 17. I'm short and my horse is small. I used to wear purple and dress Cherry in purple (saddle pad, boots, etc. all purple). One time I was warming up before my cross country jumping run and some lady made a comment about the cute little girl and her pony in purple. Sorry ma'am.. I was 17. Cherry also liked to run at the fences as fast as possible and leap over them at breakneck speed. There was nothing I could do to stop her. I rode with a gag bit in her mouth and this thing called a running martingale to hold her head down - didn't matter. She ran the show. I'm surprised I survived.
My riding slowed down when I went to college, then graduate school, and then entered the real world, and finally picked up triathlon. I have ridden twice this summer. It is something I feel incredibly guilty about. But my horse is old, she is arthritic, and she deserves her retirement. If you had arthitis and a bad ankle, would you want a person getting on your back and riding you around, forcing you to exercise? She has no way to tell me if it hurts her when I ride her! I don't think she minds her retirement. She gets to play with other horses, hang out in the pasture, and the kids at the barn give her treats and brush her.
I think I mostly feel guilty because I have slowly been letting go of a major part of my life in order to make room for something new. I feel guilty because Cherry has always been there. As Sir Winston Churchill said,
"There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man."
When I was younger, having a horse, being able to ride every day, that is what kept my head on straight. Now, that is what triathlon does for me. It is very difficult to balance them both. My horse is so special and I love her so, so much. She deserves her retirement for sure. However she also deserves consistent attention from her owner, so I am going to make a better attempt at getting to the barn to see her on a regular basis. Seeing my horse makes me SO happy but sometimes I get caught up in my daily routine and it gets pushed to the back of my mind. That shall happen no more. :)