Heart Horse: The True Story of a Thoroughbred and a Timid Rider
Confession: I feel things very intensely, very deeply but often I hide it behind a smile. Most people won’t know when my heart is breaking, or completely full. That is, unless I openly admit it.
The truth is, I have severe social anxiety. I have a fear of confrontation and I always secretly wonder if the things I say out loud are wrong or awkward.
When The Timid Rider began in 2016 it was my secret diary of low self-esteem and struggle coming to terms with my baby weight, being a returning adult equestrian, and wanting to be better than I was. Riding a lesson horse once a week meant very little progress with any of the above and I documented it all.
A huge part of my life then was a young Off-track Thoroughbred named Earthly Delights that I helped care for with feeding and turnout as a working student. If you look through older posts, there is many a mention of him. He quickly stole my heart.
“Delight” as he was ironically called because he was known as a bit of a cranky pants, came to my trainer as a 3-year old recovering from a bone chip. He was always very handsome but so much bigger than he even realized.
My first impression of him was cutting his lip on something and needing stitches shortly after arriving. I thought to myself, “What a klutz!”
The klutziness continued and it was endearing. I remember him tripping over his large feet while in training and bucking like a maniac to get his balance back while I hacked around on this steadfast Quarter Horse. I can still her my trainer “talking him” through it.
Delight quickly became my favorite horse. He was goofy, yet steadfast and calm, had a kind eye and made me laugh because we always knew what he was thinking by the look on his face. Many of my early posts were about my love for him and not being able to own him, or realizing that one day he would be sold away and I would never see him again. I cried a lot of nights about the “what if” scenario. My children in some ways grew up with him.
When he was 4 years old I brought him up top bareback to the barn for my trainer- something that I still wonder that I had the courage to do as a timid rider. Large, young and green horse. Bareback? I must have put on my confident pants that day.
Soon after my trainer told me I should take lessons on him. I was shocked and a little scared. He was off the track and young. What business did a timid rider have to work with a horse like this regularly? Surely it was a recipe for disaster?
Yet it wasn’t. I rode him successfully for two years. He taught me about assuming the worst based on stereotypes and encouraged me to trust him, something that doesn’t come easily to me. I’m all for the shallow relationship but letting my guard down is terrifying and cause for anxiety.
I wanted to buy Delight and approached my husband but I knew he wasn’t the right fit as a “family horse” with three small girls. Still, I tried to convince my husband and even had them meet. It wasn’t meant to be for us and I was devastated. My heart was broken. .Read “For the Love of a Thoroughbred“.
Ferrous came into our lives shortly after and I clicked with him immediately. I felt an immediate connection. Where Delight was the horse of my heart, Ferrous was my pony soulmate. He is basically the pony version of me and was everything I needed and more to gain confidence and yet still be challenged. We connect on a level that I can’t explain and I have grown leaps and bounds since we’ve been together.
Two and a half years have passed. Delight remained with my trainer and became a lesson horse for a select few riders over the years. Eventually he was sold to a student who remained in training with Robin so I was able to see him periodically.
Sometimes it feels like he was always a part of my life.
This past summer, his owner moved him to a nearby show barn and I was invited to come visit him. It was such an exciting thing for me to see him again and know that he didn’t disappear from my life. It was a bittersweet visit because he looked so polished and fancy, compared to the horse I used to play with and boop on the nose when he pinned his ears at me.
A month later his owner told me the terrible news he was for sale. I was so sad but had resigned myself to that possibility over time. Not long after she informed me that he was dangerous and unrideable due to some circumstances that occurred (the details of which shall remain private). As a result, she was going to donate him to a program.
I was shocked as that didn’t sound like my friend Delight. Sure, he could throw a temper tantrum and kick out sometimes but that was incredibly rare and he often didn’t waste the energy. We used to joke he just didn’t have the drive or inclination to put in much work at anything.
I went the next day to work and cried non-stop. My first client was my friend and her farm. After the massage sessions we had a beer where I told her the story. Surprisingly, she offered to take him in, that she would give him a home at her sanctuary. I cried more. I thought seriously about her offer and asked his owner if she would not donate him, but instead let me take him off her hands.
It still seems like a dream. Delight now lives on a farm about an hour away among mustangs, donkeys, pigs, and sheep. My friends have banded together with me to give him chiropractic work, bodywork, and acupuncture. He’s had professional evaluations and nothing physical can be found. More, my trainer Robin has come to assess him and ride him and he loved seeing her.
More, he and I have reconnected. I don’t get to see him often but we immediately picked up our relationship again, spending time at liberty in the ring or paddock. Recently when I visited he followed me around, grazed in my lap while I sat on a mounting block, and then proceeded to give me “mad” face when I left.
Delight will remain a big part of my life. So you will be seeing a lot more of him on the blog and on social media. He and I have found each other again. He might not be ridden, he may be retired on this fabulous farm at the age of 9, or he may have a little job as a trail or hunter pace horse depending on what he wants. But he’ll get to choose and I will get to be part of the say. For now, he will play in a herd of horses and enjoy his freedom.
If you would like to learn a bit more about Delight, read my book Confessions of a Timid Rider, available in ebook, print, and audiobook!