When my family moved from Tampa to Brooksville in 1991, I was promised a pony. We moved onto five acres, a mile back on a lime rock road, close to the Pasco/Hernando County Line. It was probably close to a year after we moved that my mother and I drove to Ocala to pick her up. Her name was Paperchase. She was a bay pony, standing 13.1 hands. Little did I know that this was the start to the activity that would consume my childhood. I rode until I left for college. She was a sweet little girl, who provided me my first blue ribbon. We were both new to the world of competition and practice. She provided me with a great foundation for the strong love and respect I have for other beings beyond human.
After I outgrew Paperchase, we bought Simba. He was a dark bay Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred cross. He provided my mother and me with many scares. He ran away with me multiple times and refused jumps at the blink of an eye. However, I do admit that he was my favorite. Over time, as he began to trust me and understand that I wasn’t going to place him in situations where he would panic, he was the fastest and sweetest horse I ever owned. He taught me how someone can change when provided guidance and love. I do not know where Simba ended up after the family who bought him from us sold him to someone else. From time-to-time, I still dream of us flying over jumps that seem to be bigger than him with ease.
The last horse that we owned was Azar. We are the same age. It is odd to think of him as 25, but he is. Azar is one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen. He stands 17.2 hands and is a Hanoverian/Thoroughbred cross. Azar made me strong, both inside and out. After a few years of hard work, we were a winning team. He moved beautifully in the dressage ring and was the boldest horse I had ever ridden on the cross country course. However, he was very difficult. For the first time in my equestrian career, I had to use my strength, coordination and skill at the same time. We were hard to beat if I practiced, but if I didn’t he wouldn’t cut me any slack. I grew up quick, like any teenage competitor who wanted to be the best. On the ground he was a pain in the ass. He was huge and knew it. I can’t even count the number of bridles he broke from trampling them as he escaped from me putting his ears through the browband and the crown. In hindsight, I think he knew he was shaping me into an adult and making me earn every ribbon and trophy we won together.
When my parents divorced as a result of an unhappy marriage, communication issues and drug and alcohol addiction, we sold Azar. I was 16. At the time, it was not a huge deal to me, as I was rebelling from my family situation into the high school party scene. Close to a year after we sold Azar, I began riding with my friend in New Port Richey. They had an eight year old Appaloosa named Bubba who was green (needed to be trained). I competed with him until I left for college in 2004. Bubba was fun and helped me through some of the toughest years in my life. He taught me that success does not mean a blue ribbon. It means overcoming what you at one point felt to be an impossible feat. Every time I rode him, we improved as a team and individually. He kept me sparkling when everything else that once was a comfort to me had evaporated.