Six years ago, my parents bought me a fiery buckskin mare for my 14th birthday. I adored Cody–even though she hit a barrel nearly every time we entered the arena to compete. She was the most powerful mare I'd ever swung a leg over, and she stood nearly 16 hands tall. Piloting such a strong horse shaped my riding ability and kept me eager to work harder to sharpen my horsemanship skills.
November 24, 2011, is a day I remember like yesterday. While I didn’t know it on that day, when my buckskin mare left this world—the victim of a brain aneurism—she would send me on an incredible journey.
It began literally hours after my mare had died. My mom called the family we'd bought Cody from to tell them about the tragedy. After shedding their own tears over the phone, the family offered to let me ride one of their horses in the barrel race I’d been scheduled to compete in shortly. Reluctant to get on a horse so soon, I wanted to decline, but my parents insisted I take the opportunity.
Two days later, my family took me to the barrel race to compete on a horse I’d ridden for a total of 10 minutes—a year prior. The family’s daughter, who’s the same age as me, offered tips on how to ride the gelding I would be running.
I took the reins and tried to understand the gelding's riding style in the short time I had before it was my turn to run. And I think it’s safe to say we understood each other pretty well—even “clicked”—because I ran an unexpectedly fast time for just jumping on and going.
After the race, we met up with the family and, because I'd had so much fun riding the gelding, I asked to ride him again. They agreed to let me run him in another race over New Year’s.
Two months later, the daughter of the family again coached me on how best to ride the gelding. I paid attention, and again the horse and I “clicked” with another unexpectedly fast time. Over the course of that weekend, I grew attached to that horse. I wanted him in my barn!
I asked my parents if we could try to buy him. They told me I had to ask the family if they would sell the horse to me. I was afraid to ask—fearing they’d say no—but finally worked up the nerve.
But they did say no! Someone else had just bought the horse. Heartbroken, I started to walk away. Then they said words I’ll never forget—that it was my parents who had bought him.
For seven years and eight months now I've owned this gelding, named Risky. While most days he's the horse that drives me insane, he's also the horse I share an unbreakable bond with. Through everything—from almost losing him to colic to traveling literally thousands of miles to barrel races—he’s been the one I rely on. And he's the horse that will never leave my barn.
Risky’s prior family has become a part of my family. I've talked to the daughter who gave me such good advice nearly every day since the day we took Risky home.
This story has taken many years to unfold. And, had I not lost my beloved mare, I wouldn’t now own my favorite gelding or have the friendship that has blossomed over the years. So, while it’s always sad to lose a horse, it’s also true you never know what might unfold in the journey that comes next.