Recently I noticed some nice essays written by horse owners and riders as “A letter to my horse”. Here is my letter to my 26-year-old Appaloosa/Trakehnerr gelding, Chico.
I hope you don’t mind that I call you Chico. I never asked. You came with the name Mattrixx, but that just didn’t seem to fit. I never intended to make you mine. A friend of a friend got you and I promised I would ride you for a month to be sure you were safe for a timid trail rider. I was to work with you and then work with your new owner to be sure you were a good match and ready to hit the trails.
When you stepped off the trailer, I remember my husband say that you were the ugliest horse he ever saw. I thought that was unfair, as you had your own unique beauty, all spotted from your Appaloosa mom. You also have a big head and neck from your Trakehnerr dad. But you hopped off that trailer and walked into the barn like you had done it countless times.
I decided to go ahead and put you on a lunge line and take you to the arena just to let you stretch your legs and to see what you were all about. As you know, you were not a youngster, so I had hopes that you would be the perfect mount for your new owner.
I bet you don’t even remember that owner, as she never did come out to see you again. Oh, there were excuses of, I don’t have time, I just can’t make it, and finally, I am not bonding with you, I don’t want you. Well, you know what? I was jumping for joy because after my first ride on you all those years ago, I was smitten. You were kind-hearted, willing, smooth, and so much fun to ride. When your owner said she was taking you back to your original farm in Arkansas, I jumped at the chance to keep you. I talked to your original owner and as it turned out, I was lucky, and you became mine!
I remember in those early days how out of shape we both were. We made a pact, me and you, to get back into game shape. You didn’t know it at the time, but I had been going through a difficult period with riding, and was secretly afraid to do anything other than trot around. Remember all those mares I had back then? Well, before you came, I fell off the gray one a few times and to be honest, it really scared me. I had zero confidence. You never held that against me, though, did you?
The second time I rode you, I decided to be brave, and I cantered you. Wow, it was like sitting on a cloud. You never took advantage of my fear, for which I am grateful. You were always kind and did what I asked and did it politely. Right then I realized we were a team.
The next ride we had, I decided to see if you jumped. I had no idea, since prior to coming to me, you had been sitting in a field for three years. Well, as you recall, you had no issues jumping — and surprisingly, I had no issues with jumping either. I think I was already starting to gain some confidence thanks to you. That’s when I decided to get back into a lesson program. I hadn’t been in lessons in years, so I thought it would be a good way to keep up my progress.
We started lessons and boy, we had fun. You also taught me how to load a horse into a trailer and even drive that trailer to another farm for our lessons. Those were my first solo drives with you back there. You made it easy to do.
Those lessons furthered my confidence, and the two of us, we got in shape. We set our sights on a few schooling shows and worked on getting ready for them. Our first schooling show we jumped 18” jumps. I didn’t even know they had 18” over-fences classes. Certainly they were not grand prix classes, but they felt just as big back then, yet you and I rocked the courses and managed to come out with a division championship ribbon! I sure was proud of you, and to be honest, I was even proud of myself after that show. You behaved like a perfect gentleman and took care of me during my first show in years.
We continued to show and we made it up to 3’3” jumpers, and you continued to be such a good boy. We didn’t win every class, but you gave it your all, and I couldn’t have asked for more from you. Your kind spirit and willing attitude made you beautiful, and even my husband came around. Looking at a picture of you, he responded about what kind eyes you have, and he is right, your eyes are like the window to your sole; a soft, benevolent being.
We had some really good, fun years doing the jumper classes at local shows, you and me. Because of you I was able to start riding other horses and doing well with them, too. I was no longer so afraid to ride. What a gift you gave me. And though you are pretty much living a life of leisure these days, I’m not sure you’ll ever know how special you are to me, though I tell you every day. You know when I leave you in the barn while turning the other horses out and then I come and get you, I always tell you, “best for last”, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I love you, Chico!