I’m slumped on the couch in the decrepit old house that’s home to the student newspaper where I work. I don’t know where this pillow has been.
All I know is I’m smushing it into my face, trying to stop the tears before they leave my eyes.
I’m just trying to process the bombshell I was just given.
Sydney, the horse I’ve owned for nearly five years and have been trying to sell for two, is lame. She has sidebone, a calcium deposit that will require thousand-dollar injections every month just to keep her moving.
“Basically, jumping a three-foot course isn’t something she should be doing for the rest of her life,” my trainer says.
She’s using the blunt tone I’m so familiar with. It’s known to come out in the warmup ring when I’m struggling to get the distance in a line, always pulling back at the last second: “You need to let go and just ride.”
This time, it sounds like a death sentence.
To any non-equestrian, that seems overdramatic. But think of your dog, your most treasured animal companion. Now multiply the love you feel by 10, because you need to trust that dog with your life. Did I mention you’re spending $500 each month just to give that animal the bare essentials? At that point, you might expect your dog to start earning its keep.
And Sydney’s only 10 years old. So many other horses are still jumping at 25.
There’s a saying that basically condemns an animal: “no hoof, no horse.” A horse that can’t even walk is beyond worthless. It can’t be ridden, it can’t show, and it’s too expensive to keep around. It’s a burden. You’re better off auctioning it off at some run-down barn, selling it to someone you know will just cart the animal off to Mexico or Canada where there aren’t slaughter regulations.
Any other decision just isn’t practical. And my type A mind is all about practicality.
It’s that practicality that made me cry when my parents first bought Sydney for me all those years ago — I couldn’t justify the money they were spending. It’s what made me decide to sell her when I went to college, but turn down a lowball offer that turned out to be the only one I ever got.
It’s what makes me apologize to my mother every time she gives me updates on Sydney. Because I’m at school and she’s at home. Because we’re paying someone to ride her instead of her fulfilling her purpose as my steed. Because it’s been two years and it’s been too long.
Amy thought she’d found the perfect solution, and my mother agreed.
There’s a nice man in Rochester who owns a breeding and training barn, she says. Sydney lived there for a while when she was young. She insists she wouldn’t send a horse anywhere else but to this guy. I’d give her to him, and then Sydney would hang out in a field with babies and maybe have some of her own.
It sounds like the perfect solution. But not in my mind.
I never had a vision that I’d sell Sydney to some up-and-coming young rider who’d ride her to some pretentious championship. I certainly was never big on horse showing myself.
Instead, the goal was for her to find a kid who had something to learn. Someone who needed a horse who would stop dead when she was scared out of her mind facing big jumps in a new place, but give her a challenge when she needed it.
After a few months of searching for a buyer, I was willing to compromise. That kid could want to show all the time, or not at all. Hell, that kid could be 40 years old. As long they cared enough to maintain her shiny, deep brown coat and black tail that trailed on the ground, and ride regularly.
Ok, maybe I did have some high standards.
Besides my own personal biases, this solution was simply against my anti-breeding mentality. There are already too many horses in the world, too many backyard foals born simply to romp around in the springtime.
But there’s no other choice. She can’t even walk anymore. It’s only fair, economically for me and physically for my horse.
So here I am, glancing down at the raggedy, salt-stained carpet. Hopefully no one will look at me and see how red my eyes are.
In the equestrian — and any — world, the ideal never works out. So I took the plunge.
She’s leaving next week.