We all have that one horse, that one horse that really just makes us realize why we love riding horses so much. When I was about 13 years old my barn got a new school horse, a big chestnut OTTB named Nat. For such a small girl I had a thing for big horses.
Let me tell you, though, he was a bit naughty. He loved throwing people off and being silly, and he was strong so that it made the fight all that much harder. I was a very green rider for a horse like him, but two years later and lots of begging my trainer I got to half board him. I like to take horses that everyone seems to hate, and try to show them some love and turn them around. So that’s what my trainer, Lauren Lutcavage, and I did. We turner a naughty thoroughbred into a pretty good eventer for his age.
It came time for us to do our very first Beginner Novice, and for a horse who wasn’t allowed to leave the barn often because he was so bad, he did amazing. We killed the dressage, stadium and all that was left was cross-country.
It was one of the hottest days of the year, easily 100 degrees. We entered the start box, and began our course. Galloping across the field, he was being such a good boy. It’s amazing how something so small can ruin everything, because then he tripped. Nat and I were about halfway around our course, and what began as a little trip started to get worse.
I was suddenly thinking about how I was going to get away from him if his body rolled over. I remember seeing the ground, and then out of nowhere he pushed his whole body up. He began limping, sweating like I’d never seen before. I jumped off, and my trainer ran to me. We began untacking him and brought him to the front of the barn to hose him off.
Nat was very tired; sometimes it felt like he would lean into me with just about all of his weight to get the weight off his front right. The vet came out and gave him something for the pain. Nat looked horrible, absolutely horrible. He had great improvement with the leg over night, until he started to colic. We then took him to Mid-Atlantic Equine Center. He had X-rays which revealed he had broken his scapula which would heal in about six months, if he could make it through the colic.
So we took Nat home, and over the next 48 hours I slept at my barn, we had him on weird turnout schedules and we constantly watched him. Then at 10 o’clock on August 8th, his colic was bad and we couldn’t continue to ask Nat to walk on his broken shoulder, and we put him down.
Yes, this is tragic because a horse died, but it’s tragic to me because my best friend died. I don’t think horses ever realize all they do, because they do so much.
Nat was my one horse, he gave me all my strength, he gave me so much confidence, so much happiness. He was the keeper of all my secrets.
They lend us their wings to fly, but they don’t realize how often their wings shield us, and comfort us. I miss my horse every day — he was an amazing teacher and even better friend. So everyone reading this article, hug your horses a little longer so they know they do so much more for us then they realize.
I hope I’m making you proud, Nat. You always made me proud.
About Sydney: I’m 18 and from Mount Laurel, New Jersey. I ride at Bit’O’Woods Farm and have been riding since I was about 6 or 7 years old. I am going to the University of Alabama next year where I plan to tryout for their equestrian team.