Knowing when to close the curtain on a horse’s career is one of the most difficult decisions a horse owner may face. When it comes to grand finales, timing is everything. When you’ve put so much work in you don’t want to cut things short prematurely, yet pushing an equine athlete beyond their ability to be successful is unfair at best and punishing at worst. Horses try their guts out for us, and we in turn owe them the opportunity to walk away in good health with their heads held high. It takes a selfless and aware horseman to recognize that moment when it appears.
Lauren Turner, an up-and-coming young professional based out of River Birch Farm in Jasper, GA, is one such horsewoman. Having just completed the Hagyard Midsouth CCI1* on Galivantor, an OTTB she brought up the levels herself, she knew it was time to say “when.” She penned a poignant and personal letter to her beloved “Van,” and kindly allowed us to share it on EN.
The moment I met you, I knew you were mine. You’ve taught me many a lesson in what it means to be a horsewoman, a rider, a trainer, a competitor, an eventer. Lessons in grit, in poise, in focus, in relaxation, in defining success, in how to prove them all wrong. You did it the first time when they told us Prelim was not in the cards for you — this past week — you did it again.
You allowed us to compete to a level I had once never thought was possible. Now, it’s in the books. Just a few weeks ago, a CIC*, this week, a CCI* at one of the most well known facilities in the country. You granted me the extraordinary experience of becoming an FEI athlete.
It was hard. The preparation was hard. The travel was hard. The competition was hard. The night before our second jog, you could hardly walk after smashing your stifles on the fourth jump on cross country. But, after galloping the rest of the course without a stutter, I knew you wanted this as much as I did. You gritted your teeth for the jog and tears came to my eyes when the announcers came over the loud speakers: “Accepted!”
I still don’t know how we placed; I don’t care. We completed. With a number — and not a letter. And that was our goal. Your heart is what got us here — not one other thing about you except your heart. And I cherish you. My war horse. My heart. My soul.
I can’t imagine doing this with a different partner. You are what has driven me. Thank you for every moment. We’ve made it, and now it’s time for the next chapter. It’s a bit scary that this chapter will not include us beasting around cross country together. I’ll miss looking through your ears as you lock onto the big combination as we come through the turn.
You will always be my #1. Who knows what the next 17 years hold for us — we’ve done a lot in a short six! I hope you stay with me that long. I hope you stay with me long enough to teach my kids how to ride, to work on some other goals I’ve got on my list, show off just how much a ’99 model #OTTB can do, maybe become a partner for another young eventer looking to move up to through the levels. But for now, enjoy your accomplishment, and look forward to some easy living.
This was our last event together — this is your Retirement.
Thank you for giving me every ounce of you, every day, every ride.
Love you forever and always,
Thanks for sharing, Lauren.
As for Lauren, we predict that Van’s retirement is just the beginning for this talented eventer. She remained in Lexington, KY, after Midsouth in preparation to compete in the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover competition, which takes place at the Kentucky Horse Park later this week. Lauren says she has an exciting OTTB collection going — “I want to fill the barn up with them!” — and while they have some big shoes to fill, we can’t wait to follow their development under Lauren’s guidance and care.
Go Lauren and Van. Go Eventing.