Blogger Meghan Holland penned an amazing piece last year in “Advice To Present And Future Barn Kids,” and now she’s returned to write more for us…
This blog will likely be one that I can’t go back and reread too many times… at least not without crying.
I hope for that reason it isn’t too rough. Each year around early May, I always spend some extra time thinking about a horse that was special to me. Pretty Soon, PS, or Pretty Ridiculous, as we sometimes liked to call her, was born in the middle of the day in front of a bunch of kids at the farm. The vet even laid the placenta out in the wash stall and made it educational for everyone.
A lot of people ask about her name. Gillie, the supermare and Pretty Soon’s dam, carried her for a year. We are not a breeding farm by any means, so the idea of a foal was exceptionally exciting; everyone at the barn was impatient. The ever-redundant question on the farm became, “When is the baby coming?!” Naturally, the answer each time was a resounding, “Pretty soon!”
I was only 4 at the time, but I was already a glorified barn rat, hanging around the farm and begging for pony rides, so Pretty Soon and I grew up together over the years. When the time came for me to move up off of ponies, put my big girl breeches on, and head to the jumper world, my trainer knew that Pretty Soon was going to teach me how to do it. And so she did.
When I began riding her, I was a little pony kid who didn’t know much other than straight lines and loping around hunter courses, so the first few weeks was my “Intro to Chestnut Mares 101” class. It wasn’t a super steep learning curve though. Pretty Soon knew exactly what her job was—essentially, I had to learn how to let her do it without getting in the way.
In a video of me showing her, you can hear people in the background laughing and commenting about how catty and ground-saving she was. One of the girls can be heard saying, “Can I show her?” Pretty Soon had that effect on people everywhere she went. Watching her jump around, everyone got that feeling of, “I want a turn!” I won that class (a money class!) by 10 seconds out of a bunch of horses. Ten seconds! It didn’t matter who was riding her. She won everything.
Pretty Soon taught me how to ride jumper courses, and ride them the right way. She never went fast—she was always quiet, even at shows. You could walk in and out of the ring on the buckle. But that mare had the uncanny ability to turn unlike any other horse I’ve ever sat on. To this day, I have not met a horse that knows its job better or is more focused than Pretty Soon was.
Life can be unfathomably cruel, so naturally when things were going best, the world had to come crashing down. Pretty Soon’s behavior had gotten increasingly bad on the ground. Like the champ that she was, she never behaved badly under saddle. But in the barn, she started standing up, lunging at other horses, and acting generally erratic.
She was evaluated by veterinarians, who found no obvious physical discomfort. She went to the clinic to get spayed, in the hopes that that might help. When they opened her up, they discovered a cantaloupe-sized tumor, along with several other smaller ones, on her ovary. She was euthanized that day.
I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I found out. I was actually getting in the car to go to the barn. I cried for a long time.
Just a few weeks before we were making plans. I was going to do the children’s equitation with her. The 13-year-old me was excited to do big-girl equitation classes. I thought we were just beginning. And then she died, just like that.
Isn’t that crazy? Isn’t that just completely screwed up? Sometimes the universe works in ways that I don’t understand. Somewhere along the lines, I had fallen in love with the quirky little red mare, the horse I had known since the very beginning of my life as a barn kid.
I’ve always been skeptical of the phrase “everything happens for a reason”—did Pretty Soon die for a reason? However, I do undoubtedly believe that certain horses enter our lives for a reason.
Maybe that saint of a horse you have is your rock and your escape from the troubles that plague you in the “real” world. Maybe that sensitive, difficult horse is here to remind you that sometimes you have to persevere to make something great. Maybe that greenie is here to show you that a sense of humor can save you a whole lot of stress and angst in life. Maybe that auction cast-off you ended up with is here to tell you that “you don’t throw a whole life away just because it’s banged up a little,” in the words of the Seabiscuit movie.
Pretty Soon was put in my life for a reason, that much I know. I would do anything for just one more ride with her. Sometimes I still spontaneously tear up when I look at old pictures of the two of us.
I miss Pretty Soon terribly, but I don’t like to think of her as “gone.” She is on my mind every time I ride in a jumper class. Her legacy lives on in every horse that packs little pony kids around, teaching them the ropes. She is with me in the quiet moments when I stand by myself ringside and watch the jumpers.
The ones we love never really leave us, at least not completely.
Blogger Meghan Holland grew up riding hunters and jumpers in New Jersey, showing mainly in the children’s jumpers and catch-riding in the junior hunters along with some equitation classes. She worked as a working student for Kim Guessford and Sandy Styzle at Sandstone Stables in Colts Neck, N.J. She is currently in her freshman year at the University of South Carolina, where she has continued her riding career.