The Face That Always Makes Me Smile
With adrenaline flowing and our hearts pounding, my horse, Otis, and I surge towards an imposing jump on a trail in a local state park. The sound of his hooves thunders in my ears, and he leaps in a smooth arc over the obstacle. He gallops away exuberantly, full of pride. I raise myself up out of the saddle, and let the wind whip across my smiling face.
My enchantment with animals, especially horses, has been present from the beginning of my life. Not content to simply play with toy horses and stuffed dogs, I began taking weekly riding lessons at the age of seven and soon spent as much time as I could at a local barn. Though the complexity of my life and my commitment to other activities increased almost exponentially over the years, my passion for horses grew as well. The spring of my sophomore year in high school, I used my entire life savings to finally purchase a horse of my own: Otis.
I knew that we were a perfect fit from the very first moment. Otis was not the shining, snorting stallion glorified in countless films and stories; he was instead a compact and middle aged animal who had obviously spent a good deal of time rolling around in a dusty pasture. The moment I settled into the saddle, we trotted off together and never looked back. Since that day, Otis and I have spent many hours wandering through sun-splashed woods and alongside crowded fields of waving corn. In developing a close relationship with Otis, I have learned the importance of honesty, fairness, and respect in dealing with animals. I have found that this lesson is applicable to many other aspects of my life, especially to how I relate to other people. Otis’ unconditional friendship has also provided me with a haven of sorts over the years; in his presence I have found sanctuary from all of life’s complications. Together, we have overcome every obstacle with the use of communication and trust.
I can’t pretend that it has been all fun; for every moment that I have passed rapturously on Otis’ back, I have spent at least two hacking at ice frozen as fast as concrete atop a battered water trough, throwing buckets of grain to groups of rowdy ponies, or heaving heavy bales of hay. Few activities are able to keep one grounded and teach humility as the hours spent scooping up after a barn full of horses can. Working closely with these remarkable animals has also given me insight into a world that I hope to continue to be a part of in the future. Nothing I have encountered thus far in life gives me such intense feelings of satisfaction as being involved in the daily life and routine care of my horse.
My ultimate goal is to use my interest in science and horses to pursue a career in equine sports medicine.
Otis is the constant in my life, the face that always makes me smile, the shoulder that selflessly supports me without question. My senior year thus far has caused a change between us: I spend more time on schoolwork, swimming, and college applications than I do with my best friend. The weekends are our haven now, the barn and his presence more a sanctuary than ever. Otis, through his ability to enjoy every moment of his life and his undying loyalty to me, has given me the desire to make sacrifices and work hard in order to take part in what I enjoy, along with a store of amazing memories that will last forever.
I settle back into the saddle, asking Otis to return to a walk with a gentle pull on the reins. He responds with a graceful transition into a smooth walk. We are both happily exhausted after a challenging and successful ride. Late afternoon sunlight glints off of a nearby pond, and we meander home.
My Dreams Had Finally Come True
“Abbay, Abbay, she’s yours, she’s all yours! Daddy finally said you could get the pony!” With that one sentence my heart was suddenly filled with the most complete happiness I had ever known. Springing to my feet, I hastily left my dolls behind (never to return again) and ran into my father’s open arms. I had been waiting all year, doing everything I could to remain in my parents’ good graces (including trying to avoid the inevitable feuds with my older, but not necessarily wiser, brother). In my seven-year-old world, my dreams had finally come true.
I could hardly sleep that night. My head swam with excitement and anticipation. The next morning, to make sure I hadn’t been dreaming, I made a mad dash to the barn. There, in the most perfect stall, with the most perfect yellow ribbon, was my perfect pony. I was instantly captivated by her beauty and her engaging eyes which I knew were smiling back at me. As she stood there beautifully kept with a jet-black coat, two flawlessly symmetrical triangles just above her front two hooves and a diamond snip of white on her face, my new pony was everything I had dreamed of! Her name was Lily and she looked like Black Beauty. But she was more than a fairy tale to me, she was realityâ€¦ my Black Beauty. From that day forward, Lily became my infatuating passion, and most of all, my best friend.
As a young child I was drawn to her unfaltering empathetic expression. No matter what was happening in the rest of my youthful existence, Lily was always thereâ€¦she was an escape. Although I was probably unaware at the time, it was her innocence that gave me comfort. I always felt that Lily truly perceived and understood my occasional angst. I cherished my time at the barn, and looked forward to my daily lessons and visits. Lily was not a toy that I received and lost interest in after two weeks, she was my mentor. I found immediate security in our relationship, and it was this security that would transfer beyond the riding arena.
This absolute bond not only raised us to a new level in our competition, but it also provided additional confidence that is always helpful to a young child. Lily and I, together, were unstoppable. We were a team. We had formed a deep trust and understanding that was indestructible. She gave me strength, and taught me to endure. Through my ability to trust her, and our teamwork, I gained self-assurance that has prevailed. Learning at a young age to work as a team is one of the most valuable lessons I have gained from my riding experience.
My first pony Lily, not only served to shape the rider I am today, but also the person I am becoming.
My Pony Is An Angel
My Pony is an angel,
He’s quick and strong and sweet,
He’s a perfect little hunter,
And I never lose my seat.
My lessons are so perfect,
When I’m aiming toward a show,
I enter the show arena,
And I cannot make him slow.
He bucks between the fences,
He gallops through all the lines,
I simply cannot stop him,
He won’t obey my signs.
My pony is an angel,
He’s quick and strong and sweet,
He’s terrible in the show ring,
But my lessons can’t be beat.
Working At The Barn
There is always something to do around the barn, but up until a few months ago, I was never the one to do it. I would arrive from school or home, groom and tack up my horse, ride and then leave. This routine began to seem silly to me, so recently I started to come two hours or so before my lesson to help with whatever people needed to be done.
Now I sweep, feed, bring in horses, drop hay, and prepare rations, among other things. Many of you probably know the great feeling you get from working and seeing results, and I savor it. Our barn holds pony camps and I love helping with those. Seeing young kids learn to embrace riding is a very satisfying feeling. (Hearing them criticize your horse