By Laura Ware
Growing up around horses, I could handle watching them get sold. I could even handle watching them get hurt, and could usually keep a stiff upper lip when the vet would say that this particular horse was not going to be able to do its job anymore, but watching them die was something I had never had to deal with. None of the horses at my mother’s barn had ever encountered any life-threatening injuries, and even the school horses were sent off to an old friend’s stable when their time loomed near. This, however, all changed on March 17th.
My horse died. My horse Tustin, whom I purchased from Europe as a five year old, who took me from borderline terrifying rounds in the Modified Junior Jumpers to wins in the High Junior Jumpers, who tolerated my mistakes like an old school master even though he was barely eight years old, who would stand stock still as four-year-old riding school students (and myself, of course!) fawned over him, who would leave the ground from any distance at any jump without question, shattered his pastern bone in the turn-out.
This simply was not supposed to happen. This is my last junior year; we were supposed to qualify for Junior Young Riders together, and Prix Des States at Harrisburg, and maybe even Washington or Devon, and then, when this beloved, amazing horse could no longer do what I asked of him, he was going to be some lucky kid’s children’s jumper until he was at least 20 years old. All I’ve ever wanted was to become a Grand Prix rider, and after finally hitting the High Junior Jumper mark, I felt so incredibly close. I had so many dreams for myself and my little horse, and, in the time it takes to pull the plunger on a syringe, watching them all float away was unbelievably hard to deal with. Unfortunately, these things happen, and I’m glad I had the pleasure of owning and riding this very special horse. We grew by leaps and bounds together, and he was, and will probably always remain, my absolute favorite.
I don’t know how to say this without sounding cheesy, but receiving everyone’s condolences was wonderfully heartwarming. Hearing all these trainers and competitors and parents say how sorry they were gave me a great sense of belonging; people really do care. I look up to these trainers, and when the ones to whom I’d never really spoken (yet always admired from afar) came over and let me know how sorry they were, it made me feel good, like I wasn’t the only one who thought my little horse was great. I really wanted to be able to keep my feet in the jumper ring (hunters and equitation are fun, but nothing compares to going fast and jumping big!), so Archie Cox was kind enough to arrange for me to ride Marnix G, a horse who used to be in training with him, but is now at Joie Gatlin and Morley Abey’s barn. I got to show Marnix in the Low Junior Jumpers at the first two Oaks horse shows, and had a blast. Tustin was the only jumper I had ever ridden over anything bigger than 3’9”, so it was nice to be able to prove to myself that I am capable of successfully piloting a different horse over a decent-sized course.
I’m young and impatient and hate having to accept the fact that my goals are being delayed, but my parents have been generous enough to purchase another young jumper prospect. Hopefully this horse will eventually be able to take me back up to where I was, and will be able to stand the inevitable comparisons to his flawless predecessor. As the wise adults have been telling me, life goes on!
Laura Listens is brought to you by Laura Ware. Winner of the 2007 LAHSA Junior Medal Finals and a recipient of the 2008 WCAR Jumper Rider Grant, Laura rides with First Field Farm and often trains with Archie Cox. She is very successful in the all three disciplines on her own mounts as well as catch riding other horses.