Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Horse of a Lifetime

"Horse of a lifetime". What defines this? For some it is the horse that took them to the highest level of their discipline, perhaps even representing their country in international competition. Most of us mere mortals can only dream of such a thing. There are horses who allow us to achieve milestones such as dressage medals, qualify or win an equitation final or jump the highest jump we have ever jumped. I am sure that Zenyatta's owners and trainer consider her the horse of lifetime. What about the first horse you ever sat on? Special, yes, providing the most wonderful memories, but not necessarily the horse of a lifetime. Whenever I hear that phrase it is usually in connection with a major training or competition achievment.

I have loved many horses in my life. My beautiful Jenny will always hold her own special place in my heart. She was the first horse that I bought as a 2 year old and started under saddle myself. Together we achieved success in competition. No, not at the highest levels, possibly because her career had been cut short by an injury in a trailer accident. Perhaps we never would have made it to Grand Prix dressage, but she certainly had the movement and the moxie.....and we had the time of our lives together. Her character and stoicism are legendary (in my world)and I can't help but smile. Jenny loved life and embraced retirement with the same gusto in which she approached every new challenge.
Surveying her kingdom....

Shortly after retirement

And beautiful baby Nikki....I love her so much. My heart warms when I think about her, and I smile from ear to ear when I put my foot in the saddle for our ride. She shows such promise, and I look forward to our future together while enjoying each day that we have. The first time I sat on her back I wanted to shout from the rooftops about how fortunate I was to have her! Every time I drive to the barn to ride my heart beats a little faster with excitement as I approach the farm, looking forward to the moment I hear Nikki call to me! I don't love her any less than I love Suki. They are my girls and I love them with equal intensity.

But Suki, I believe, is my horse of a lifetime. No, we have not achieved greatness in our sport, and never will. When I bought her I immediately thought: "This is my horse of a lifetime". Well, it turns out that she is, but not in the way that I had originally hoped, or even expected. Yes, we have had some bumps in the road of training, but always pushed on and ultimately overcame. The fire brought new challenges....the first being survival. I can still feel that fear that overcame me as I pulled in the driveway of New Bolton Center that first day.

I wanted to have great success with Suki in the dressage arena, but fate stepped in and changed our course. July 9, 2012 will be the 3 year anniversary of the fire, and so much has happened during that time. Through Suki, I have learned what it means to be a survivor. We have met people in person and through the internet that are inspired by Suki, and in turn we are inspired by them. Some bonds stand the test of time, injury and death. Suki's courage and strong will to live have made me appreciate every day. The world around me seems different as well, because I too, have changed. My appreciation of even the smallest of life's blessngs has ignited a passion to help others and to "give back". I only hope that I can live up to that challenge.

I love that Suki's personality has remained the same, truly demonstrating the meaning of inner beauty. She has shown that to other burn survivors as well, and they too, appreciate her sense of humor and zest for life, in spite of physical scars. I read an article about Zenyatta that talked about how well she transitioned to her new life as a mother. Like Suki, Zenyatta loves to flirt with the camera, and knows when she is the center of attention. I have watched Suki transition from dressage horse in training, to burn survivor with grace and dignity. We can all learn a lesson from her.

I returned last night from a conference and went out to Suki this afternoon. When I called her name she trotted across the field nickering to me, rewarding me with nuzzles and kisses. Yes, she is my horse of a lifetime.


  1. Just beautiful. Fran you really do have a way with words...your posts are always so peaceful and I love your (and Suki's!) facebook updates!

    Holly R.

    1. Thank you Holly. We appreciate your support!

  2. That post brought tears to my eyes! Suki is such an inspiration in her survival and "thrival" - that's my made up word. I feel like I know her personality from your writings. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much for the support and kind words. I love "thrival"! it's the perfect description!

  3. nancy mcnaul applegateJune 21, 2012 at 4:48 PM

    Not only is Suki the horse of your lifetime, you're the mom of HER lifetime; you're the love of HER life. You're are everything to her and without your love and devotion, she would not have made it.

    1. Thank you Nancy. We have a had a lot of support along the way. Much of the success also goes to the many people who have helped us along the way, including support from so many people from around the world! So thank you. People like yourself help us and it is an honor and a pleasure to "meet" so many wonderful people.