For as long as I can remember, I’d wanted a horse of my own. Around the time I was 10 years old, my parents bought their first house. It was on an acre of land and the side yard seemed SO huge. I was certain that we could easily fence it in and I could have a horse. Our yard backed up to a gigantic corn field, which extended along the side of our yard up to the road. In my childhood mind, it was totally feasible for my parents to simply ask the farmer if they could buy that little acre chunk of land so I could have my own horse. I remember riding my bike, tying shoestrings to the handlebars so I could hold them like reins. I read horse books. Drew horses. Collected Breyer’s horses. Wore all the horse shirts. One year at the end of the school year, my mom told us she had a surprise for my sister and it. She said it was something we could ride, and it came in all different sizes and colors. Well, it MUST be a horse, right? My sister and I had names picked out for our horses that we were sure we were going to be surprised with that weekend. It turned out we were going to a carnival… which ended up being a huge let down from my inflated idea of being surprised with a horse of my own!
In 6th grade, I met a girl who was just as horse crazy as I was. Andi Langham. Together we schemed up a big plan to buy our own horses. While we schemed and planned, we would stack pillows on large moving boxes and ride them like horses.
Our dreaming and scheming wasn’t for nothing. I had a pretty steady babysitting job that paid well and I worked lots of hours. I had a goal and a dream and I was going to make it happen. I figured out how much money I could make each week, or each month, and stored it in a gallon glass jug in my closet. Every so often I’d take it to the bank and save up my statements, and write down my new balance, how much I had left to earn, and approximately how long it’d take me to earn it.
Looking back, I was so naive and had not a clue about horses… but that didn’t stop me. I remember Andi and I calling sale ads in the paper, and horse stables and asking “Do you have any ‘dressage’ horses for sale?” (Dressage… (dreh-sazh) is a form of competition riding where the horse and rider perform very controlled, graceful movements). What’s funny about that is 1) we were pronouncing it “dress-idge” and 2) we had nowhere near enough money saved up to ever afford a dressage horse. HAHA!
Neither of us had a place to keep our horses, once we bought them, so we decided we’d try to find somewhere nearby to keep them. Andi lived in a really nice neighborhood across the road and on the other side of a field from my house. Her neighborhood was fairly new, and there were empty lots for sale still. The owner of many of the parcels lived in her neighborhood and I shit you not… we went right up to her door and asked her how much it would cost to buy a lot and build a small lean to on it for horses. We were told that we couldn’t have horses on those lots and both of us were so pissed off that she thought she could tell us what we could keep on our own land if we bought it. Since we didn’t have money to buy land, we decided we needed to find a barn to keep them at. So, we found a barn a few miles down the road that had horses and asked her if we could board there.
Andi was the first to buy her horse and shortly after, I found Lacey… she was a 3 1/2 year old Belgian x Missouri Foxtrotter and I probably had no business purchasing a young horse as a completely beginner rider. I was 13, and I really don’t know that I’d ever ridden a horse by myself other than Andi’s horse! I think back on it now and I wonder if my parents had ANY idea how horrible of a combination that was. I vaguely remember going to a house to ride her, and deciding to buy the western saddle with her for $300 more. I had saved up close to $1,200 in less than a year.
From that point on, I was responsible for this horse. I paid for her feed and board. I paid for the farrier to trim her hooves. I paid for the vet and anything she needed extra. I kept multiple envelopes in my top drawer of my dresser, each one labeled with whatever expenses I had to take care of monthly. When I got paid for babysitting, I’d sort my money into the envelopes, and sometimes have a little extra in my “extra spending” envelope, but not often. (Looking back, I have no idea where I learned this from. This is such a Dave Ramsey tool… maybe Andi’s parents had taught her this and I learned it from her? Was he even around in the 90’s? Wait. I GTS and turns out Financial Peace University started in 1994… so it’s totally possible!) Now that I have a 13 year old myself, I can’t believe that I had the diligence to work toward this goal at that age, and to have the responsibility of financially taking care of her!
I had Lacey until I went to college, and then my good friend took her as I was too busy and preoccupied for horses in that stage of life. I went to college, got married, had babies… and sadly rarely rode. I remember before deciding to have our first baby I wanted to get a horse and get back into riding before having kids. But financially it wasn’t feasible. After I had Amelia, Barbie and Simon were trying to find a home for Lacey and their other horse. They’d bought a lake home and knew they weren’t going to have their home and land much longer. At the time I had a 7, 5 and 1 year old and had no intentions or thoughts of having a horse again. Barbie had asked me if I wanted her back and I declined…. thinking there was no room in life anymore for horses. But then one day, while we were camping, Barbie called me one day and said “Someone is coming to pick up the horses tomorrow. I don’t know if I can let her take them” And I just said “Don’t. I’ll take Lacey back. I’ll figure it out!” I couldn’t imagine not knowing what happened to her in her last years of her life.
In the horse world, there’s a term called “heart horse“. Much like finding your soul mate, finding your heart horse means you’ve found the horse who truly understands you, who makes you feel proud and strong and whole again, and who you trust and love unconditionally. Lacey is without a doubt my heart horse. We began together knowing nothing… to learning how to deal with behavior like bucking and spooking, learning to show, riding thousands of miles of roads and trails together over the years, and dealing with her crazy mischief. I feel 100% confident on this horse and trust her completely. And I’m pretty sure she feels the same. There’s a special bond, her and I. And just the thought of her passing makes me want to crumble. It’ll be like losing a child, that’s for sure. She’s 27 this year, and if I could figure out a way to keep her alive forever I would.
And so here we are… life has come full circle. I am getting this amazing privilege of seeing my daughters love on this sweet mare whom I loved on when I was just a girl, and knowing that she’s spending the rest of her days loved and cherished like she deserves.