Growing up, horses were the glue that bound Melissa Burdette and her sister together. Life eventually cast them in opposite directions, but their shared love for horses still keeps them connected from afar.
I had wanted a sister for nine years. Every birthday, Christmas, and Easter (heck I think I asked the tooth fairy) I pleaded for a companion to end my lonely family life. At the ripe and wise age of nine, I got my wish and immediately after looking at the scrawny, ugly 5-pound baby, I immediately wished her back to my mother’s womb. She clogged up my parents’ time and I was her permanent babysitter for the next ten years.
Growing up at the barn, she became something of a mascot. Instead of pink frilly sneakers, she wore paddock boots stained with manure. She caught frogs in the barn’s pond and grossed out all of my super cool teenage barn friends. As she learned to read, she sat on a stool and read stories to my trusty mount who listened with a careful ear. It wasn’t long before she became as addicted to ponies as I was. I picked out her first pony when she was eight and when Cricket died of Cushing’s two years later, I found her her first Pony Club horse that she brought up through the levels.
For someone I had disliked for so long, horses forced us together. Our horses trailered together for competitions, I was the one who dressed her in her britches at five in the morning before an early show, and I was there to coach her around her first cross country course. Despite all of the annoyance that a younger sibling brings, I was there with the biggest smile when she won her first ribbon. And I was there the day her and her horse (yep the Pony Club pony) left for Ocala, FL, to go ride with the “big guns.” With packed ponies, packed bridles and saddles, I watched my best friend leave in search of big dreams and palm trees.
I miss her. I miss her most on the coldest New Hampshire nights when I am alone in the indoor, for I know that if she was here, she would be riding along side of me… she is as obsessed as I am… and I am in part to blame.
Horses brought us together again a couple of years ago. She was competing a new mount and asked me to do a catch ride on her Westphalian gelding. I immediately said yes! I flew in the day before and after literally no practice on this horse, rode a respectable dressage test, a flawless jumping round, and an almost foot perfect x country course. The ribbon is now tattered, but the memory of that day is alive and well. Two sisters back together again, side by side with horses forever connecting their souls.
Last March, my sister and parents again gave me an offer. My gelding had been adversely affected by Lyme’s disease and became unsafe to ride. Left without an eventing partner, I was offered Esprit, a gorgeous Trakehner mare that had been my sister’s ride and was now for sale. The poor mare left a bright, warm and sunny Ocala to only find herself some thirty hours later in a cold, snowy, but happy farm in New Hampshire.
I knew my sister was a bit sad to see her go, but like horses always have, this mare has again kept us close. Esprit is kind, generous, and has been a huge confidence boost. She has three great gaits, and is a cross-country machine, but on some days, I don’t really think about that. When I place my left foot in the stirrup and climb aboard, I think about how I am sitting where my sister once sat and maybe she isn’t really that far away. Armed with her rap music and a little Chris Ledoux in my iPod, off I go to ride.