Back on Track ‘Horse Therapy’: Erin & Hugo

Each week we share reader-submitted essays about the special horses that have made a difference in our lives. Today Erin Batstone tells the story of her relationship with Hugo, a horse that dodged death twice before finally finding his forever home.


Erin and Hugo having a laugh as they beat the summer heat

I’m never sure which of us got the other back on track. I’m not sure I can even truly say either one of us was “off-track.” What I do know, is that I am one hundred times happier with him in my life (and I’d like to think he’s happy to have me too). Hugo is my 15.3hh Paint x Quarter Horse gelding with enough heart to get us both through everything. He is a 10-year-old chestnut overo and has one brown eye and one blue eye, making him quite the looker!

I feel I have to go back a bit for Hugo’s side of the story. A friend bred him, and I was able to learn some of his backstory. Hugo was born “dead” (yup), and had to be resuscitated. Right off the bat, Hugo had to get himself “back on track”! He spent his early years at his breeder’s farm, and was broke western (and apparently even taught to drive!) He was later sold, and here’s where his life takes another twist.

Hugo’s breeder was later contacted and told that Hugo had been sent for slaughter (the reasons are unclear). He was thankfully rescued by a local rescue. From the rescue, he was given a new home and came to be boarded at the barn I ride at. He was there for about a year, enjoying light work, when his owners decided to sell him due to a lack of time.

Erin and Hugo at a horse show last year

Erin and Hugo at a horse show last year

My barn owner purchased him for her riding school. I saw him being ridden by another girl in a lesson one day, and just knew he was the horse for me. I leased Hugo from my barn owner for a few months, teaching him to jump (which he has proven to have a real talent and love for). I then made the leap into first-time horse ownership, and purchased him from my barn owner.

I’ve now owned Hugo for about a year, and he really is my therapist. He tries so hard to make me happy. I recently went through a tough patch (nothing crazy, just a job that created so much misery in my life, I was starting to feel physically ill), and Hugo was one of the few things that kept me sane. Every time I saw him, he reminded me what I had to be happy about, and he kept me on track. He got me through each day, and was always willing to have a cuddle and be a mane to cry in on the really bad days.

I’ve since found a job I love, but Hugo is still my therapy. Together, we’ve tackled fences I’m not sure I’d have been confident enough to try (4’3” this summer), and have our sights set on continuing our showjumping successes. He challenges me to be a better rider, and I want to keep improving for him. I’d like to think we keep each other on track, and I don’t know where I’d be without my painted boy.

Here at Horse Nation, we believe that the best therapists are our own horses. We love sharing the stories of special equines and the lessons horses have taught us — email yours to [email protected] to be featured in an upcoming edition of Back on Track “Horse Therapy.” Go Back on Track, and Go Riding!


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