… may have also given you your first gray hairs. Katie Paez tells her story.
Maybe you’d owned a horse before this one, maybe not. Either way, he was your first gray horse. In the beginning, you were so excited and naive; you believed that he would be sparkling clean after a bath, that he would dazzle the judges at shows, that you and he would be the envy of the barn, because now you could match your riding clothes to your tack without it clashing with his coat.
Oh, how naive you were.
You realized just how much hard work it was to keep him clean the day before your first show together. You spent hours grooming him with four different shampoos and scrubs and even considered adding bleach. You went home exhausted that night, pride shining in your eyes, knowing you got every single spot out of his coat, those green or brown stains, his mane and tail glistening. You thought to yourself as you drifted off to sleep, “how bad could he possibly get overnight in a stall?”
You arrived to the barn early that next morning, but not early enough. Your sparkling horse from yesterday was replaced by a chestnut, or so you believed until you heard his familiar nicker.
That was the first and the last time you only gave yourself two hours before a show.
You had painstakingly long conversations with your gray over the fact that due to biology, he couldn’t be a chestnut or a bay, no matter how much he wanted to. You sat behind him for hours while soaking his tail in Cowboy Magic YellowOut before a show, just to make sure he didn’t knock the bucket over. Before a lesson, you’d put an admirable amount of time in his grooming, just so your trainer wouldn’t call your horsemanship skills “shoddy” or “lacking.”
You weren’t naive anymore, and you loved your first gray horse, but you really wished he wasn’t gray.
Yet you’d always smile with pride when you saw that he got stained in a hard-to-reach spot. You’d laugh when you walked out to the paddock and he was covered in a fine layer of mud and dust and clay, as though he wished he wasn’t a gray, too.
Yes, it was hard work, exhausting work. But it was great fun, too. You got to spend so many fun hours with your gray goofball.
You bond with a gray horse in a way you don’t bond with a bay or a chestnut or a buckskin. You knew every nook and cranny on that horse, every spot that tickled, every spot that he loved having scratched. You knew the places he loved to dirty up, and admired when he got those hard-to-reach spots.
If you hadn’t been naive, you wouldn’t have learned to love a gray. And life definitely would have been a touch more boring.
My name is Katie Paez. I am 20 years old. I live in New York, USA and have been riding for seventeen years, since before I could even walk. I’m and Equine Management major at a local college out on Long Island. I teach riding lessons at Quogue Pony Farm and live for the days when I can spend all morning mucking stalls surrounded by the gentle company of my equine friends.
What’s YOUR story? We love sharing reader essays and submissions — email yours to [email protected]