The Academic Equestrian: A Birthday Surprise

Haley gets the best birthday gift ever.

Photo by Rose Ruffner.

Photo by Rose Ruffner.

My riding coach/life coach/adoptive grandfather Harry Hurd and I have close birthdays, so we usually celebrate with one family party. This year, I promised him peach pie and bought a voice recorder — as he had mentioned before, “for when I’m old and crippled, so I can tell all my stories and you’ll have them to write about later.” At a mere 77, he’s neither old nor crippled, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get a head start. He has a lot of stories to tell, after all.

We opened each other’s gifts one after the other—after he had examined the casing for his recorder (“How does this work? Oh, I’ll have to read the book”), I went on to open my card from him.

Instead of a birthday card inside the envelope, I found registration papers to a five-month-old colt at Harry’s barn. Utter disbelief was my first reaction. Maybe the birthday card was sitting at Harry’s house on the dining room table, and he had taken the wrong envelope. I flipped through the papers and found my own name under “Owner,” but even then I wasn’t sure I was reading clearly through the tears in my eyes. I looked from Harry to the papers and back again, and he just grinned.

In the accompanying gift bag, I discovered a giant bag of baby carrots, and my gift from my parents was a tiny red halter, lead rope, and blanket. The next morning, I went to visit my new baby, who was pleased with the attention and so patient with me fawning over him in his little red sheet. I introduced him to his new big brother, Cricket, and it was love at first sight: Cricket is just as excited to have a baby as I am.

All week, we’ve been practicing our leading skills (a week and a half ago, he wasn’t halter broke at all) and ponying him from Cricket. His nose is impossibly soft and his fluffy baby winter coat makes the him the perfect texture and size for snuggling. Following a long evening at the barn earlier in the week, my mom texted me to say “Are you still pinching yourself?” I have a feeling that I’ll be pinching myself for a long time — it’s hard to believe that such a perfect tiny creature somehow belongs to me.

Haley is the author of Horse Nation’s “Academic Equestrian” series, following her collegiate experience as she balances her studies with participation on the varsity equestrian team and time with her own horse. Catch up on past columns by clicking the #ACADEMIC EQUESTRIAN tag at the top of the page!

Haley Ruffner is attending Alfred University, majoring in English with minors in Business and Equestrian Studies. She owns a Quarter horse gelding At Last An Invitation, or “Cricket.” Haley is the captain of the AU western equestrian team, and also competes in reining and loves trail riding.

Photo courtesy of Haley Ruffner.

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