Your Turn: Learning to Let Go

“Giving up doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds.”

Megan Kiessling blogs at Go Big Or Go Home about the trials and tribulations of retraining OTTBs. In spring of this year, she lost her equine partner Runkle to a pasture accident; in early summer, she found her next partner Indy.

Two weekends ago should’ve been my two year anniversary with Runkle. I think what’s incredible about that statement is it felt like our time together stretched much longer than two years.

Day one: Runkle. All photos courtesy of Megan Kiessling.

Every day I spend with Indy, the residual grief from Runkle’s passing cracks and flakes away. I find joy in doing my normal every day activities again. When I think of him now, I don’t cry over his loss anymore. The presiding emotion is usually guilt.

Day one: Indy

I’ve been staring my guilt in the face, trying to understand where it came from and why it’s looking at me like that, so accusatory. In mid August I took Indy to his “first show” and jumped him in a field he had never been in before. I rode him outside after two weeks of stall rest without wearing full battle armor. I didn’t miss Runkle at all, and for that I feel guilty.

I don’t miss his unpredictability. I don’t miss his myriad of injuries because he refused to chill out in the field. I don’t lunge or suit up in my cross country vest for every ride. I don’t even know where my neck strap is, and I never rode Runkle without it. I find myself planning fun trail rides for the fall: I want to hit some hunter paces and maybe even go to the beach.

Do you know how fun it is to get on your horse and not worry he’s going to plant you into the ground like a carrot? Indy leads without a chain, is pleasant in the stall, friendly to his herdmates and has a steady, workmanlike demeanor.

This past weekend for my birthday my trainer was away on vacation as well. The thought of both of us being away and Runkle being “alone” (in quotes because I keep him at an excellent boarding barn so he’s never alone) would’ve tied me up in knots. I would’ve been fretting the entire time, struggling to piece together people to ride him and check up on him while I was gone.

Instead of all that I had the best ride ever on Thursday, groomed Indy, kissed his nose, wrote a note that I was out of town and left. I had a wonderful, stress free vacation. On Tuesday I came back, after he had four days off, and rode my horse. I didn’t fly a kite on a lunge line or call my next of kin. He was a little rusty but happy and ready to work.

Runkle never got four days off in a row. Ever. Even when I broke my stupid pinky I used ALL my savings to try and keep him in work. Just two days off made me nervous; I wrung my hands and waited for the call that he had broken all four of his legs out in the field.

I’m incredibly stubborn, and I never would have given up on Runkle. I would have made it work. I was obsessive and not always happy but we were surviving and making progress. My life is better now with Indy. I loved Runkle, and I’ll always love Runkle. That doesn’t mean I have to miss him. The grief and guilt over him ebbs, and what’s left is hope, peace, and (I’ll admit it!) a little bit of relief.

I admire the people who are strong enough to let go of horses. I didn’t have the strength to admit that I wasn’t having fun anymore and that maybe I should give up. Even typing that makes my blood curl. I hate giving up. But sometimes I wish I would. Giving up doesn’t have to be as bad as it sounds, because an ending allows for the beginning of something new. Something better.

Megan is a numbers nerd who dabbles in writing and running. She is also a Professional Unprofessional rider working with her OTTB Indy.

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