International Lesson Horse Day Essay Winner: Jazzy

Kelly Lasher introduces us to Jazzy, a lesson pony who touched the hearts of all of her young riders — the gateway to a lifelong love for many.

Kenna Walrath and Jazz. Photo by Aimee Walrath

Jazz. Jazzy. Miss Cut N Stuff. All That Jazz. She went by many names.

Jazzy never picked up her right lead; she wore shoes and special pads to protect her from the discomforts of navicular; she was “low man” in the pasture; and she hated dogs. But this is not what we will remember her by. We will remember her as the lesson horse that was the first and true love of many tiny, big hearts – a first love that taught these riders to feel a canter for the first time (or a “tranter” as we called it), even if it was always on the left lead; a first love that, although her mouth was being pulled on by a tiny human who insisted she “wasn’t listening,” kept her ears perked forward with a smile on her face and a positive attitude; a first love that you could trust with an infant. She really loved her job, especially if it involved peppermints afterwards, and she worked for children until the day before she died. Jazzy was a gateway for many to learn to love these amazing animals, and to love an amazing horse.

Just days ago, I held Jazzy’s head in my arms for the last time and thanked her for being her, and sobbed. Saying goodbye wasn’t in our plans that day, but so it was. Her body looked amazing, round, dappled and gold (although a little furry still from the winter she endured here in New York). She nickered at and nuzzled her 34-year-old pasture companion, Muffin, for the last time, under the night sky, and then we all said farewell. Jazzy was not “my” horse, though I thought of her and treated her as my own, being a “most valuable player” in my lesson program, one that worked very hard for me and gave me her all, and an animal that I adored. She actually belonged to a wonderful family (thank you Aimee and Kenna) that shared her with me during her senior years, and for that I am so grateful and so blessed. Beyond that, she belonged to Maddy, Kaela, Pauly, David, Logan, Kiera, Emma, Sky, Sid, Tabby, Delaney, Autumn, Tori, Bailey, Lillian, Violet, and countless more little, big hearts; the list goes on, and extends over more than a decade, long before I knew her. Jazz dedicated more than half her life as a teacher – maybe all of it. She was bred for cutting, but no doubt, she was a teacher, and the best kind.

Jazzy was a “patient” for vital signs during camp week. She was a super star of the walk-trot classes at horse shows. She was the main attraction at birthday parties. She was an “up-down-up-down-up-down” extraordinaire. I truly don’t believe she would have wished it any other way. But most of all, she was one of the kindest souls I have ever met. Her “naughty” thing to do was to leave the arena wall and come hang out with me in the middle instead while I petted her sweet head and listened to many renditions of why Jazzy “just wouldn’t listen.” Jazzy knew what she was doing, and it makes me smile now to think about it. I have had to explain many times to students that it is the tough rides that make good riders and teach us the most, but Jazzy was anything but tough, and I think she taught us the most. She was an absolute cream puff! She taught us to love. She taught us to trust. She taught us compassion. She taught us patience. She taught us how to remove hair from our mouths and that we shouldn’t wear fleece jackets during shedding season. She taught us hard work and persistence and how to be humble. She taught us about heartbreak, and she taught us how to let go. Jazz showed us how to put others above ourselves, because that’s exactly how she lived her life, selflessly.

She is not lucky for being in our lives; we are lucky for being in hers. No more trantering, Jazzy. You can gallop now, and on your right lead if you so choose. Run free, sweet, sweet, sweet girl. We hope the angels across the bridge know what they have…

Drawing of Jazz by Madison Maury. Photo by Courtney Maury.

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