Keep Riding

Losing a horse can be heart wrenching and, in many cases, can make someone want to give up riding. But here are some ways to keep horses in your life — and your heart — if you’ve suffered the loss of a beloved equine pal.

Spartacus. Photo by Jessica Fox

There are a lot of us out there browsing horse sale ads or sites like this one, getting teary, and then thumbing over to Instagram to browse dog memes instead.

You know. We, the horseless.

When I unexpectedly lost Spartacus two and a half years ago, devastated, shattered, bereft…they’re all words that don’t quite capture how much it hurt. Not just at the loss of my friend, but also the loss of place. Suddenly, I had a ton of time on my hands, time I’d spent grooming, riding, shopping for, and thinking about Spartacus. I also had less to do—the barn was a huge part of my life and I didn’t have a real reason to go.  My grief was compounded by a profound sense of being adrift. Though my barn friends and I very much kept in touch (and still do), it didn’t feel the same. I wasn’t a part of things, and it made the suckiness of losing a horse suck that much more.

Spartacus. Photo by Jessica Fox

I know I am not the only rider to experience this misery. Because of it, a lot of us stop riding and try to take up some other hobby, like yoga or Pilates or running or baking.  To this I say, don’t you dare. It’s true that getting back on a horse isn’t easy, but the alternative—cutting horses out of your life indefinitely—is harder. I mean, you’ve got all the gear, and I know you miss their soft noses.

Here are some things to consider if you’re dealing with a nasty case of horselessness:

  • Take more lessons. If your barn doesn’t have school horses, find one that does and schedule yourself for at least one lesson weekly. Or more. I hate to say it, but you’re not paying board, so…
  • When friends offer you rides on their horses, take them up on it. Even if it’s just a short hack.
  • Half- or full-lease a horse. He or she won’t be your horse, but before you know it, they’ll own a piece of your heart. Despite the sadness, there’s nothing that fills your heart with joy like being on the back of a horse.
  • Volunteer at a rescue. Rescue organizations always need help with grooming and care. Just being around horses is healing, plus you’ll feel involved and that you’re making a difference.

Spartacus being a ham during a pedicure. Photo by Jessica Fox

  • Get another horse. It sounds crazy, but sometimes that’s what you need to do. A dear friend said to me once, “Wouldn’t Spartacus want you to give all the love and care you gave him to someone else?” The answer is yes. Yes, he would. Just like I’d want someone else to love and care for him as much as I did. I actually did this—got a new horse a few months after Spartacus passed. I adopted an OTTB straight from the track named Ramiro. He and I became fast friends, and though our story didn’t quite end as I’d envisioned, having him in my life however briefly was wonderful. Since then, I’ve kept riding, and I encourage you to do the same!

Go riding!

Jessica and Spartacus. Photo by Jessica Fox