Senior year rolled around, and that’s when the stress began. I’ve honestly never been stressed before until I was in my second semester of senior year. That being said, I started leasing Bentley to do the junior hunters and still showing Shaq in our usual classes. I became more involved with school work (sadly) and college searching. We didn’t travel anywhere since I was riding another horse and started at the Springtime in Dixie and Springtime Encore. Coming off of a good year in 2014, I expected good things…I have to say I was a tad disappointed and well…I wasn’t expecting anything fabulous with Bentley since he’s not a big fancy warmblood. Anyways, it seemed as if Shaq and I had taken one step forward and three steps back. It wasn’t what it used to be. I gave it some time. Since we didn’t go anywhere for 3 months, I assumed that we just needed to get in the groove again. We had the same outcome in both weeks of Memphis in May. One of the weeks in May Bentley decided that he really didn’t like the jogs anymore and reared and kicked me in the back. I survived, but that was our last show together. In February, I had a mild bout of mono that had bad side effects and lasted through August. The Germantown Charity came around in which I was a princess for (fun times)… but very, very tiring with showing and mono. It was just Shaq and me this time rather than Bentley along with us. Like i had been the past few months, it wasn’t the best show, and that’s when it happened. I came out if the arena really disappointed. I thought I did pretty much all I could’ve done to help Shaq. I remember Poppy saying that there were a few more things I could’ve done differently, but he didn’t really help me at all. She talked with Mary, and I think we all came to a consensus that it was time to start looking for a new horse. For what I wanted to do, Shaq wasn’t suitable for it. What was really sad to me about it was that when I say jump he says how high. He’d jump anything I asked him to from any distance no matter what the consequences were. I had a rough time that day. I had to work till midnight as a princess that night and fight back the tears from the realization that I had to move on from what I think is the horse of lifetime. Luckily, we ended the week well and got a second in the USHJA 3’3″ medial class. I tried a horse from one of the other barns and honestly had a really hard time doing it. He wasn’t really difficult to ride, but I felt like was cheating on Shaq. I was focused but at the same time I wasn’t. I was sad when I did it. I was told Shaq could be traded the week of the Charity and very quickly refused. It was too soon to let him go, and I sure didn’t want to see him in a sale horse program. That was the last time Shaq showed until November. After multiple conversations with my parents, I finally convinced them to let me bring him to Harvest Time. Between June and November, I got Vic. We got him to be a junior jumper, and like I did before, I had a hard time trying them. Vic was the second horse I rode. I didn’t fall in love with him but I liked him. I honestly hated Shaq before I bought him so I figured if I liked him, that was something. We went back to ride a Vic for a second time and decided to bring him home. I have to admit I was really excited, but I was really really sad at the same time. We ended up officially buying him in late July an had our first show together in August. I’ve never seen a horse more upset than at that point than Shaq seining Vic get on the trailer without him. We had a typical first show and started to figure each other out. I’ve also never seen a horse so happy than when Shaq figured out he was going to the Pony Club show. He walked himself on the trailer. When we were schooling, he was walking around like he owned the place. When we showed that night, I had absolutely no control. I was just telling me where to go, and he was basically telling me to hold on. I remember smiling and tearing up the whole course. He was SO happy. Then Harvest Time came, and he got to go along with Vic. We actually had a good show. I expected it to be our last together which made it bittersweet. We ended up winning a class, and I was beyond proud of him. I was crying walking out of the arena as he walked around like he owned the place again.

Come 2016, Shaq didn’t get to go to St.Louis. I knew he’d be upset and kept myself from going out to the barn so I wouldn’t be upset before I left. I ended up having to work so that helped. When I came back, I was told that he hadn’t been himself, seemed sick, and was more irritable than usual. I walked into his stall, and he legitimately tried to attack me. He’s tossed his head and tried to “bite” me but his neigh was worse than his bite. He did that two days in a row. I became a little more cautious going into his stall and being around him. I even gave him more than enough peppermints, and that didn’t work as well as it usually does. As we go into March, I will again leave Shaq at home while Vic and I travel and show. I’ll have to go through this again and again until something can be figured out. It feels like I’m neglecting my child. Nothing will ever replace him no matter who I’m riding or what I’m doing with riding.

I thought I’d make this into a separate blog, but now that I’ve made it to this point, I might as well continue. It’s hard to let go of something that means so much to you and that you rode for years and years and years. No he’s not the most lovable horse in the world, but he’s unique in his own odd and mysterious way that I’ve come to understand. If he could do what Vic can, I wouldn’t be writing this and I’d be perfectly happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love Vic, but it’ll never be the same. So, when is it the right time to say goodbye to a horse of a lifetime? I hope I never have to. My ideal situation was that he would be retired in my backyard wherever I end up and get to jump on him and go on the trail rides he loves to go on. At this point I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, and it is so difficult for me to say that let alone think it. I want him to have the opportunity to teach someone else all that he’s taught me, but I can’t bear the thought of losing him. It’s hard enough for me right now to only ride him the few days out of the week that I can rather than almost everyday. To me it doesn’t seem fair to him. I wouldn’t say he loves to work, but he sure wants to have fun.

Honestly and truly I’m having a really hard time writing this. When you’re that lucky to have horse like that in your life you never want them to leave. At the point I’m at now with the life choices I have to make I’m facing that problem. It kills me to think that. I may not ride him much now, but I don’t know what I’d do without him. He’s apart of me. I’ve done my best trying to not et too emotional about all of this over the past few years. I’ve noticed recently that I just can’t do it anymore. He’s more than just a horse; he’s my best friend and always will be despite him usually crabby attitude at everything except peppermints and big jumps. No he’s not some well put together horse with a great pedigree and a habit of being careful. He’s big, clumsy, lazy, crabby, among many other things, and the best horse/teacher I’ll ever ride, no matter how big I end up jumping. He taught me that it’s not about the ribbons or the glory or any of the things that come with winning. If you don’t have trust with your horse, you have nothing. Nothing at all. I wish I was able to articulate all that he’s done for me all these years. He means too much to me to put it into words. All that I can say is that I love him. That doesn’t seem like it does him enough justice, but I really don’t know how else to describe it.

I’ll close by saying that if you ever have a horse that means as much as Shaq does for me, cherish it. I hope it lasts for you. I really do. Enjoy riding and don’t worry about the color of the ribbon. If you want pink, get pink. I like pink. One show I wanted 7th place because I like purple, and I went out and got it (just so long as it wasn’t white…can’t stand those). He made me humble. Or at least I like to think that. Show only if you enjoy it. If it’s not fun it’s not worth doing. Let your horse teach you. It’s ok to mess up. It really is. You don’t have to be perfect. Although we all want to be. It’d make riding a whole lot easier, but I guess that’s the fun part about it. A lot of people like a good challenge and the ones who are willing to accept that challenge end up being victorious in the end. It’ll come. Promise.