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Sidelined No Longer
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Sidelined No Longer

“You’re not getting older, you’re getting better.” – Loving Care Hair Care commercial, 1971

Anyone watching the NFL playoffs is witnessing what can happen when life gives you a second chance. Both Nick Foles and James Harrison were benched this past season. Foles had signed with the Eagles last year as a backup quarterback and Harrison had been sitting on the Steelers sidelines since October. Both were considering retirement due to lack of playing time. But the Eagles’ starting quarterback got injured and the Patriots needed Harrison, so both players have recently stepped back onto the field in stellar fashion, happy to be playing, working and winning.

Horses are athletes too. Anyone who has watched them race each other across an open pasture knows that. As long as they are physically sound and we ensure the proper supplements to keep them that way, we need to let them feel useful. We should also help worktime feel a little like playtime. Isn’t that what everyone wants?

The girls at the stable where I have a work-to-ride lease were sweet to console me this past weekend after my two favorite senior horses passed away within months of each other. Meaning well, the girls immediately started suggesting what other horses in the pasture I could ride.

“Thanks but think I need a break for a few weeks,” I replied. “I don’t mind just mucking stalls for a while, it’s the only time I can be by myself. It’s my therapy time.”

“Riding is the real therapy,” Mary argued. “What about Rocky? He hasn’t been ridden in a while. Or Decker? His owner has been busy with her younger horse lately.”

“Rocky’s 28, the same age Peachie Girl was when she passed on,” I said softly. “How may good-byes do you think my heart can handle? I’ll tell you. It’s already been two too many.”

“There’s a few horses here who haven’t been saddled up lately, so you could take turns on a few of them. But don’t think Rocky’s going anywhere anytime soon,” Mary laughed.

I turned to look in the same direction in which she was staring and saw Rocky rearing, pawing the air at Decker in play, doing his best “Get off my lawn!” impression. Then he spun around and raced to the gate, thinking it was dinner time as he heard some buckets clanging from the feed room.

I laughed too, walking over to the gorgeous bay with the well-rehearsed “I’m starving” look. I slid through the fence, gave Rocky a carrot and he let me wrap my arm around his head in a hug as he munched contentedly. His carrot breath reminded me of my Peachie Girl and I closed my eyes for a second. Then I felt Decker breathing down my neck from the other side and knew our riding days weren’t over.

(Photo courtesy of Jessica Kelley)

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