Joni + Charlie
What exactly is the “Right Horse”? For me, it was a horse that changed my retirement lifestyle, gives me incredible joy every day, and who proved that where there is a will, there is a way!
Since retiring two years ago, I had been volunteering and fostering at Days End Farm Horse Rescue. Like anyone reading this, I’d always loved horses, but hadn’t ridden in 45 years, and was happy just being around them and helping those in need. I had been fostering Charlestown (“Charlie”), a very sweet, gentle OTTB for five months when foot surgery prevented me from going to volunteer or foster for three months. When I finally was able to walk well enough to volunteer, I actually considered asking to foster a new horse, one that would teach me new things. After all, Charlie had not seen me in three months, and he did have a second foster to provide him some extra attention. Charlie had other ideas, however! At our reunion, he was his usual affectionate self – until I turned him loose in the field. Then he would not leave, opting to stand very close for more petting. I petted his neck a few times, told him what a sweet boy he was, and prepared to turn away. Charlie put his head on my shoulder and waited. More petting was obviously required! This went on for about 10 minutes, after which I finally gave him a push to clear the gate area for other horses coming through, but Charlie’s mission had been accomplished – I was hooked!
When I heard a prospective adopter was considering Charlie, I realized I did not want to lose him and applied to adopt. I knew he was the right and only horse for me, but I was not necessarily the right adopter for him, as he needed a rider with some experience. So I started a crash course of riding lessons, as many days a week as the instructor could take me, sometimes five a week. My calm, beginner lesson horses did not prepare me for my first pre-adoption screening ride with Charlie – he totally ran away with me! Then a few days later my lesson horse spooked and we parted company mid-trot. It occurred to me that perhaps I was not on a sane course of action, especially given my age. I told myself I should just be grateful to Charlie for getting me riding again, but every time I tried to accept letting go, I could not do it. Meanwhile, other adopters were considering him, and it felt like a race to improve my riding skills sufficiently before someone else took him home. With my riding instructor’s help, I moved on to bigger and bigger, more forward horses, until I was able to squeak by riding Charlie, and we were approved for adoption!
A month later, Charlie and I are a happy, relaxed team at his new forever home, whether it is riding, playing on the ground, or just hanging out. Spending a few hours every day together, our bond has quickly grown even stronger, and Charlie is flourishing with the extra attention. I am amazed at how calm and patient he is under saddle, or when being introduced to new objects. I am sure my improved riding skills helped, but I really do think he also just wants to be a good boy for me.
I know Charlie is my “right horse” for so many reasons, but never more strongly than when we simply stand close together content in each other’s company. I never dreamed I would become a first-time horse owner in my retirement years, but this former racehorse and rescue horse has been the greatest gift I could receive. Charlie gives me to trust, love, exercise, and fun. Together we will have new adventures in the years to come.
What #RightHorse means to me
The #Righthorse is the one who fills your heart with joy. The one you cannot turn away from. The one who gives you his all, and you have to do the same in return.