When I was a kid, all I wanted for Christmas – every Christmas – was a horse. Actually, a pony. A black Dales pony. With 2 white feet and a star. Not that I thought about it much.
I spent a great deal of my childhood in denial about the possibility of owning a pony: we spent half the year in Florida and half in Canada, which is not an inexpensive proposition for my imaginary pony and my parents.
Fifteen years later, after graduating from university, I visited a ranch in San Diego to enquire about riding lessons. One of the first horses I was introduced to was a green-broke 15.1hh bay Arabian mare named Myriah.
When we approached the gate, she came racing in from her pasture to say hello, so very pleased to have attention and so very excited at the possibility of treats. It was love at first sight. I became a working student and my project was Myriah. Three months later, she was offered to me for purchase and I jumped on the chance quicker than you can say “unrequited pony dreams.”
And so, for almost 15 years, I was the proud mother of a brave, sweet, amazing Arabian mare. We moved thousands of miles together, from sunny southern California to steamy South Carolina to snowy Quebec. She carried me through woods and over streams and down roads and in rings; she kept me company patiently through 2 pregnancies and 4 houses and years of midlife growing pains and life-consuming entrepreneurship. That mare braved bears and deer and horse-eating cows for me; she could float 3 feet off the ground like the hotest halter horse and seconds later be gentle as a lamb with my 3 year old son. She had such a special combination of fire and softness.
I saw her through Cushings, sweet itch, navicular and devastating laminitis. I could treat an abscess with my eyes closed (and so could my 2 year old – I caught her applying diapers to her rocking horse’s feet more than once). I learned to a million ways to disguise the taste of bute and where to get pills of pergolide that she would actually swallow. I researched supplements and hoof boots endlessly.
Even during the years she was retired, and we could not ramble the country roads together as often as we both would have liked, I was just as excited to greet her at the pasture gate as I was way back in San Diego. I know she watched for me too, and sometimes after dinner she would walk up behind me and rest her chin on top of my head and we’d watch the evening fade together.
I lost her this year. We won so many battles but we finally lost the war.
So it turns out that my true dream horse was not black, not Dales, and had no star. She did have two white feet though.
And she was perfect.
Tamara Ensio Johnson, CAN