Orion wasn’t a horse I “bought” - he was a horse who changed my life in its entirety.
In 2016, I was chosen to participate in the Georgia Equine Rescue League’s (GERL) Trainer’s Challenge. My mom, who passed away Christmas Day, 2015, thought it would be something fun for me to do, and something that would force me to be “brave”. I am not very “brave” in general. After she passed away I was very lost, depressed and .... did I say lost? So participating in the Trainer's Challenge was life changing for me. When we drew our horses to see which ones we would have for the 120 days, I was excited to draw a palomino because my mom always did love a palomino. However, the recently cut 6 year old gelding was NOT my first choice!
A family fostered Orion for 2 months before he came to me. They did such a lovely job with him bringing him back to weight and happiness. He was originally found feral, running on his own in a small town north of Macon, Georgia. And, he was a stallion gelded about 2 months before I got him. Getting to know Orion and his quirks (leaves rustling and any squirrel activity is terrifying) was so much fun. And getting him to trust me was even more fun!
About 3 weeks into the Challenge, he was showing signs of pain, so GERL paid to have him go to the University of Georgia and have a total work-up. He even had a spinal tap! That’s when we found out that the recently healed scars on his right hind were not from barbed wire like we thought, but from a break. It looked like he was hit by a truck. The location was at the height of a bumper as if someone had slammed on the breaks. And, Orion is afraid of all vehicles. We were assigned physical therapy which included hand walking, then hand running. Eventually lunging, and then lunging with cavaletti. When I wasn’t at work, I was with him. Reading to him. Talking to him. Singing to him. And as much as I tried not to, I was falling madly in love.
After our 120 days, we went to the Challenge. Minus the minor set-back of no longer trailer loading (he hit his head on the trailer during the challenge - it was small and he is not), he was a complete rockstar! He was then taken back to his original foster family that night until he could be adopted. But once I got back to my car and arrived home, I began to cry because being without Orion seemed impossible.
While back in his foster home something changed in Orion. I was told he was no longer the delightful happy gelding I had come to know. We spent 9 months apart and I hoped that he and I would just learn to no longer be to be together. I was asked to come visit him and work with him to see if that would help.
Our reunion - my husband Chris (boyfriend at the time) was there for that. Orion and I had a ball that day! He was perfect. He remembered everything we had learned together. He screamed for me when he saw me. But when I left that day, he went back to his poor mood and disposition. Actually, he was worse. We began to discover that Orion equates work with love. He wanted one person who was missing and had been for a while. And he was not happy about it.
Thanks to my newfound bravery that put me in the Trainer's Challenge, I was able to have guts to do something else: marry Chris when he asked. This meant moving my life and my one horse with me to Arizona. However, I ended up having a long conversation with the GERL Adoption Coordinator about Orion. And then another long conversation with Chris about Orion (we started dating about a month before the Challenge, so he knew everything Orion and I had been through). That’s when Chris said “bring him with you.”, and I did!
I had Orion back. Our ridiculous obsession with each other could now continue. We made it to Arizona and the little guy was given the “all clear” by our vet to find a job. The job he chose? Dressage (I was a professional Hunter rider before this went down). So we started our new journey training with Mike Goss as our coach.
That was 3 years ago. In 2018 we made the trek back to Georgia and have found some amazing trainers to work with. We purchased a Pixem System in 2019 - and at the time we had no idea how much we would need it this year! We were able to start training with Mike again while also training with Rebecca Malcolm from Malcolm Event Team. In February of 2020, I took him to a Conrad Schumaker clinic which quite literally changed something in the both of us that made us up our game even harder!
Last year was the year we got him used to traveling to shows. We won 3rd place at the Southwind Dressage and Eventing Association end of the year awards for Intro. We were only able to get to one horse show this year, but what a horse show it was! His first time at Training Level without any other shows all year and he ended up with a 65% score from a very prominent judge. Just prior to this horse show, we had our first virtual lesson with our newest trainer, Lauren Sprieser. While this year has often been described as a dumpster fire, we have been given some crazy opportunities that have helped us to excel.
I don’t want all of the talk of his show record to take away from what he really is, and what I am beyond blessed to witness every day: my soul mate and my very best friend. He lives at home with me. I was able to create a farm where no matter where my horses are, I can see them. When he is out front, he looks into the windows of the house. When he is in the back, he watches the porch to see what I am doing. I believe that the reason he is so successful even when his body is not at 100% and his mind is that of a 4 year old (a naughty one, ha!) is because at the end of the day, we do very much love each other.
He knows I will never do anything to put him in harms way and that I will do my very best to take care of him. And in return? We dance. He gives me everything he has every time we are in the arena. And every morning and every night and every moment in between, our story blooms, and just keeps getting better.