Do you remember the horse who taught you how to ride? The horse you first felt a special connection with?
I do, and her name was Magic. I was just a kid around 10 years old, fascinated by horses and riding. Magic was a senior flea bitten grey mare. She had one blue eye and one brown, and when I washed her off or she got extra sweaty in the Texas heat you could see black paint spots hidden underneath her white hair. I think some would call her a "ghost paint", but all I knew was that she was cool, and as my first official lesson horse deep in my heart she was "mine".
I don't know if it was her age or her personality, but Magic was stubborn. When other kids would ride her she'd plant her hooves in the sand and refuse to budge no matter how much their tiny legs kicked. Somehow though her and I would always work things out. We rode western together and she loved pole bending. Her tail would fly as we "galloped" through the poles (which for Magic wasn't actually very fast). I spoiled her rotten and even though she wasn't really mine I purchased her her own blue halter and lead rope. You know, so that her one blue eye would stand out.
Eventually my instructor told me I had advanced passed Magic's abilities and so I began riding a brown lesson horse named Coco. Even so, I always made a point to go see Magic in the pasture or in her stall to say "Hello" and give her a Citrus Star, her favorite treat. The little girl I was treated her as if she were my personal pegasus as I'm sure many little girls do.
One day, Magic wasn't there anymore.
I was reflecting on Magic not too long ago when a friend shared a post on Instagram about summer camp horses being shipped to auction. The more I thought back, the more vivid the memories of Magic came to be. That's when I remembered a piece of information I had blocked out all of these years - my instructor telling me that she had gone to auction.
I remembered looking for her one day at the barn, and the sense of betrayal I felt when my instructor told me where she went. It wasn't her fault. The horse belonged to the stable owner, not her. I just couldn't believe it! I didn't get to say goodbye. Was Magic scared? I was reassured by my parents and instructor that she would find a loving home at the auction. Worried, I begged my parents to go to the auction and find her. "Win" her at a low price! Not being horse people themselves however, the answer was no. I clung to the idea that wherever she went, she'd be happy. But as other kids joked that she was going to turn into "glue", my heart broke. I was just a kid, but I knew this was wrong.
Now in my thirties and having been around the block a few times, I know the sad but true fate of many horses like Magic. Unwanted due to their lameness. Unwanted due to their age. Unwanted because they can't handle as many lessons as they used to. Horses sent to auction for these reasons unfortunately don't end up at loving homes wishing to retire them for the rest of their days. If they're lucky, they may be snatched up by a horse rescue. The unlucky ones end up on a truck to slaughter.
Lesson horses give us such a gift. They teach us hard work, respect, the love of riding, the love of horses, the love of the sport... If it weren't for lesson horses many of us would not be where we are today in our equestrian journeys. Do they not deserve a full life of love and care for that?