Against the World

Before each big moment in our lives, I pat Kelso and whisper, “It’s you and me against the world, buddy. You and me.”

This was muttered right before we went down centerline this past summer. It was my first dip into the professional rider pool, was the culmination of my time spent studying classical Dressage at the Pennsylvania Riding Academy, and had the weight of making Paul Belasik proud. My little Wonder Pony swiveled his ear to receive this message, put his head down and got us our First and Second Level scores for our Bronze Medal. He even earned us a nod and a thumbs up from my toughest critic + greatest mentor at the end of the weekend.

It was said to the trailer behind me on each big move we made in hopes of becoming the best we can be; first it was Wisconsin, then to the mountains of Colorado, and finally to Pennsylvania. {Have horse, will travel.}

It was choked out between sobs when a boy I loved fiercely walked away. Kelso carried me and my heartbreak silently through soul-healing trail rides, nuzzled my hair to remind me he was by my side (always had been + always will be), made me laugh by being a goofball when he knew my day needed to be brightened, and held me fast to the things that were still there. He taught me that little things aren’t so little and to pay attention and take joy in them. {In Kelso’s world, this means relishing in every cookie he gets and never taking anything too seriously.}

The steady presence of a rescued pony turned-whatever-I-ask-him-to-be has blessed my life for the last 8 years. That is over a third of it! He has been there to share the biggest joys, worst sorrows, and is the reason behind my greatest accomplishments. He is, simply, my greatest accomplishment.

If you are reading this, you probably fall into one of two categories: You are an innocent friend or family member who is rolling their eyes at how much love I have for a pony. Otherwise, you, dear reader, are lucky enough to say that you have a horse or pony by your side to take on the world.

Maybe you have stood in the stall of a sick horse; it was ungodly late, you were exhausted, but you would not walk away. Instead, you started making offers to God or a deal with the devil in exchange that your world with four legs would make it through the night.

Or, you have given your final salute at X and you tear up because your OTTB got the right canter lead, your horse didn’t jump out of the ring, your flying changes didn’t have kite-like qualities, or you knew you had earned that final score for a medal.

Otherwise, their stall was where you ran when you needed an escape, and their shoulder was the one you leaned into when you didn’t think it was possible to stand on your own. Their mane was cried into during the tough times, and it was what you held onto when life got a little turbulent.

And while they fight the world with you, they also teach you the most important lessons of it, even if you don’t always want to learn them…okay, especially if you don’t want to learn them.

What lessons have I learned?

There are moments to be a gentle leader, and there are moments to be a strong one; sometimes, you have to be both. There is strength and beauty in forgiveness. Think of every mistake you have made while learning something on the back of a horse; if they can forgive these, you can let your grudges go, too.

There is no other world for them. There is no Instagram to check, or number of Facebook likes to get. Put your phone down and have the same presence in your life as they do in ours. Always take an extra minute to teach, and a lifetime to learn. The minute you think you know something, they will remind you humility is a great skill to cultivate. Be humble but be proud of your accomplishments. These accomplishments should scare, inspire and push you, but never get too greedy you forget to play in the pasture.

Not all things are permanent; love the little things because those are what you will carry on the rainy days. Losing what we love is earth-shattering, but it is loving that builds our souls and helps the world go ’round.

I am frequently and stunningly overwhelmed with the love + people that I have in my corner of the world. There is something special to be said about The Wonder Pony, Kelso, though. It has always been, and always will be, us against the world.

With Love and Gratitude,

Erin and Mr. WP

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