I firmly believe that each of us will have one special horse in our lifetime. Yes, we can have many amazing horses that we love greatly, but there is always that one that goes beyond love. Your souls are connected. I met my once-in-a-lifetime horse when I was in 8th grade and, ten years later I fall in love with her more each day.

I don’t come from a particularly wealthy family and I certainly did not inherit the “horse gene” from anyone. But like many horse-crazed youth, I convinced my parents to let me start taking riding lessons once/week. Well, that didn’t last long because soon I was milking two or three lessons each week out of my parents and began convincing them that I needed a horse of my own to get serious about competition. My trainer recommended that we start off by leasing a horse so I could fully understand the commitment and responsibility behind the decision.

After seeing my unwavering interest, my trainer tip-toed around the idea of leasing her futurity prospect, Ladybug (“Bug”). Ladybug made frequent trips to the barn and she was well known for being the fiery and beautiful horse that no lesson kids should be around. My trainer had big plans for Ladybug in the barrel racing arena and she never had any intention of selling this well-bred and talented mare. When my mom casually mentioned to me that we were considering leasing Ladybug and asked me what I thought, I remember gasping dramatically and saying, “oh my gosh she’s the most beautiful horse I have ever seen but she’s crazy!” My trainer knew what she was doing (they always do). She had watched me for hours, lesson after lesson, and knew that I was the calm rider that feisty little Ladybug needed—even if pairing a 14-year-old girl with a 3-year-old barely green broke horse isn’t the most conventional approach.

I rode her for the first time at a barrel race and took her through a few exhibitions. I was used to going to the right first, but she preferred going to the left and immediately told me so by bucking around first. She was going to be no walk in the park, but I accepted the challenge with as much gusto as the amount of sass that she spit back at me. It did not take long for us to bond so I quickly became the girl that would walk around the barn with her horse two feet behind following her every move without a lead rope. It was painfully obvious to my trainer that Ladybug and I were meant to be. We made the plunge and thanks to my supportive parents and many hours of mucking stalls, Ladybug became mine.

We were inseparable. I was either at school, sleeping, or at the barn from then on out, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ladybug and I progressed in our training and just when we were about to begin competing with the big dogs, she came up lame in her front right foot. I remember my mom trying to comfort me by saying “horses come back from injuries, it’s just a limp” to which I responded with hysterical tears because I knew my horse and this was more than “just a limp”. With the help of a large and talented veterinarian team (shout out to equine health insurance), we received the unfortunate news that Ladybug had to retire at the mere age of five. I was devastated. All the hard work I put into her would see no fruition in the competition ring, but I knew Ladybug was more than that. I was quickly presented with a dilemma: if I wanted to continue to compete, I would have to sell Ladybug to afford another horse. But luckily I am hard-headed and chose another route.

In high school, I picked up two jobs (sometimes working 40 hours a week, plus school) to afford a new competition horse, while also paying for the added maintenance of Ladybug, but I wouldn’t take back a penny. While many may see Ladybug as fancy yard art, I see her as a constant source of joy and peace in my life. She’s the one I want to see first after a hard day and she’s the one who still makes me smile after thousands of dollars in vet bills—from lameness to colic (her two favorites) and everything in between. In fact, we have standing jokes at different vet clinics that Ladybug and I are simply accruing frequent flyer miles and will soon have an all-expense paid for trip to Hawaii. On many occasions, I have even been recognized by veterinary staff outside of the clinic, not by my first name, but as ‘the girl that owns Ladybug’. If you ask me, I am 100% content to be forever known as ‘the girl that owns Ladybug’.

She has earned her forever home. Though she isn’t competing in jackpots each weekend and will never run down the alley into the Thomas & Mack, Ladybug is priceless. I have purchased a NIGHTWATCH® halter for her because she is something in my life that I cannot afford to lose. For less than $1 a day, I can have peace of mind knowing that an advanced piece of technology is collecting data on Ladybug’s well-being and will call me in the middle of the night—even though I live miles away—if she becomes distressed. I think it’s a no-brainer.

Thank you Protequus, for this powerful solution to my biggest fear: losing my best friend. ‘The girl that owns Ladybug’ is forever grateful. 

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