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Princeton

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By any means, he wasn’t a typical family member, teammate, or friend. He was over 6 feet tall and weighed over 1000 pounds. He was black, white, and brown. He never even said a word to me, but I was closer to him than I am to some people that I have talked to for hours. We just understood each other. I still can see in my mind the cool breeze blowing through his dark black mane. I can hear the sound of his feet drifting across the ground. I remember the way a friendly whinny or a soft nuzzle could always make my day better even if all I wanted to do was cry.

During the past year, I experienced a setback concerning my horse, Princeton. I came to know Princeton when, as a result of my development as a rider, it became appropriate for me to advance to a horse that was capable of jumping higher then my current horse. After riding and trying a variety of horses over several weeks, I was beginning to become discouraged that I couldn’t find a new teammate. Then I met Princeton. I knew as soon as I saw him walking down the aisle that he was the horse for me. He was gorgeous, and as soon as I looked into his nervous eyes I felt attached to him. He needed someone just like I needed him. We decided to make Princeton part of our family.

Some of my happiest hours were spent with Princeton just sitting on a fence while I watched him eat grass. I wouldn’t trade anything for the moments I was lucky enough to spend with this horse. I spent most of my time taking care of this gentle giant. I rode Princeton daily for 3 years, and in at least 24 horse shows. We came to know and respect each other, and slowly I gained his trust and the nervous look in his eye went away. Princeton wasn’t just a horse to me, he became my friend and my teammate. Together we were successful in almost every horse show. At the end of 2006 horse show season, we won the Novice Hunter division, and during the 2007 season we won the Open Hunter division for the Northern Illinois Hunter Jumper Association. Princeton didn’t just help my skills as a rider improve, he helped me become more responsible.

However, things have a way of changing. In October 2007, it became apparent to me and my riding instructor, that Princeton wasn’t capable of developing as necessary to keep up with the improvement of my riding skills. This was really hard for me to soak in. I considered the alternatives, but no option seemed right. They included: continue riding Princeton , lease him out to other riders, or sell him. My heart felt like it was breaking when I realized it was time to sell this horse that I had grown so close to.

As soon as I thought this difficult matter could not get worse, it did. Shortly after Princeton was placed with a horse trainer to be evaluated then sold, Princeton was seriously injured, and multiple veterinarians ultimately concluded that he would never be able to jump again. I was hurt, furious, and disappointed. I felt guilty that I had decided to sell this horse that had learned to trust me, and as soon as he left my world he got hurt. Once more, none of my options seemed right. They were: lease Princeton out to beginner riders, find someone who would adopt him and provide a good retirement home for him, or turn him over to the equine insurance agency and let the insurance company determine my friend’s fate. Following much research and many phone calls, it was discovered that the economics of retiring Princeton to beginner riders would not work, and no retirement barns in the area were nice enough for me to retire my teammate in. The only alternative that appeared to make sense was to turn Princeton over to the equine insurance agency, and pray they would find him a good home.

Fortunately, the local insurance agent agreed to find a retirement home for Princeton, so even though he was turned over to the equine insurance company, my family and I were ensured that he would not be euthanized. Today, Princeton is retired on a farm in Indiana. He lives a horse’s dream. He goes outside all day and gets to eat grass. A girl comes and takes care of him every day just like I used to.

The set back was resolved by considering all of my options: ethical, emotional, practical, and economic. Even though, the wrong decision was made the first time, I still had to follow my gut and try to give my companion the best option he could get since he had no say in the matter. The outcome confirmed for me that there are difficult decisions to be made in life, many times with no happy ending. Also, responsible decision making is possible when all available information is considered, even in difficult emotional situations. I learned that it really is true that, “sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.” If something happens in the future, I will react the same way but with more confidence.





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Kestrel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm
Nice job. Did you apply to Princeton by chance? :)
 
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