First it was horse camp. She was six. She got a certificate that she carried around for days afterwards, slept with, and refused to let go of. She was so depressed afterwards, I signed her up for riding lessons.

She was not the typical little girl horse lover. She didn’t like grooming, tying ribbons on the mane, or petting the horse for hours. She wanted to RIDE. So much so, and with such determination that we got her a horse.

Every single damn day, I had to take her to ride the thing. Heat. Rain. Cold. No matter. Then she found out that people who ride horses take their horses to horse shows. So we had to do that, too. In the cold, the rain, the heat, the wind. No matter.

Then that horse wasn’t talented enough. So we had to sell that one and get a better, more talented one. Those people who said that girls lose interest in riding when they discover boys? Wrong. She kept on riding, learning, and going. She spent at least three hours a day at the barn. I kept on driving her there, napping in the car (because it was embarrassing when I did that inside the barn, “My God, Mom!), paying for lessons, tack, riding clothes, and helmets. Another horse. This time for keeps.

High school. College. No let up. She didn’t go away to school, because she didn’t want to leave her horse behind. She didn’t want to stop riding. Thankfully, by then, she drove herself to lessons and shows. Shows all over the country.

Marriage happened. The ceremony was–you guessed it–right in front of her horse’s stall. And graduate school, the start of her teaching career. She kept on riding. We kept on watching her. There were accidents. A broken wrist. Then, one awful day, her horse reared at something that frightened him, fell on her, and broke her pelvis. They both got up, took some days off, and kept on going.

This weekend was Regional Dressage Competition in Lexington, Kentucky. She was there on her newest horse, the one she found when the horse that she loved from childhood through college–the one who looked on as she got married–died after a long struggle. We still mourn.

It was a great weekend. The weather was crisp, the Kentucky Horse Park was as beautiful as always, and Annie did herself proud. She did us proud.

Her passion for riding, her love of horses, and her drive to improve as a rider continues. Her father and I will always be there, on the sidelines, cheering her on. It is a treasured part of all of our lives.

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