Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Courage: The Aftermath

I saw Courage the other day.
creeper status
Teresa was here and we drove past his owner's place. He was out in the field with a buddy. He was as stunning as ever.

The thing that struck me the most was his topline.
on-track thoroughbred
3 years post-track thoroughbred
Courage was short coupled and upright and always SO TIGHT through his neck and back. I became the subject matter expect on suppling the anxious horse who held tension right in front of his withers. We did dressage exercises and trail exercises. I learned to use poles and terrain and lateral work and all kinds of things to help him. 

I did everything I knew how to do. I used all my resources to find new ways to help him. 

He built a fantastic neck for a thoroughbred and had a lot of cool buttons, but he was always .05 seconds away from an up-periscope and hard spin/bolt.
you've all seen enough photos of that so let's look at this adorable smoosh instead
So the other day, I saw Courage for the first time in two years. He's a trail horse now--he'll never have to go in a frame and be under pressure again. He spends most of his days out in a big, grassy pasture.

And after two years, that tension is gone.

He looked like a horse.


yup we're back to zb pictures
It was a strangely harmonious moment for me--not just because a horse I cared about for so long is absolutely thriving, but because of what it meant.

I'm a classic overachiever and so much of the past couple years for me has been learning to let go and accept what happens, even if it's messy.
definitely messy

Letting go of Courage felt like giving up in so many ways.

Both of us are in a better place now because of it.

We were never going to get there and pushing and struggling and training and drilling and trying.

I let him go.

A horse that suited me better came my way.

A series of dominos cascaded that I never could have planned.

Sometimes I ask myself if I fought too hard and tried for too long. If asking that was fair to him. If I should have let go sooner. If I shouldn't have posted those fail photos. If there was something else that would have just made it work. If someone else could have done it better.

If I did him a disservice.

I'll never know.

I know that some people try that hard and go that far and they succeed. I know some horses come back from the brink. They grow into lovely performance horses and their people are applauded for what they accomplished.

But I also know that sometimes they don't. Sometimes the struggle isn't worth it. Sometimes the mountain wasn't meant to be overcome. Sometimes the pasture in the valley really is the destination.

Sometimes, failing is the best thing you can do for both of you.

I failed.

Because of that failure, Courage looks better than he ever has. He's living his best life now and he's free to be the horse I always believed he could be.

Because I failed, I spend my time with the smooshiest baby horse who I absolutely adore. We jump and we trail ride and we toodle and we dressage and we play barbies and we laugh.

I'll never be the person I was before Courage. 

I'll never be able to thank him enough for what he taught me.


  1. I totally get the what ifs, but I think it was an important learning experience for you both. Neither of you would be where you are now without it!

  2. I sold my mare a couple of years ago now and seeing the facebook updates of her looking happy and relaxed makes me so glad I 'failed' and gave up. I agree, I don't regret trying because I learned a lot about myself and a lot of the time all that effort creates great things. Sometimes I guess it doesn't, and that's OK. Glad you found the perfect Ms Zoebird, and glad Courage is happy too.

  3. You didn't fail with him, he gave you perspective. Without that perspective, who knows where you'd be or what horse you'd be on. I know it's a failure in terms of the things you said you'd do with him, but it's really just the journey happening for both of you. I'm so glad it worked out so well <3 What a relief to know where he is and that he's safe and happy.

  4. Mistakes/failure are how we grow. Us type A's hate to fail, but failure can lead to incredible growth. Just look at where you are...

  5. oh my god, I feel like I could've written this after runkle passed away. Letting go does feel so much like failing sometimes, but sometimes you have to let go to STOP failing. I really admire the fact that you were able to let go of him without him being taken from you, and that you get to see him happy and relaxed. It's a wonderful gift.

  6. I don't consider you and Courage a failure. He taught you many lessons, and you treated him well and then found him a wonderful home. That's a success in the horse's eyes. Moving forward is never failing.

  7. Wow. This hit home. In more ways than just horses. Thank you for sharing.

  8. It’s a hard road- I know that first hand. The failure comes when no learning happens. Learning rarely looks like ‘winning’.

  9. I love this so much. I wish I'd learned to walk away from things sooner. It's such a hard, but important lesson in life. Also thrilled to hear Courage is doing well <3

  10. We think we know what e want to be when we grow up. Sometimes we follow the career path, and after working it a bit, realize its not right for us. I think its reasonable that animals like dogs and horses are the same way. Being bred or talented for a sport doesn't mean they have the right mind/ love for it. Glad Courage found a good landing. And love Smooshie Face.

  11. I'm glad things worked out so well for both of you. If you had given up sooner, Courage may have ended up in a different home. It may not have worked out so well for him and you may not have learned some of the things you did along the way. Things happen when and how they do for a reason. Who could've guessed you would start and end with a big black mare?


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