You Have to Get Back Up


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Two and half years ago I lost my horse, Harriet. She had a microscopic hole in her stomach and could not survive the extensive surgeries needed to find it, let alone repair it. I never knew what a broken heart felt like until I lost her. She was everything to me. She was the one constant in my life during my mother’s cancer and my parent’s divorce. I raised her myself and trained her to become a brilliant dressage horse. Every time she hurt, I hurt, and vice versa. I knew her every thought and she knew mine. It was a bond unlike any I thought possible. As cheesy as it sounds, she was my best friend who somehow made everything ok.

I always thought it was too dramatic when I’d hear stories of someone quitting something they love because they’d suffered a loss due to it. I felt like that only happened in movies and wasn’t what real life was like. I was wrong. When I lost Harriet, I learned what it was like to feel empty, to be angry at God, and to think life was unfair. I cried for weeks, stopped talking to people, and stayed in my bedroom when I wasn’t at school. My chest ached and I felt like I had a hole in me. Part of me was gone and it burned. They say when you fall off of a horse you have to get back on so you won’t be afraid to ride again. That’s the most valuable lesson that life has taught me, to get back up. This time, however, I stopped riding. Until today.

I rode my first horse in over two years today. His name is Murphy and he belongs to my sister. When I woke up this morning I didn’t want to do it. I felt just as I have since Harriet passed- reluctant, and like I was betraying her. I thought getting on Murphy would be this dramatic event that you read about in novels or see in those horse movies where someone is hospitalized and it takes years before they can even walk again. It wasn’t. I got on Murphy and everything flooded back to me. Things just felt right. Never once did I try to pretend I was on Harriet because she moves differently than any horse I have ever been on, but it was nice just to ride again and have that familiar feeling that had been missing for so long.

I can’t help but notice tears welling up in my eyes as I write this, but riding today made me feel like a part of me has returned. It’s a part of me I haven’t had for a few years and wasn’t sure I’d ever have again. I miss Harriet more than I ever thought imaginable, but I know she lives in our horses, and I know she lives in me. Every night I look up at the stars and I pick the one that stands out to me most. I close my eyes, see her face, and whisper good night to my best friend who watches me from above. Tonight, when I wish her sweet dreams, I know she’ll smile back and be proud that I got back up today.