Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charge into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword…In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground. Job 39:19-24
There I was, I had just been eliminated from my second consecutive horse trial… at Novice.. in show-jumping. Having just made a huge life-changing decision to become a working-student for Allison Springer, here I was bawling with my Mom driving the trailer back to Middleburg. Expecting to arrive at my new position with awes and ooh’s at what a naturally talented rider I was, I had now become the biggest embarrassment. Was there even a reason to continue with this sport? I have perhaps ruined my own six-year old sport pony by pushing him too hard. My ego was flattened, crisp.
On arrival home, I was given orders I would no longer be jumping my own pony, and an older competition horse of Allison’s would be arriving that I might have lessons on. Who would have known that horse to be Allison’s own Destination Known. The 2009 USEA Reserve Champion Horse of the Year, multiple time 3*** horse, and her own heart horse beside Arthur.
The first time I rode him, I had been sent out on a trot set. Terrified, my confidence crushed, I knew that if I was going to continue I needed to be confident cantering him. I may have cantered 10 strides. Breathing a sigh of relief, I moved forward.
The next few lessons weren’t beautiful. He actually, while I had jumped down to set fences on my first jump lesson, escaped and ran the quarter mile back to the barn. Running after him, fortunately I found him unscathed and unaware… Ok, he was definitely aware of that trick he pulled.
After that initial trot set, I was never scared of him. A jump up from my connemara pony at 16.3, I began to trust that if any horse could do it, it would be Burger. We ran one horse trial at Training Level that fall. As planned my return trip home to finish school was approaching, discussion was brought up of my purchasing Burger once my pony sold. This happened quickly, and suddenly this infamous horse was mine. How undeserving I was, and completely awe struck. This celebrity would be traveling home with me and hauling in my 1980’s two-horse bumper pull in Alabama.
He did. We moved up to Preliminary that spring. With finishes with no jump penalties, our last even we ran at Red Hills. Burger was my best friend, biggest confident, and such a huge impact on my riding career after Allison herself. Sometime’s our theme song correlated to Dressage Skillz, but for a rider who not six months earlier couldn’t get around Novice, to finish at Red Hills at Preliminary was so rewarding. It’s really unbelievable.
The summer after, he came up a bit short behind. An ultrasound showed a slight torn suspensory. We rehabbed, but what more did this horse have to prove? Oh, if there was ever one horse I adored going on walk hacks with it was Burg. You couldn’t really text and ride, because despite running Rolex, cats, barn doors, ghosts were sure to spook him. Once comfortable, he went home to live at my parents. He became the best friend of our connemara stallion colt.
I really can’t even put into words how one horse can have such an affect on someone’s life or how you can love an animal so much. It’s silly; we retired him just over a year ago. When I go home we hack, or sometimes I just sit on him bareback no bridle or halter. Maybe I’ve just gotten more sentimental or this year’s taken a toll on my heart, but Burg was so special and such a priority in mine.
Maybe it was his character. He was always a ham. Yet, so honest and careful. You knew he was terrified of the ghosts outside the ring, or barn doors, but if you asked he would always comply. Every fence, whether I was backwards or forwards, he went. His body shape: a bit of a short upside-down neck, body parts from all sorts of horse put into one. It would appear impossible he made some of the feats he did.
It’s still hard, because I wonder to myself. Should I have given him more Previcox, scheduled more chiropractic appointments, had more injections. If one retired horse deserved it; it would be this one. I look at his career, even before I began riding him, and the big bastard was a star. After running my initial prelims, and having an upcoming prelim horse behind him, I felt he had no more to prove. It would have been selfish of me to continue pushing him, or more rehabbing only to have a future injury. Upcoming 17, years of running at the higher levels, common sense and adoration for this animal knew it was in his best interest to send him home.
However, while I made visits home, and he seemed quite content munching with beautiful mares nearby, I still felt guilty. Our daily walk hacks had kept him conditioned, when he’s conditioned he’s stronger and sounder. Would the lack of work be worse? We had better days and worse days, my happy old man. A college student I had a job, making a small living I had to choose whether to spend money on a competition or schedule a chiro to go to my parent’s farm. I still don’t know whether I made the right decision. I don’t regret a dime I spent on him, but think if I had just skipped that competition on this new horse maybe I could have had my parents schedule more appointments to have his hocks done.
On Christmas morning, I went out. Fed the big guy. Stuffed my face in his neck because Burger fur smells the best. I noticed he was a little long in the toe and looked a little more wonky than normal behind. I took a few rainy pictures, I had planned to send to Allison but he looked quite wild with his long wet mane so opted not to. Then I went inside, end enjoyed the rest of my Christmas.
Tonight my Mom called to inform me of my worst nightmare. Peacefully and quietly, they and our vets made the informed decision to let him rest on Saturday. I respect their decision. My job and responsibility was to care for this horse, to keep him for my own would have been selfish.
As childish and magical as it may seem. I am so confident that Burger is standing in Christ’s stable. With mats of gold, and chariots. Striking proudly at the angels as they harness him to bring out the Lord of Lords. For is it not written,
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.” Revelation 19:11
What a deserving horse he would be, my White Lightning