BY TORI WEED
When I was an eager preteen that had been graced with the opportunity to learn, mature, and grow, I got the chance to lease a spectacular horse – one that would teach me more lessons than I could have ever imagined or dreamed up.
His name was Sacred Salvation… aka Ben. He was a 16.2’ hh APHA gelding with the perfect geldingality personality. He loved cookies and cuddles, and chewing on anything imaginable. He loved jumping and showing, and bareback rides around the property. He loved playing in the pasture and destroying any kind of blanket he wore. But most importantly, he loved his people.
He grew up with his owner Katherine Dominico, forging an incredible bond with her. He rode with the same trainers his whole life, and loved them too. He took on young kids and taught them how to jump big jumps, to chill out at horse shows, how to win champion ribbons, how to learn, how to give dorky hugs, and how to smile on their bad days.
He taught them lessons in the saddle, in the show ring, in the barn aisle, in life, and in their hearts. He taught them about life and who they are.
And on December 8th, 2017 he taught them another lesson — how to say goodbye.
This lesson is the hardest lesson to learn, and I feel like I’m still trying to understand. I went through feelings of denial, questioning, anger, confusion, sadness, and being utterly distraught. I am still in those stages but focusing on the good memories we had instead of the questions that run through my mind like “Why him?”
Ben was more than just a horse, he was a best friend and mentor to many.
Saying goodbye to him made me question just how strong I really was. To get through this I reflected on the lessons he taught me, and hugged the people and horses around me.
The people that loved him and are strongly affected by his passing, luckily have a strong barn family and horse community to fall back on. Me and his other little girl went straight to the barn. We hugged it out, and ran directly to our other horses to love on them. Minutes into being there the tears came, and they didn’t just leak, they flooded.
It wasn’t easy to pass his stall and talk to the people around us when all we could manage was crying. But the utter support we have received is unimaginable, and because of this support we are able to look back on the good memories and say goodbye.
I thank Ben for always being a Sacred Salvation for me and many others. Because of him, we learned to be better riders and grew into better people.
To anyone that can, please go love on your horses. Spend the extra time with them and really learn everything you can about their quirks. Give them that last cookie and hug them for that extra minute – it’s truly worth it. These animals have special control over our hearts, and you know that if you can love that strongly then you will hurt that strongly.
Every rider who has committed to this sport will have to experience this kind of loss least once. If you already have, then I ask you to remember what it was like and recognize what it taught you. Look back to where you were and to where you are now. I bet that the lessons that special partner taught you helped you grow as a person. Use the pain and sadness to motivate you to grow and love again, and never forget that beloved animal that gave you their all.
So while you have a wonderful horse that you love, show them just how much you love and appreciate them and what they have to give and teach you.