Seeing My Future Through Losing My Heart Horse

BY INTERN CARLY PHOON

I’m close to the two-year mark without my heart horse.

Horses, for me, have always been a constant in an otherwise unpredictable world. Ever present in my life from a young age, I loved them unconditionally. When I took the time to build relationships with them, these great horses loved me unconditionally back.

Chano’s passport photo from when he was three years old in Canada. Photo courtesy of Clara Greaney.

Through phases of crippling low self-esteem, horses grounded me and gave me something simple, yet priceless, to look forward to — an hour or two at the barn. The week could present good days or bad days, but no matter what at 4:00 on Friday all my worries would be washed away when a fuzzy nose greeted me with a nicker.

While I knew otherwise, horses seemed immortal. I blissfully carried that mentality with me that until my heart horse, Chano, passed away. It was the most painful and pivotal day in my life. I not only said goodbye to a dear friend, but also gained respect for someone I had previously taken for granted.

An embarrassing photo of us after winning Reserve Champion in our equitation class at 2015 GSDHJA Championships. Photo courtesy of Carly Phoon

I will never forget my vet’s face as he led Chano into the trailer for the last time. Watching him, I realized the gravity of being a veterinarian. I realized that this vet was the steady, silent hand that had cared for my heart horse until the end. Along with the mess of emotions I felt came a pang of regret, because before that moment, I had never really acknowledged the vet much. He’d just been another face at the barn.

I’m eternally grateful to that vet who I owe so much to. He didn’t know it when he solemnly walked my horse on the trailer, but he sparked the realization that animal care is my destiny. Sure, I was that little girl with dirt-smudged clothes who exclaimed, “I’m gonna be a vet!” But after that heartbreaking day, I truly understood why I feel such a strong pull toward a veterinary career.

Chano greeting me in the morning. Photo courtesy of Carly Phoon

Here I am two years later, sending love to my heart horse who watches over me, pursuing writing and a veterinary career as I grow from an unsure little girl into a confident young woman. I can say for sure that going through the heartbreaking experience of losing a horse changed me for the better. I’m more determined than ever to help the animals that have given me so much in my life. More than that, I believe that the greatest way I can thank Chano’s vet is by following in his footsteps.

This sport teaches us so much. It teaches us the everyday lessons that come with caring for another living creature, but it also brings experiences–both happy and devastating–that change our lives. I doubt I’m the only one who has seen their path through horses. Has your life been changed by a pivotal moment in this sport?