By Betsy Kelley
Every horse crazy little girl grew up dreaming about that once in a lifetime horse. The magical steed from the movies who chooses you, and after forming an inseparable bond, you spend a lifetime winning blue ribbons together. You’ll canter across fields bareback, cross rivers, swim in lakes, defy the odds, and always find your way back to each other. Some people will spend a lifetime riding and showing without ever meeting their heart horse.
For me, that dream became a reality seventeen years ago when I met Diva, and as I trotted into the ring this past weekend at my last show with her, it felt like the end of an era. Diva is one of those magical horses who doesn’t seem to age. She has been my best friend and confidante for over half of my life, and you would never guess by looking at her today that she is 28 years old. We have done everything together, from lazy trail loops to conditioning for endurance rides, chasing cows, swimming, and showing in a multitude of disciplines from in hand and hunter to dressage at nearly every level (which now includes a Championship and two Top Five awards from our breed level Regional Championship show). In her almost 30 years, Diva has had exactly four owners. She is full of ego, incredibly opinionated, and as Type-A as a Fortune 500 executive. If you are not one of her chosen few, she is standoffish at best. If you are lucky enough to be considered one of her herd, she is a total sweetheart with a goofy side. Her game face for the show ring is hilariously terrifying. When a complicated horse picks you as their person, the rewards are limitless.
When asked, she has crossed every stream and brought home every ribbon. But, the moments that matter are the ones spent at home. When we bought our first house, we looked at the barns before we ever looked at the houses. When we considered moving across the country, we first researched the best way to move Diva. She is a part of our family, and the end of her show career does not mean the end of her significance. Perhaps her back will begin to sway and her joints will start to creak, but she will always be the beautiful mare I first met all those years ago. At 28 years old she is retiring sound and healthy, because I have spent years putting her needs before my goals. She is still as spicy as they come, and loves to work. She will remain my favorite daily riding horse until she tells me otherwise, because that is what is best for her. Diva and I will continue to care for each other as we always have, long after our last blue ribbon.