I stumbled into the barn, which I refer to as my second home, four years ago. I was happily greeted by a husband and wife duo who were more than willing to welcome me into their very large barn family. I spent my first summer taking lessons with a school horse and learned the basics of walking, steering, trotting, and stopping. It wasn’t until the end of the summer that I got to ride Austin who I would lease for two summers before I met Joe.
It was in May of this year when I heard about Joe. I had just been re-diagnosed when I was sent a picture of a horse in NY. I was sitting in the car on my way to a wedding when I got the photo. I had just talked with my oncologist and learned things were a lot more serious and that I would have to go to Boston for a second opinion. My trainer had randomly seen Joe’s picture online and knew right away he was the horse for me. However, the timing just wasn’t right. I was scheduled for a biopsy and wasn’t allowed to ride. Needless to say I was pissed. But it’s funny how things work out.
It was two weeks after I had my biopsy that my mom got the phone call from my trainer saying Joe was still for sale. He wanted us to go see him on that Sunday. I was more than ready to go meet Joe. By Sunday, we all were on I-84 headed to a barn in NY to meet him. This was the first horse I had ever looked at and I had no idea what to expect.
As soon as I walked through the door and saw Joe on the cross ties I knew he was the horse for me. My trainer still talks about the look on my face when I saw him. I watched another girl ride him and show me what he does, and then it was my turn. I hadn’t ridden in over a month and was definitely out of shape. We must have looked hilarious to everyone when I was trying to figure out how to get him to move. We were swerving everywhere and he refused to trot. I was handed a crop to use but I had never used one in my life. After getting a pep talk from my trainer and taking several deep breaths to calm my nerves he started to trot. After I got off, I walked him around the ring and he followed me as if we were playing follow the leader. A week later he was in the trailer and heading to his new home.
Joe is currently residing at his permanent home at the barn where I ride. He goes by several names that include Joe, Joseph, and occasionally we call him DiMaggio, which is his show name. Yes that’s right his full name is Joe DiMaggio and, no, he doesn’t play baseball. He is loved by everyone and is always teaching me something. I am finally able to get him to canter which is by far my favorite thing to do with him. Sometimes it takes us a few times to get it started but we eventually get it. It’s like being on a rocking horse; the only major difference is that the fall from Joe is a lot higher than your average toy. If we aren’t in the ring you can find us on the road walking or on the grass. Joe has fully embraced our groom and graze days.
My barn family consists of a large group of people who come from all walks of life. If it weren’t for riding, I would have never found the tumor behind my knee or would have never become a part of this extended family. These are people who have stood by my side through think and thin, hair and no hair, and on days when I would go to the barn looking white as a ghost. They would let me groom horses when I could and watch lessons. Plus they threw me an awesome surprise party the day we got Joe. What’s better than having a BBQ with your extended barn family?
Riding is a huge part of my life and it helps me feel normal. When I walk into the barn, I don’t have to deal with doctors, tests, scans, or anything related to a medical world. I can enjoy my horse and the people who surround us. Everyone understands my sarcastic humor and they all have to put up with it on a daily basis. As soon as I walk in the barn and yell Joe he quickly pops his head out of his stall. I like to think that he knows who I am, the girl with the crazy curly hair. However, I am pretty sure he does that for anyone who is within walking distance thinking they will give him food or treats. In the words of a friend in NY, “courage, strength, and loyalty are all taught from the heart of a horse."