In the 20 years Kinetic has been part of my life, there have been plenty of words I’ve used to describe him… and they haven’t always been the nicest.

He’s fractious, ornery, disagreeable, pushy, unpredictable, and complicated. He’s put me in the dirt more times than I care to count, he’s been blacklisted from barns, and he’s caused trainers to scratch their heads, throw their hands in the air, and label him a hopeless case.

And I wouldn’t be who I am today without him.

When I got Kinetic, I was a horse-crazy 13-year-old who had more love for horses than I had sense. My very supportive (but very non-horsey) parents obliged my passion—and my begging—and bought me a horse. A remarkably unsuitable horse.

These days, Kinetic loves hanging out with his 38-year-old girlfriend Missy, and getting hugs from his favorite tiny human (photos taken two years apart.)

Here’s all we knew about Kinetic when we brought him home: He was tall, dark, and handsome; he was an off-track Thoroughbred; and most importantly, he was affordable (if only I knew then what I know now about how an affordable horse can be very different from a suitable horse). Who knows what happened during the years between his racing career and the time I got him, but he definitely came with a lot of baggage.

I was 13, I was over-horsed, I was in way over my head, and I was totally smitten with this animal who only seemed to want to buck me off. I wish I could say that our rough first chapter blossomed into a wonderful relationship. It didn’t. Despite trainers and vets and animal communicators and supplements and different environments and disciplines, Kinetic never really came around. He’s always been challenging and standoffish.
But he’s always been there.

When I was overwhelmed by school and teenage drama, when I was buckling under the pressure of perceived expectations, he would let me brush and braid him until I had no more tears to cry—even though he shot me dirty looks the whole time.

When I had to negotiate board agreements, find trainers, or schedule vet appointments, and my parents didn’t know how to help, he was the reason I—clinically shy and perpetually anxious—found my voice, learned to advocate, and got things done.

When I decided to embark on a new adventure, completely abandoning the life course I had planned for myself, he followed me from California to Colorado and begrudgingly accepted when I swapped his English saddle out for a Western one. (And it turns out, he’s surprisingly cowy.)

When I was immobilized by my fears about the future and worries about pretty much everything, I would saddle him up and he’d use those long Thoroughbred legs to fly me through mountain meadows until my surroundings blurred and those fears didn’t matter anymore.

And when he was sick or injured, he was the perfect patient, letting me poke him and doctor him and cry into his neck because I couldn’t imagine losing him.

He’s been there for graduations and cross-country moves, for first jobs, first boyfriends, and first heartbreaks.

He’s taught me self-esteem, empathy, time management, the good type of stubbornness, how to face my fears, when to back down, and when to rise up. Almost everything good in my life, the qualities I love most about myself, I can trace back to this horse.

So here’s to all the difficult horses. The fractious, ornery, disagreeable, grumpy, unpredictable, and complicated horses. The horses who push our patience, bruise our egos, and stretch our wallets. To the horses who test us, try us, mold us, and shape us.
We might have some choice words for you, but boy do we love you.

[Read more happy horse stories: Stories of Hope]

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