Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have horses right in my backyard. It was my mom's sport that she passed onto my sisters and me.
As we grew up, we moved from horse to horse as we outgrew them, either by size or by scope. I had my fair share of horses, from Scout, the pony who taught all three of us how to ride, to Tatoo, my mid-size pony, and finally, onto Yellowgate Easter Sunday, or Sonny for short.
There were countless others, as I tended to have bad luck with horses getting injured, but Sonny stood head and shoulders above the rest.
A mutual friend found him and quickly urged my mom to have me try him out. So, one day, I skipped school and headed to Charlottesville with my mom, with no real expectations.
A couple of weeks prior, I had tried out a different horse at the same farm, which ended up not being the best fit.
After trying Sonny out, I knew there wasn't going to be any other horse that could compare to him; everything just came naturally.
It was a perfect partnership, though we had disagreements from time to time (nobody's perfect), he did what I told him to, even if it wasn't correct for the situation, which ended up teaching me a thing or two.
There were some flaws, though. He didn't like to be alone and would whinny throughout a dressage test or on cross country, but, thankfully, wouldn't be stupid and throw a fit.
In order to counteract that, we would always try to bring a companion, usually one of my sisters and their respected horse. His flaws were nothing we couldn't handle.
We won our first two competitions and were named the winner of the series and even got a silver platter to match the title. It seemed like we were hitting our stride at our pony club horse trails, which resulted in a minor human hiccup but still ended as a successful weekend.
It wasn't until the summer of 2013 when Sonny took a freefall.
2013 was not a good year for my family, some family members got very sick and we all struggled to adjust to our new family dynamic. That summer, Sonny and I were scheduled to do a team competition with our pony club but it resulted in him coming up lame in our morning jog, which disqualified us from the competition.
He started to develop odd symptoms that resulted in some pricey tests. At one point, he was hooked up to an IV and monitored while on stall rest.
Five years ago today, exactly a week before my 16th birthday, I came home from school knowing the veterinarian came to check up on him.
I remember the situation vividly.
I walked in through our front door into our living room to see my mom on our couch. Unknowingly, I asked how the appointment went and all she could do was shake her head. I collapsed onto our hardwood floor, backpack and shoes still on, and began to weep. I had the rest of the day with him before we had to take him to our local equine center to be euthanized. I stood in the paddock with him for hours, laughing and crying and reminiscing on the times we had. Later, we found out that, despite his young age of 12, he had kidney cancer and we did nothing to cause his passing which slightly lightened the blow to our hearts.
He had a lasting impression on everyone he met.
For example, a year and a half ago, my mom bought a young horse, Bravo, to start developing since my sisters and I were either self-sufficient or off at college. She had recently started going to shows, one of which was back in September.
I remember calling her the following week to discuss academics and how I was transitioning since I'm a transfer student and we also talked about her competition.
She talked about her dressage test and she ended the conversation with, "He felt like Sonny."
That alone describes how much he meant to my mom and me, we even comment when Bravo unknowingly repeats some of Sonny's tendencies. I'm convinced Bravo's the reincarnation of Sonny, but my mom just laughs at me whenever I bring it up.
I still think about Sonny daily, even five years and a few horses later.
I can't watch anything horse related, whether it be a tv show or movie. I even cry at the Budweiser Clydesdale commercials during the Super Bowl. There are even some cartoon animal shows or movies that reminds me of the pain that I felt five years ago.
I don't regret the time we had or the memories we created and, to this day, I still have his birthday on my phone calendar, which happened to be Easter Sunday of 2001.
As I reflect on my experiences, I do wonder how everything would've turned out if he hadn't passed, but I do believe that it was all for a specific reason, even if it seems that our bad luck comes in threes.
He was my other half, my partner, my equal, all in horse form. Nothing can replace him and he will always be the standard that others have to compete with.
So, as I sit on my bed, writing this article, tears rolling down my face, I remember all that is good and bad about him and am thankful that the good outweighed the bad.
I hope to reunite with him someday, decades from now, and I hope he knows he will always be with me, through the ups and downs, highs and lows, the good and the bad.
He will never be forgotten.