Everyone has a hobby that they grow up loving for some, it's baseball, others it's basketball, for me it was horses. I've always had a soft spot for the loveable creatures that they are. I credit my lifelong passion to my first horse, Woody. I fell in love with Woody at age three and loved him until he left us eleven years later. Woody was the start of a lifelong passion for the horse world. Without him, I wouldn't be where I am today as a collegiate rider, and just as a person. I want to thank you for everything that you taught me.

Thank you for being just spunky enough that riding you was always enjoyable, but calm enough that I trusted you to take care of everyone who ever sat on your back. Thank you for being around to teach five children how to ride, and putting up with our crazy ideas. Thank you for being there until you knew I didn't need you anymore, even if I thought I did. Eleven years with you only began to teach me the inner-workings of a horse's mind, and I'm thankful for every minute. Thank you for always being there as a backup as I was growing into a more advanced rider. Your spunk taught me never to quit trying. With you, I knew if I let you win that I wouldn't hear the end of it. Thank you for being my partner in crime at the county fair for seven straight years. We may have never won, but we sure looked good doing it. Thank you for all of the crazy memories, from moving cattle, Halloween costumes, ride-a-buck, barrels, poles, and the never-ending amount of rides we took just for fun. As I was growing older, and riding you less and less, you patiently waited for me to come back- even if it was just to love on your for a minute. Without the confidence and experience, I gained from riding you; I wouldn't have been ready to receive a new horse, one that I was supposed to love and cherish as much as I did you.

Not only were you my first love, but you were also my best friend.

Being able to grow with such a free spirit taught me that I never need to be anyone but myself. Each horse you own leaves behind a different lesson for you to learn, but those from your first horse are always the biggest. Without Woody, I don't know where I would be today, and frankly, I don't want to know. Owning a horse teaches responsibility, we have to learn how to care for a life that isn't ours. It also gives us the opportunity to learn how to prioritize. There were plenty of afternoons that I spent brushing him out instead of doing my homework and suffered the consequences later. Most importantly though, having a horse teaches you how to love. Being a kid, I wasn't planning on having a boyfriend anytime soon; I had a horse instead. The bond that you create is one that can never be broken.

Eleven years you were with us, and I wish every day it had been just a bit longer. Thank you for leaving such a lasting mark on my heart. I will never forget the boy who taught me how to love.