This is the story about a little spotted horse that stole my heart when I was just 12 years old. It is Yule-tide and time to express love and appreciation to the people we hold dear. She is definitely one of them. Here is the long story of how she entered my life! It’s the first time I am writing it out completely.
When I found her she was doing time at the local riding school where I just started to attend lessons and was sick of life. She was depressed and didn’t really seem to live. For some reason I started to like her, even if the rest of the people there disliked her (mainly because she stopped in the middle of the riding pen every now and then and was kicking with her back legs when they tried to get her going, they used to throw gravel at her so she would move at all 😦 ). I was also heavily bullied at the time so we became the two outcasts together! She was the tired old horse and I was the weird and awkward kid.
The first time I was assigned to ride her at the riding lesson I cried out “Noooo!! Not TOSCA, that tired old hag” (yep, I remember so clearly I said that). I had listened to what the others had said and seen her on my lessons to have that opinion. She was not a pleasurable sight at the time.
But something happened. She seemed to accept me better and I started to like her, despite her negativity and sad outlook. I started to feel sorry for her. And it hurt my heart to see that she was just as unwanted as I was.
She was the lowest rank outside with the other horses as well and they used to push her away from the hay. She had to go inside the stable at 12-13 already because she was assigned to do the handicap lessons as well. After that she usually went 2-3 lessons in the riding house every evening. She was working hard and seemed to accept her fate and was just…. like dead. No sparkle in her eye, no entusiasm, nothing. She had just accepted the situation and was protesting in a very quiet manner. And her personality is very humble so I guess that was the reason she was still there at the school. She was a good asset because she didn’t protest when beginners sat on her. She was too depressed to protest.
I started going to the stable every day after school. It was a relief I looked forward to after hard days in the school at the time. Even if I was bullied in the stable by the other girls too, Tosca was there and that was all that mattered. I even made a few human friends there because Tosca got me out of my shell a little bit.
After a while we won a riding school cup together! Even if people didn’t think we would make it. I guess the judges gave us so high points because I made her look active and was able to get her where I wanted (wasn’t too easy back then because of her negative mindset). People started to notice that we liked one another.
But then jealousy sparked among the other girls. They tried to push me away from Tosca. I got trust from the riding school boss to take care of Tosca in the weekends and take her out in the forest.
When she later got injured, I was the one to look after her and get her into shape again. I spent many of my high school-years-evenings with her, usually coming home around 9 in the evenings after being in the stable from 4 in the afternoon. I had no social life besides the stable (and I didn’t want to either because I felt so awkward around other people, these days I have realized I have had social phobia that has gradually gotten better), Tosca was my only “real friend”. When I also started going to martial arts-classes (jiu jitsu), I was never at home. First the stable, then I took my bike or simply walked to my exercise 3 times a week. I usually came home around 11 in the evenings. Friends was very sparse for me.
After 1.5 years of taking care of her at the school she was finally sold to me and became the best 14th birthday present ever! Tho I was warned that she probably wouldn’t live much longer because she had been injured twice during 6 months during her last time there. They said that she might be dead in 5 years. She had even recently kicked the riding school boss so bad in her wrist that she still has problems with it today! That is how sick she was of everything and I was warned she might not survive for long.
That was 12 years ago.
But the problems didn’t end there.
There was a rumor among the horse-society in town that I was treating her bad and the riding school was going to buy her back from me. Yes, I had been tutoring her in public at some point but she needed it because she was so stuck in her negative mind and I had to show that she couldn’t fool me. But that sparked tension among the “less knowing”. I knew what I was doing but they didn’t. She needed frames, she needed to be pushed to do things that was good for her. She needed to be taught how to live again and at times I was very hard on her. It was a learning process for both of us.
I hid away in a smaller stable with her and slowly tried to get her back to life. She didn’t even want to leave the stable. We had many fights. She didn’t even know how to behave in the forest. She was scared and didn’t want to relax, always aspiring to go home at the first chance she got. Many times I thought about giving up but I never did. Despite blood, sweat and tears and MANY hours in the stable and on her back, I never gave in. These days I have no idea how I managed. She was so stuck in a rot that people usually don’t believe me when I tell them. Especially not about the kick she threw at the riding school boss.
But slowly but surely, her personality started to form (as well as mine).
It took 4-5 years before there was a change in her personality and she became much happier and much more alive. Before that it felt like she thought I was going to give her back to the school soon and didn’t want to relax (she had been off for summer leave earlier and probably thought this was an extended summer vacation). It was a twist from one day to another actually. I still remember it. It was autumn, it had just started to get colder and she was suddenly happy and energetic! I had no idea who she was or what she had done to the old Tosca. I think it finally clicked in her brain and she realized she never had to go back there.
Later, I also discovered that she could pull a carrier and from then on we started to do that as well without difficulty. It was the first activity she actually seemed to enjoy at the time.
Many years later with love and patience, it’s not the same horse!
She always makes me smile and we have been together half my life and half of hers as well soon (13 years). She is old but still young. Her mind is experienced and she has the nobility of an old lady, but she is active like a much younger horse (probably because I never stopped riding her more than shorter periods at the time). Her mindset has slowly went down in age. She feels younger now than she did 13 years ago. We have grown back to life together. We have both regained our lives together. I have tackled my social phobia and hard teenage years and she has become more alive and happy during that time. She kept me alive during my big depression a few years ago. Because of her, I am alive and I am sure she is alive thanks to me too.
She can be a little stiff in her injured hips (injuries that she got when she was young) some days but she is still very well preserved to be approx 90+ years old in human age. She knows what she wants and I usually let her have her way (almost) because she deserves it after all these years.
We are still riding actively and except a small fall two weeks ago when she hit her back leg and was limping for two days (she is completely ok now, it was just a strain), she has never been injured since the time at the riding school.
God Yule to you all and I hope you enjoyed our story. Hopefully we have more years together to look forward to. One year at the time.
Pictures are from a photoshoot we had today, the 23rd of December 2016. Images shot by my fiancee Pauli Souka.
//Paulina Medepona and Tosca