In my first three decades on this planet, I think I’ve experienced enough strife to last a lifetime… Those moments that challenge you to the very core, the moments when you have to pick yourself up and find what you are made of. The moments you have to “suck it up” as my superdad always said, pick your chin up and carry on, even when you feel like hope is lost.
The first… When I was thirteen years old, my mother decided to leave us suddenly and take everything—our house, our farm, our horses. My dad was left with two children to raise and nowhere to raise them. He is an incredible man.
The second… In October 2005, I came off a young horse and needed reconstructive surgery, cadaver parts, the whole nine yards. While on layup, I met two creatures who would change my life—my future husband, and Grasshopper. And the latter was the love of my life.
The third… Three years ago I was out of town with the horses when I came home to find my husband gone, without a word. Crushed, I plastered a smile on my face, turned to Grasshopper, poured all my love and attention on him, and he got me through it.
The fourth—One month ago today, I was galloping my beloved Grasshopper at Pine Top when, ears pricked, he suddenly had an aneurysm, hit the ground, and passed away.
Nothing else compared to this.
Because of these moments I try to learn from life, count my blessings every single day, and appreciate the moment. Hopper is my best friend, my confidant, my partner. Every day, I greeted him by asking him “How’s the love of my life today?” Every day I told him how much I appreciated him. I have many lessons I need to learn in life I am sure, but that was not one I need repeated. I remember thinking many times that he was 12 years old, so I might only have four or five years left to compete him. What a feeling of dread! But he would have a home with me forever. He was still incredibly sound. How little did I know.
I will never forget in his first lesson with Jan Byyny, I told her Hop and I were a bit like an old married couple, and we had each other’s backs. At the end, she said something to the effect that we really were, and that he would do anything for me, with a smile on her face. Last fall, my show jumping coach was coaching a group of upper level riders. At the end of his summary and giving each rider something specific to focus on, he turned to me and said, “ Your bay horse—he will be excellent.” And Hop was. He always was.
I came home from Pine Top a month ago this weekend, a month since my darling Grasshopper passed away, and poured myself into work. I ride as many horses as I can, teach as many lessons as I can. In the daytime, I stay as busy as possible. A week after Hopper’s passing, I was scheduled to take a group of 15 clients to Aiken for a week of lessons and wining and dining. One of my very beloved and much admired clients told me, ‘Everyone would understand if you cancelled. We don’t have to go this year.’ But the best thing I could do was to surround myself with work and a baker’s dozen of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met.
But every night, I cry. I cry for my favorite big brown eyes that I’ll never see again, cry for the potential not fulfilled, cry for the one whose heart was just too big for this earth. Some days it all feels like a dream, some days I momentarily forget. Then I walk past his stall and it all comes crashing back and it’s all I can do to not throw up in the middle of the barn aisle.
As I overheard my dad say to someone, this one will be life changing for Megan. Yes, I think moreso than any other moment in my life. I miss you Hop.
On Saturday, exactly one month after the worst day of my life, I will leave the XC box again for the first time since that fateful day. I am normally a calm, focused competitor, but I have a feeling it will be all I can do to get through this weekend. God bless finding the strength to carry on.