The past few months of my life have included saying goodbye a lot. I’ve said goodbye to a few acquaintances who I didn’t know as well, but I’ve also said goodbye to two of the best people I’ve ever known. I’ve been very lucky in that I haven’t experienced much death, especially of those close to me. But saying goodbye to my husband’s best friend, and now a fellow equestrian, is really hard. One of the ways I’m coping with my grief is to be open about it… and let the process take its natural course.
I started riding with my current trainer in the early spring of 2012. I started taking lessons with her after my first horse was semi-retired and could no longer jump. I only rode with her a few times before my horse passed away, and she allowed me to lease and show her personal horse for several years. I met my best friend, Nichole, through my trainer and likewise, I’ve met many wonderful equestrians this way… one of them being Suzanne.
I don’t know how long Suzanne has been a client of my trainer’s, but it’s been quite some time. Suzanne and her husband owned three horses, two of which Nichole has ridden and shown a great deal. One of these amazing horses is Moiya, the small Thoroughbred mare I’ve been riding the last few months. Suzanne was the most generous person I’ve ever met. She constantly offered up her horses for others to ride and show, which considering how absolutely fantastic they all are, is nothing short of amazing. She allowed anyone to use her things, and often bought items for friends “just because.”
Suzanne could talk for hours, and she had the best stories of her riding adventures. In her younger days, Suzanne and her husband used to gallop all over the countryside. She told me once that she learned the hard way to take her feet out of the stirrups when galloping through a corn field, otherwise the stalks would get stuck and pull you off your horse. Suzanne was fearless, and her joy was always palpable. She was also one of the strongest people I’ve ever encountered. More than two years ago, Suzanne was diagnosed with breast cancer, and doctors gave her only months to live. She passed away this week. Suzanne didn’t stop riding and taking regular lessons until just a few months ago, and in fact, came back to riding after falling off Moiya and breaking her hip. While she was on chemotherapy. To witness such incredible gumption is awe-inspiring.
While I didn’t have the opportunity to be as close with Suzanne as many others in the barn, her and her husband’s generosity touched me deeply. They’ve allowed me to ride Moiya when I needed a safe, sane ride. They helped pick me up when I was down, and that is a gift I can never, ever, hope to repay. They opened up their home to us, so that Nichole and I had a chance to say goodbye this weekend. I’ll miss Suzanne, but she won’t be forgotten and I know without a doubt that I’ll see her again. And until then, I’ll think of her every time I put my foot in the stirrup.