Scarlett’s Story

February 2023 taken by Copper Arrow Photography

When I was 14 my parent’s friend offered to give me a horse. Since I was horse crazy and my parents knew little to nothing about horses, they accepted and we went to pick up the horse. The horse turned out to be a weanling still at its mom’s side who had very little human contact. My parents didn’t know it was a bad idea, and I just wanted another horse. So we brought her home.

I couldn’t touch her for weeks. I would take a folding chair and sit in the field and read for hours every day. Slowly, she became curious. She would wander over to me and smell me, I would hold my breath and try not to move a muscle. Eventually, I could pet her. Then, I could halter her. Before we knew it we were learning to lunge. When she was old enough I saddled her and we started learning to ride. We had our ups and downs and I did list her for sale more than once… but no one was interested in her. A few days would go by and I would take the post down. No one wanted her, she was a Pintaloosa Curly horse… a mutt. It’s funny, 10 years later I had multiple people offer to buy her, but by that point she was mine–we were inseparable.

As the years went on she became my very best friend. A friend I will miss dearly forever. We did everything together. She taught me the ins-and-outs of horsemanship. She was honest, she was bratty, she was testy, and she was kind. Everything she did helped me to grow as an equestrian and person. I owe who I am today to her. I trained her the first time, then I learned more and retrained her… then I learned more and retrained her again. Each time she would take it in stride (I think she appreciated my growing knowledge). We trail rode endlessly, everywhere, all over North Florida and took our last trail ride together in Alabama right before she got sick. We went to lessons, horse shows and clinics together, each time someone commenting on her lack of tail. We stood out wherever we went, but that didn’t matter because we always placed decently. She didn’t look it at first glance, but she held her own in the ring. Together we rode seamlessly, I remember one of our trainers commenting on “how well we knew each other.” I knew her, and she knew me, and most of the time we worked together. I could sense her next move before it happened and I’m sure she felt the same with me.

I could never count the hours we spent together, but I do know that I had her for almost 14 years and I saw her almost every single one of those days. There was a two month period in college that I was out of state for an internship and the very first thing I did when I got home was hop on bareback, I was so excited to see her even though my internship was entirely riding horses. I grew up with her in my parent’s backyard, then she went to Gainesville with me for college, then she moved to Thomasville with me when I got married, then she moved with me to Birmingham where we had a few good months. I laid her to rest on the first property and home I ever purchased. I dread the day I have to leave her here, alone, as this is not our forever home. When we bought our property we planned to build a barn for her, and we did. My husband built the barn for her almost entirely by himself (and me). He worked tirelessly to finish it so she could come home after being discharged from Auburn. She lived on our property for a few months while she was sick, and now “her barn” exists without her. It’s bittersweet, something that I wanted so badly to have my horse at home again. Now I have the property, I have the barn, and I have no horse. No best friend to greet me each morning, or neck to hug when I’m having a bad day.

When she got sick… I couldn’t  believe it. Initially it was gastric issues that escalated rather quickly which resulted in me rushing her to Auburn one afternoon, frantically hoping to get there in time. When I dropped her off I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be allowed to see her. She went directly into isolation and stayed there for three weeks. Potentially the worst and darkest three weeks of my life. The entire time I truly thought she would heal. I always thought I would have her forever, for sure that she would live to be the oldest pony. After three weeks she was stable enough to leave, she went to a local clinic for a few days and then I brought her home on my 28th birthday. The best birthday, I thought… Now looking back will be the most bitter birthday. Her condition was a rollercoaster. She would get better for a few weeks, then she’d decline. I tried it all, and no one could help her. Between multiple clinicians at Auburn, three local vets, our previous Florida vet, two nutritionists, and a chiropractor/acupuncturist, no one could help her. Her illness lasted four months and was never diagnosed, after everything she went through I opted not to have an necropsy. The best guess is a tumor or cancer, though she tested negative for neoplastic disease.

On March 14, 2024 I hugged her for the very last time. As I write this over a month later, tears streaming down my face, I realize just how painful it still is. Saying goodbye to your very best friend is never easy, but I do not know when this pain will begin to subside. I had months to prepare for this outcome, but I never thought it would come to this. I never thought she would get sick. She had always been so healthy, fat off of air, never so much as tried to colic. She was the very best horse. Our biggest problem was keeping weight off and preventing sunburn. This wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did.

There are things and feelings I will never forget about her: cantering bareback on our favorite straight away at my family’s property, how proud I was riding her brideless the first time, the last two strides before a jump when I felt her reaching for it, the excitement when she got a lead change (which honestly didn’t happen often), how safe I felt on her at all times, the pride I felt every time I looked at her, the list goes on and on. I keep trying to remember these moments, to think about the happy times. The years and years of good memories, growth, determination, and friendship. I couldn’t choose a favorite memory if I tried, there were too many. She was with me through it all, my constant rock, my forever best friend. She got me over losing my first horse, Cody, who was her best friend too. Sadly, I don’t have a horse to get me through losing her, and I don’t know when I’ll be ready to try to find her replacement… because how could any horse ever replace her? How could I ever love another horse this much? How do you replace a horse you grew up with, you trained, and you revolved your life around? I can’t answer these questions yet.

To Scarlett O’Hara, my Beebs, my Sweetpea, my Jumping Bean, my Pony Girl, I will love you always and forever. You’ve set an incredibly high bar. I am so sorry I couldn’t save you. 

There is so much I could write about her, but selfishly I don’t want to share those memories right now. They’re our memories, memories that no one else could enjoy as much as I have. I didn’t write this for a pity party, I wrote this because I know there are others who can relate. Unless you’ve had a long relationship with a horse, you won’t understand. If you’ve been lucky enough to have a similar bond with a horse, I’m happy for you, but also very sad. With great love comes great pain. We entrust these animals with so much and they give us so much in return, but when they leave… they take a part of us with them. I hope that when you have to say “goodbye” that your experience is less traumatic than mine, though it’s never easy. I also hope that you make sure you have photos because once they’re gone, photos and memories are the only things left. If this story touched you and made you think of a special horse, please reach out to me to share your story. If you’re still lucky enough to have your special horse, let me take a few photos for you. Trust me, you will be glad you did. 

It’s impossible to fit all of our photos in one blog post. After all, we were together for 14 years. This is just a brief compilation that only partially shows her life.


Scarlett’s Story