When you look back on your life so far, what do you see? Is there someone or something that has been there as long as you can remember? Other than your two legged family?
When I look back on my life so far, which today I have done alot because today marks the end of my life as I remember it, I remember a dream as a child, probably 9 or 10. We had just gotten our first horse, a spindly little sorrel pony mare. She was amazing. Old, but kind and taught my entire family a ton. Anyway, back to my dream. I wanted so badly to be a show jumper. I grew up in Calgary so my closest interaction to horses on a regular basis was Spruce Meadows. I dreamt of a glorious white horse. He was magnificent. My dream was fairly long forgotten, until just before my 11th birthday.
I remember driving to meet Trooper. My parents lectured me in the vehicle about his age. “He’s only 4. Be mindful of that.” I took that to mean, don’t fall in love. But I did. And, I firmly believe, so did he. Trooper came home with us and my mom announced that if he didn’t work for me, he would be hers. I took THAT to mean that the entire family had fallen in love with him.
Trooper was white and just as glorious as my dream horse. Although he lacked a little bit in the height department for a show jumper, standing barely 14.2. It all worked out, because as time went on, my focus turned to barrel racing and Trooper decided he liked that game. Alot.
It wasn’t always butterflies and rainbows. I remember our first spring together. We were riding down the road with my dad and his horse when Trooper decided he was out and took off for home. He zigged, I zagged, and his legs took him as fast as they could back to the farm. When we got back, Dad jumped on my saucy little white horse and the fresh 5 year old did the same thing to him. Ohhhh Trooper.
I remember the summer before my first year of high school rodeo. Trooper was not a pole bending horse. He ran solid 23.0s, but was just as solid in taking down at least 3 poles. We were at gymkhana one summer evening and when Trooper stepped into a pole during our run, the big solid metal based flipped up and cut right through his splint boot, leaving a deep cut in his pastern. As fall approached, it was looking like I would be without my best friend for the fall rodeos. I made due with some other projects we had at home, but couldn’t get a point to save my life. When spring hit and Trooper was sound, rodeo became fun again 😊
Trooper walked me through so many firsts. He taught me how to win and how to lose. He humbled me. He taught me to love the horse first. He taught me what love was. He wasn’t the fastest I’ve been on. He wasn’t great to anyone other than me and the other kids he taught. There won’t a country mourning tomorrow about his loss. But that doesn’t take away for all the things he was.
Trooper was a jack of all trades, but a master of none. He was a barrel horse, a goat horse, an incredible breakaway and heel horse and every once in a while he cracked out as, you guessed it, a show jumper (in the show ring at our house 😉). He loved to work and he loved being loved by a little girl. As we both grew, I could always count on that look in his eyes… I was still, and would always be, his little girl.
I outgrew Trooper, and perhaps it was selfishness that kept him here with me but I don’t care. I lent him out a few times over the years to teach other young kids to ride. He built confidence like none other. He was simply amazing. He loved life.
Trooper was a part of every huge moment in my life. He raised me. He watched me grow from a little girl, to a know it all teenager to a woman. He was always loved and cherished, and oftentimes kept my two feet firmly on the ground. He gave me away at my wedding. That is a memory I will cherish forever.
This winter we’ve watched him slip away from the gorgeous, muscular white gelding into an old man. A ghost of a horse. We watched his spirits, and fed his body the best we could. Every morning and night he met me at the pen for his grain. Pawing the ground impatiently, whinnying his demands to hurry. I’m told he was equally as impatient just last night. That brings me a small amount of peace. Although the guilt of not being there will haunt me for a while I believe.
2020 marks 22 years together. 22 years as Troopers original little girl. Today, as I held his head in my lap and stroked his face as he slipped away, I could see in his eyes that he had the very best life. He waited for his little girl to return home, and once she was there, he said goodbye and left this world. Until we meet again old friend.
Rios Pine Troupe “Trooper” May 4, 1994 – January 19, 2020