A Day In The Life: A Horse Of A Lifetime, by Seana Barnes June 25 2013, 1 Comment

If we are really lucky we have at least one heart horse in our lifetime. I've been so lucky to have had mine, a black and white Paint gelding named Two Snakes.

Two Snakes belonged to Steve, my father-in-law, and was his reining horse and extremely talented. In fact, he was my FIL's heart horse. He would say all horses had a price, but Two Snakes didn't, he would never be for sale.

I had been in the market for something I could ride in some local English shows, something to call my own, and I was going to get something that was less than sane. (I didn't want to admit that at the time!) I'd mentioned to Steve my plan and I was crushed because he told me he didn't support the idea. We rode together everyday, so I really wanted his support. 

About a week later he called me and said that he wanted to give me Two Snakes. He said he didn't want me to have something that was anything less than what I deserved, which was a nice, safe, kind horse. He said I was the daughter he never had. I was so touched, because Steve was one of those men who had a tough exterior. This was the kindest most thoughtful thing anyone had ever done for me and coming from him it meant even more. 

I went on to retrain Snake to be my English show horse and Steven and I still rode together all the time. When it came time for me to graduate from college my husband and I got jobs just outside Washington DC. I was thrilled to be so near the heart of a huge horse community and all the things it would offer. Unfortunately, this meant leaving my FIL, who was a dear friend, and taking Two Snakes with me. Steve was so upset, but he wished us well and sent Two Snake's up with the shipper once we were settled.

Steve and I spoke often, I'd send pictures of dressing his poor gelding in wonderful pink fly masks, crazy colored blankets, us swimming, jumping...basically Snake and I improving as a team and trying to do it with some fun flair. Steve was so proud. (Well, maybe not of the crazy colored horse clothes, but he laughed anyway.) 

The year that we moved to VA I became very ill and it was discovered that I had Chronic Pancreatitis due to a deformity I'd had since birth. Years of damage finally came to a head and I was fighting for my life. I was told riding was dangerous and I shouldn't continue until I was more stable. What the doctors didn't realize was I had the most solid horse imaginable, all thanks to Steve. I was able to keep riding safely, which I truly believe helped me fight back to having my health be somewhat normal. I know mentally, it was the only thing that really kept me going when I wanted to give up. Pancreatitis is a condition that never goes away, and it will likely get worse as I age, but I know that with Two Snakes with me I can ride safely when I am suffering bad attacks. 

Then in November 2011, I received a call after my lesson with Snakes that Steve had tragically died; he was only in his 50's. It was horribly shocking, and I still can't go into the details without getting broken up about it. I so clearly remember before the lesson I was tacking up and Two Snakes, normally level headed and calm was very up, refusing to stand on cross ties and generally very upset. It was totally out of character for him. I even said to my trainer I wasn't sure he was safe to ride that day since he was so out of sorts. I think he knew what happened. Maybe Steve even came to look in on us before he moved on to a better place.

Three months later Snake and I went to our first big show since moving to VA. We took blue in our first class, having our name called and picking up that blue ribbon was the best tribute to Steve I could have made. I wish he could have been there, or seen a picture, but he was there in my heart. We went on to win Grand Champion in the year end awards that year and the next.

I know that we would have never been able to accomplish what we have without my FIL. Even though he isn't with us physically, I know he's with us on every ride. Reminding me to use my seat correctly, get my darn heels down, practice reining spins because there's nothing cooler than an English reiner, and to stop dressing his horse in pink. I listen to all but the last one. 

I've still got Two Snakes, but he's getting older. I've since bought an Irish Sport Horse mare, but only after following all the advice Steve ever gave me on horse buying. I can only hope she turns out as wonderful as Snake. 

As riders we can often take a lot for granted. I think it is so important to remember how lucky we really are. Equestrians make life long friends, people and equine. We learn invaluable lessons in kindness, patience, work ethic, etc. For me, the biggest lesson has been to never take anyone for granted, be thankful for what you have, and that relationships in life are truly a gift. I'll always be grateful to my FIL and everything he taught me and more importantly, the unconditional love he had for his "daughter" who loved horses just as much as he did. 

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Seana, our heart goes out to you for the loss of your father in law, and the love you both shared for an amazing horse called Two Snakes.  Thank you so much for sharing your story with us.  We wish you and all your equine partners the best, and love the pink style!