For the next 6 weeks, we'll be honoring the deep bond between horse and rider in our series, A Letter to My Horse. On June 29, we'll be releasing details on how you, too, can participate! We'll be choosing 3 top reader submissions to this series, and along with some pretty awesome prizes, winning pieces will be published on NoelleFloyd.com. Follow along with the series and keep your eyes peeled for details!
Dear Enjoy Louis,
You made things feel easy, and without you, things aren’t going to be so easy.
You had an amazing comeback. This last winter in Wellington, you felt better than ever. But a few weeks after the season ended, on a Tuesday morning, you were not yourself. Within three or four trot steps, I knew something was wrong. I called my vet, John [Brennan] and Missy [Clark], and we all agreed that it was time. I knew you would tell me when you were ready, and in the back of my mind, I was mentally prepared that the time to retire you could come any day.
I am at peace with your retirement, because you’ve given me your all. You always tried so hard, and you made so many important milestones for me possible. I’ve had a lot of special horses, and I love them all dearly. But there is something about you and everything that we’ve done together that will always hold a special place in my heart.
Five years ago, I was on my way to the airport to fly back to school in Chicago, when Missy called me and said, “I found this horse, and I think you should really consider sitting on it.” I turned around, and that’s when I met you. Honestly, I wanted to get off after the first few jumps. It didn’t feel right. You had your own way of going; you were a little bit strong, very careful, and had your own technique. You just weren’t what I was used to. I had a hard time looking past that.
Even though I felt like I needed to ride you again to be sure, everybody else knew we were going to work. I just felt the need to try you a second time that same day (sorry for that). I just had to get on board and move past the things I wasn’t used to or comfortable with. Thankfully, I did and we kept going together. You changed my mindset.
I’ll never forget the 5* Million Dollar Grand Prix in Saugerties. It was the year I got hurt. I had only been showing for a few months since my injury, and I still walked with a limp. It was my second 5* grand prix and the most amount of money that I’d ever jumped for. I remember going into the ring feeling so confident with you and crossing the finish line knowing that we were clear. Missy was on the sidelines visibly excited. John, who arguably loves you more than I do, was so happy. It had been a really tough winter for all of us, and it had been a long way back. But in that moment, everything came together.
The instances where one of us was out with an injury were discouraging. At a time when we were really clicking, I was injured and out of the sport for four months. The following year, you had a minor set back and were out for two months. And then in the summer of 2018, you were hurt again and needed surgery. At that point, it didn’t look like you were going to come back.
I remember our first few shows after your surgery. We would do a show, and then there would be a few weeks before we did another show. Every time we went somewhere, we would step up to the next level. We went to Michigan at the end of July and entered the 3*. I jumped the first class, and you were double clear. I’ll never forget our first FEI class back. You didn’t know it, but there were tears rolling down my cheeks in the schooling ring before we had even shown. Happy tears. I never thought that moment was ever going to happen. But here we were once again. And in that first week back at the FEI level, you didn’t have a jump down, including a double clear in the Grand Prix. Every time I came out of the ring that week, I was crying.
When I look back on those moments and all of the high points in our career together, the overwhelming emotion is gratitude. Appreciation. Thankfulness. Because those moments represented times when we pulled through some really rough times together and made it out the other side.
Before, I approached our setbacks with a sense of discouragement and negativity. I wanted you back for me. But you changed my mindset again. You taught me to slow down, to cherish every moment, and to take nothing for granted. If we had a rail down, that was ok, because I was able to be out there with the horse that means the world to me. I will always be grateful for those extra memories. Looking back on this past year, our last comeback together, after everything we’ve been through, I know we enjoyed every ride we had.
You taught me to trust myself, to trust our partnership and the team around us. More than anything, I trusted you. I knew you would be there for me and give your heart every time. Now, I know it’s time for me to be there for you and give you the retirement you deserve. Being around you makes me so happy; you always put a smile on my face. If I’m down, mad, or upset with myself, I can go to your stall to hang out and you instantly make me feel better. You have a way of making sure that I’m okay, whether it’s from your kind eyes or the sincere look of endearment I see on your face. You bring me so much happiness, and I’m going to miss you.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, turning around and trying you.
Thank you for being you and for choosing me to be your person. There has always been something special between us. I chose you, and you chose me. Thank you for loving me as much as you do. I hope you always know how much I love you, because that’s what this all really comes down to.
I love you, Lou Lou.
P.S. You’re welcome for all of the bananas.
Read this next: Dear Royce, You Are My Daily Reminder of My 'Why'
As told to Cheryl Witty-Castillo. Photos by Tori Repole for NoelleFloyd.com.
Written by Catherine Tyree
Catherine Tyree is a 5* level show jumper who, at only 27, has a list of international finishes under her belt. Enjoy Louis was her mount for her first World Cup qualifier and her first five-star grand prix. She is based in Wellington, Florida.