A rider who lost her beloved gelding before his time has urged others to “hug your horses a little tighter” and cherish every moment – as you never know which ride will be your last.
Jess Fitz-John’s Jigs ‘N’ Reels had to be put down four years ago. She told H&H that as the anniversary of Jigs’ death approached, she wanted to share with others her changed mindset.
Jess was 12 when she got Jigs, moving on to horses early.
“I’d lost my confidence but he really brought it back,” she said. “I went from being nervous jumping 60cm to jumping round at 1.05m. Whenever we went cross-country or jumping, or just hacking, he always brought me home safe.”
Jess said Jigs had been bought as her “forever horse” but lameness issues meant her family had to make the decision to let him go.
“It was hard, as a 16-year-old, to say goodbye to my best friend,” she said. “Then after I lost him, I completely lost interest in the sport; I tried to pretend it didn’t exist.”
But when Jess went to the University of Sheffield, where she is still a student, she joined the equestrian team, and “got my passion back”.
“I started talking to other people about horses again,” she said. “I felt the urge to tell them about our successes and everything we’d qualified for – but that didn’t matter. All I cared about was the little moments with him, the personal things that couldn’t be seen by anyone else. When it rained, he’d twitch his flappy lip, which always made me giggle. Whole days pampering him; things that when you look back, are precious memories.”
Jess wanted to urge others to appreciate every moment with their horses.
“Since losing Jiggy, my mindset on the equestrian world has changed completely,” she said. “Jigs and I had our successes, and we were always in ribbons, but my most cherished memories have nothing to do with competing. It is the memories of galloping through fields, barebacking around the village, playing with the hose, and his adorable floppy lip that make me teary.
“If I could give my younger self, and other equestrians, a little piece of advice, it would be to hug your horse a little tighter. You never know which ride, bath, groom, or cuddle will be your last, so cherish every single one. There will come a day when these little, insignificant moments suddenly mean an awful lot more.”
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