“Not worth it” are words that resonate deeply with me. I couldn’t count the number of times somebody told me that a horse not rideable is not worth it. Whether it be not worth the time, not worth the energy, or not worth the money.
My mom let me skip school the day Dante arrived. The moment my trainer pulled into the drive with Dante in tow was probably the best moment of my life. While that may sound dramatic, I was 12, and like many young girls, dreamt of a horse of my own. I had another dream too, one that became heavily inspired by Dante - to become an equine veterinarian.
My decision to attend UC Davis for my undergraduate degree in Animal Science was not made without Dante’s approval. He approved of my decision of course, and in fall of 2014, Dante moved to college with me to reside at the UC Davis Equestrian Center.
Two weeks after classes began, I biked to the barn to find Dante non-weight bearing on his right hind leg. He had broken it. As a child, I had always heard that a horse that had broken a leg needed to be euthanized. However, with a lot of veterinary intervention and a lot of time spent at the barn, Dante was able to be deemed “pasture sound”, and continued with me through my undergraduate studies.
I couldn’t afford to ride; I was working only to spend what I made on Dante’s care. I personally felt that Dante came before myself - I would have rather eaten ramen for three meals a day than have him do without the medications, supplements, and special care he needed in order to thrive after his injury.
Throughout the remainder of Dante’s life, I had trainers, fellow equestrians and non-equestrians alike tell me that Dante wasn’t worth the sacrifices I was making. Those words always made me work harder, love him deeper, and fight fiercer to keep him with me.
My inspiration to become a veterinarian became even stronger from the experiences I had with the veterinarians that worked with Dante and I. I wish I could accurately express how much their care of my horse meant to me, but their ability to understand my decisions and my dedication to him made me realize, “This is the kind of veterinarian I want to become”.
In December of 2017, mine and Dante’s fight together ended on a sunny day, on a green patch of grass. His life ended peacefully, with his head in my lap, at the hand of one of the veterinarians who had been there when Dante fractured his leg over three years prior.
I believe in a lot of things - I believe in humane euthanasia, I believe in the horse industry, and that they do deeply care for their equine partners, but I also believe that a horse’s “usefulness” continues long after they have retired from riding. My extraordinary love for the unconventional horse is something that I believe sets me aside, and that I plan to carry with me for my career and beyond. I hope that with my veterinary education, I can volunteer some of my time, knowledge, and skills to help with the unwanted and unconventional equine population.
Dante made my dreams come true as a young girl, and even though he is gone, he still continues to shape me and drive me to be the best ‘me’ I can be, and prove that this was all worth it.