About Ozzy

I have been riding since I moved to Virginia in 3rd grade.  Horses were my fathers lure to get me out of Wisconsin, where as an evidently insane 8 year old, I preferred my best friend next door and sub-zero temps, to the hills and seasons found in Northern Virginia.  In all of those years, it was not until 8 ½ years ago that I found my true partner.  Granted in all of this time, I have only owned three horses, but I loved each of them as a 6-year-old loves her first pony.  That love was unconditional; which was fortunate for my previous two horses, as neither one of them were 100% easy to love. 


I purchased Whiskey with money left to me when my grandfather died.  As only a 15-year-old girl with 1,000 dollars burning in her pocket can do, I made a hasty decision and purchased a random 9-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding that threw me during our test drive and failed his vetting in a spectacular fashion.  If you had to divide Whiskey into separate pieces (as it appeared was done when he was created), he was 90% heart and 10% talent.  I took him through Training level and retired him at the age of 15.  Second to last place was reserved for us after dressage, and I didn’t care.  That horse held my heart.  I owned him until the day he died.


Major, an off-the-track thoroughbred and my second horse, was almost the exact opposite: 90% talent, and 10% composure.  Once we got out of the start box (or into the arena, or through the water, or past his latest delusion, etc.) that horse was amazing.  I only had him for a year, and he remains the only horse I have ever sold.  My job at an advertising agency prevented me from giving him the 5-6 rides a week he required to keep him out of the asylum and me out of the emergency room.


Then, 4 years after selling Major came Ozzy.  My best friend from college, Lisa Bell, owns his sire, and a mutual acquaintance got in a lovely TB mare.  I said, “If you breed Devon to that mare, I want the baby.”  To which they replied, “If you want the baby, we’ll breed Devon to that mare.”


On March 19th 1999, on a FREEZING morning in West Virginia, Ozzy was born; and he was born sane, beautiful, and full of ideas.  He got his full name (It was decided he was “Ozzy” shortly after birth), when he was 2 months old as I was watching him while turned out with his mom.  He was frightened by something in the field, and instead of snorting, rearing, bucking, or running away, he calmly walked up to it, sniffed it, pawed it a time or two, let out an audible and unimpressed sigh, and began to eat the grass that grew around it.  I said to him, “Ozzy, my sweet, you’ve got your own way about you; your own way of doing everything.  Your own Zen…your own Philosophy.”  Hence, The Ozzy Philosophy was born.


I had never owned a foal before, and luckily for me Ozzy was born broke and with the soul of a 10-year-old packer.  He was turned out with Whiskey to grow up, and watching the two of them become friends made me happy beyond description.  Whiskey, old, faithful, and still full of spunk being herded and irritated by a confident yearling Ozzy produced a grin on my face that I can still feel.


Breaking Ozzy was a walk in the park.  There was one rule:  Explain it clearly, give him time to process what you expected, and then ask.  When these simple rules were followed, the results were always the same: eager, willing, and workmanlike compliance… followed by a “what’s next?” 


The only thing noteworthy about all of Ozzy’s first were how unfathomably un-noteworthy they were.  During his first outing as a two year old at Frying Pan Park, I felt safer than I had ever felt on a horse as we walked around the XC course.  His first unrecognized event at Plantation field as a three year old included a clean XC ride and a lead change or two during stadium (which was his first course of more than three fences).  His second unrecognized event at elementary level in the fall of his third year at Menfelt resulted in a blue ribbon.  Both of our first.  I still remember crying with disbelief and joy when I called my mom and dad in Southwest Virginia.  Lisa told me when I called her, “After over twenty years, you finally have the horse you deserve.”

Every ride on Ozzy left me feeling fortunate and blessed.  His first Beginner Novice, Novice, and Training were all days that I remember with outstanding clarity.  Every morning of those events, I would greet him at his stall and thank him for being him, for taking such good care of me, and for having so much fun while doing so. 


When I lost Whiskey in 2002, I was desolate and broken.  Ozzy pulled me through.  He got me out of bed, and reminded me that loving horses is where I find my strength.  My friends and family watched us grow, learn, and thrive.  My mom and dad were so proud and happy to see me on a horse that was a protector. 


In November 2003 as a 4-year-old, Ozzy finished his first recognized Novice at my favorite place on earth, the Virginia Horse Trials.  One year earlier, I had moved to Southwest Virginia within 20 minutes of my parents whom I adore, and I was happy.  On the way home from VHT I realized I had only spoken to my mom all weekend.  Dad hadn’t gotten on the phone once, and this was unusual.  He was my rock and my breath, and it wasn’t until the weekend passed that I noticed I was having a hard time breathing.


By the time I got home to my farm, I knew something was wrong.  I was, unfortunately, right.  My Daddy had cancer.  I was shelled.  On Tuesday, January 13th, 2004, my Daddy died from a fast moving infection.  He had been in remission. 


Ozzy, yet again, pulled me through.  He was still pulling me through over three years later, because you never stop grieving from that sort of loss.  I was sitting on Ozzy not long after Daddy died, crying and begging him to heal me.  He did everything that he could, and again, his ability to help me smile again was staggering.


There is not enough space to tell all the stories that made Ozzy who he was, because he was my everything.  He was my therapist, my friend, and my solace.  When I was on him, I didn’t worry for my safety, my sanity or my future.  I was at peace.  He made me unconditionally happy.  He was heart and devotion and ability, and on November 25th I received the call every horse owner dreads.  Ozzy was found in his field.  He had somehow broken his neck in a freak pasture accident and died instantly.


This is not about me, so I will not discuss my grief, which even though is something with which I have had unfortunate practice, is still is powerful enough to knock me to my knees.  This is about Ozzy, and what he taught me.  He taught me fairness, patience, and harmony.  He taught me that good work is the result of good teachings, and that when all else fails?  Go back to the beginning.  Most simply, he taught me how to ride.  My previous horses had issues, issues that had to be dealt with before you even THOUGHT about putting in a good test or a clean round.  With Ozzy, all I had to do was focus on the task at hand.  I often joked that Ozzy’s only fault was that he would do whatever I asked.  When I rode well, this was a blessing.  When I rode not so well, he made that painstakingly apparent and he taught me.  He was uncomplicated, athletic, forgiving, and wise beyond his years.  He was everything of which I had ever dreamed.  He was my horse of a lifetime, and he was taken too soon.


Friends and strangers have sent comfort and support in overwhelming waves.  An award has been created that we will give out at the Virginia Horse Trials.  Specific criteria are still being ironed out but the award will be given to an adult amateur who is thankful, happy, and well partnered on a horse they have brought up themselves.  The donations made by people have been a healing force.  Knowing that others remember Ozzy as I do keeps me going.


I am doing well enough to write this article, go to work, eat dinner, and function.  Shortly after I lost Ozzy I joined a gym so my evenings after work would not be so without routine.  The elliptical was no match for kissing Ozzy on his snip, or a short trail ride on a brisk afternoon, but I work with what I have. 


I know I will own another horse, but I am in no hurry.  It would not be fair to whoever tried to fill the colossal shoes they would have placed before them.  I also know that I will never have the feeling of utter contentment and peace again.  I am not left with nothing, however.  I will take what Ozzy taught me and use it.  I can pass on that sense of safety and willingness to learn and to teach.  I have taken on a CANTER horse to love and train, and that has been the most amazing process.  It has helped me move on while simultaneously breaking my heart.  You can read about our progress on a blog that I'm writing set up by Allie Conrad of CANTER Mid-Atlantic.


Finally, I know that no matter what I say, I will fall in love again; but never like that.  All the same, I’ll remember that the strength and love that is found in the soul of a horse is both necessary and sufficient, and I will always thank Ozzy for saving me in everyway that a girl can be saved by a horse.


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