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A girl and her horse....

Today, one of my dearest & oldest friends tuns 29 years old. My friend is a horse named Jiggs.

I met Jiggs a few weeks before my 18th birthday. My mom always told me it was love at first sight. She was with me on my “horse shopping” quest, and has always said that she knew by how my face lit up when I first saw him, that Jiggs was the horse I was going to buy. Mom was essential to my schemes to own a horse of my very own, because she had always wanted to own her own horse, she was my greatest ally in this crime of horse crazy love.

Jiggs was 8 and I was 18, and we were young & foolish. He bucked a lot, and ran fast. I had an after school part-time job that I calculated could pay his stable board every month. We were set for adventure. And here we are, 29 and 39 both wondering where 21 years have gone. Jiggs doesn’t run quite as fast now, and I have a real adult job and responsibilities - but we still remember when….

Jiggs: a beautiful, tall, bay thoroughbred gelding, with a quirky white blaze down his face. He always has a kind and playful expression in his eyes; mischief but never malice. He loves his chin scratched, but dislikes his belly touched. Honest and forgiving in his nature. He never seems to grow old in spirit, even though his body is starting to become weary. He is the best horse. He is my horse. It warms my heart when people tell me he is a barn favourite.

When you own an animal for all of your adult life, it is not a simple pet. Jiggs has been my constant companion through so many major changes in my life. He was the pinnacle of my childhood dreams to own a horse. He graduated high school with me, and went to university with me. I joked in University that some people saved money for “bar” funds, and I save money for “barn” funds. Jiggs & the barn was always a refuge from the stresses of studying, and everyday life. I can tell both my children they rode Jiggs before they were born (and in my son’s case, that he fell off Jiggs before he was born). My daughter can now say she has ridden Jiggs without me holding on. My husband will forever blame Jiggs for having a sore back. Jiggs has been my friend through so many seasons in my life, it is hard to imagine life without him.

Loving animals is such a strange journey, and for people who have not done it, they often do not understand. You get to know each other so well over the years, warts and all, and there is such comfort in that knowing each other. You build trust and affection with this creature of another species. You communicate even though you don’t speak the same language. And as their people, we are responsible for their well-being.

I started off as a teenage girl who wanted to gallop around hay fields, and see how high I could jump a horse. From that emerged one of the most significant relationships in my life. It is relevant here, in my veterinary blog, because I believe this relationship has helped me become a better veterinarian. In school the word “empathy” was thrown around a lot, we had entire lectures dedicated to empathy. I still don’t know if a person can learn empathy in a lecture hall, but I do believe owning Jiggs has taught me empathy in the veterinary office. Sometimes Jiggs was sick, or hurt, and I had to call a veterinarian. I remember the stress, and fear of being the client with a sick pet. I have been on the other side of the table being told Jiggs needed emergency surgery, and not knowing if this was the last time I would look into those big brown eyes of my friend. I have known what it is really like to love a beast. It is hard at times, and wonderful, and in the end it makes me a better person.

Happy Birthday Jiggs!

And a big thanks to Jennifer Burnham & everyone at Maplewood Stables here in Cobourg for taking such great care of Jiggs in his golden years

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