Lessons From an Unconventional Friendship


Story bAbby Smith

I met my best friend when I was sixteen. He had just turned four and had the cutest blue eyes and a long gorgeous tail.

His name was Romeo, and he was my new horse. My relationship with Romeo taught me patience and trust while giving me the feeling of pure unbridled joy.

When I met Romeo I was well into my high school career. I had my group of friends and my own process of doing things. I was always independent and never relied on one person to be my “best friend”.  I never wanted the commitment of that.  I was more than happy to bounce between my different friend groups.

After my time with Romeo, my understanding of friendship changed.

I bought Romeo as a fairly untrained baby. He was a horse I would be able to grow with and make my own.  But to be honest, the first weeks I had him, I regretted purchasing him. 

He wasn’t trained at the level I had been riding in. He was cocky and extremely frustrating.

But there was something about him that I couldn’t resist. Blame it on the horse-loving little girl in me; I just couldn’t stop thinking bout him and how much I wanted him to be my dream horse.

So, I kept working with him. Everyday I would come to the barn and hang out with him. I’d spend hours riding him, brushing him, and grazing him.

After about two months he and I really started to become friends. His training was coming along and I had learned a lot from all the hard work.

Every time I would come to the barn he would stick his head out of his stall at the sound of my voice calling his name.

I played with him in the turnouts allowing him to chase me and nuzzle up against me. For hours I would hang out in his stall with him doing nothing.

We had a connection, a somewhat unexplainable bond. He brought out my weaknesses and helped adjust my riding to get over them, and I pushed him to go from that little untrained baby to a horse that was athletic and skilled.

But Romeo was stubborn. There were days when he decided to completely ignore everything I did to try to get him to listen to me.

One lesson in particular, a day before leaving for the first competition of the season, Romeo refused to go over any of the jumps in the arena. He stopped just feet before them each time. Even my trainer was at a loss for words.

As the lesson went on I was getting angrier and angrier with him and he was acting worse and worse.

I was so mad at Romeo, and he knew it. Much like dogs, when you ignore horses they try even harder to get your attention. Despite his nuzzling and whinnies I didn’t give Romeo the time of day.

I contemplated missing the horse show; I didn’t trust Romeo to be well behaved enough. I thought all of my hard work had been for nothing.

But, I competed anyway. It was the first time I was afraid to go into the show arena. I was nervous, and Romeo was feeding off my anxious energy. Finally, I sucked it up and went into my class.

He and I ended up Reserve Champion in the division.

Romeo and I were able to pull our nervous selves together to get the win. There was a moment between us where we both knew that we had to get our jobs done no matter what.  We had to get over ourselves.

This is what friendship is.

A friend is someone who will do something that brings out the best in you. It is someone who, no matter what is going on, will come together with you and foster success.

I could have given up completely on Romeo the first week I got him. He could have given up on me right before that horseshow. But we didn’t hold grudges against each other.

He and I couldn’t “talk it out” or overcome whatever had happened between us in anyway humans would have. I just had to have trust in our relationship that we would be able to get through the show.  

The trust between Romeo and I taught me what raw friendship is, friendship that can’t be ruined by words or any kind of social context.  

I was committed to Romeo in a way I had never been committed to someone or something before. His success became my success, as he learned I learned.

I understood how to forgive and to trust, which in the end allowed me, as well as my best friend, to be victorious.

Because of Romeo I now understand how much value relationships can have, what they can teach you, and how much can be gained by having a best friend, human or not. 


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