Nardo could stop, spin, and spook like no other.
On his good days, Nardo was an equitation delight. At nearly 18 hands, bright bay with 4 white socks and a white "heart" on his head, he had a commanding presence at horse shows. Light and floaty, flashy and attention-grabbing, he made you feel like royalty stepping into the ring. But when things went bad, people took notice. At a horse show in Flagstaff, we absolutely crushed the competition in our Saturday classes. Sunday rolled around and we couldn't make it around a single course. We were stopping at fences, spinning and bolting. I remember hearing someone on the sidelines: "I would beat the shit out of that horse."
Well, I didn't beat the shit out of him, I just tucked my tail between my legs and headed back to the barn. I sulked while I cooled him down and gave him a bath. I took his Ritz Bitz with Cheese (his favorite horse show treat) and started to eat them myself, spiteful and frustrated. I was cleaning my tack when one of the barn moms came up to me and said "why don't you just sell him and get something you can win on?"
The thought ripped my guts out. He could be a real chump, no doubt. But he was MY chump, and I wouldn't give up on him. I sat in his stall and gave him the rest of the Ritz Bitz. I knew we'd have another championship day... and another meltdown day, too.
I say it ALL THE TIME now - I will never have another horse with a stopping or spooking habit. But for all the irritating things he did, Nardo also quite literally saved my life. By the time I was 17, I had developed an eating disorder so severe my outpatient doctors and therapists would no longer treat me; they required that I go to inpatient treatment. I dug in my heels, I wouldn't do it.
But then at a horse show, I was so weak and tired and mentally clouded that I couldn't make it around a course (this time to no fault of Nardo... I genuinely couldn't remember where I was going and was so physically weak I could hardly hold on over a 3' fence). My trainer pulled me aside and told me I wasn't getting back on until I got healthy.
I didn't want to go to treatment... but I did. Because I knew choosing not to get better meant I was giving up the one thing that gave me any hope at all. This big, sweet doofus of a horse who wanted nothing more than to fall asleep with his head in my arms and follow me around his turnout. So I went to treatment. I spent 3 months there, and another year-ish after I got home just struggling to maintain a healthy outlook on food and nutrition. And Nardo was there every step of the way, reminding me why I was fighting to stay healthy.
No, I'll never have another spooker or a stopper - but damn, am I grateful for the one that I had.