The Little Red Mare Who Showed Me the World
It is challenging to tell any part of my story without some nod to Ladybug. She’s a little red roan mare decked out with loads of chrome – and even more personality. Ladybug came into my life when I was an awkward and horse-crazed thirteen-year-old through my riding instructor, Anna.
She was her four-year-old future prospect with great bloodlines full of potential. After a couple years of lessons and working around the barn, I finally convinced my mom. I was serious about this whole horse thing. It wasn’t just an expensive phase.
When we started talking to Anna about leasing a horse, she thought Ladybug and I would make a good pair. As my mom told me Ladybug was the horse we were going to start leasing, I let out the most dramatic gasp and exclaimed “oh my gosh she is the most beautiful horse I have ever seen!” The drama continued her first night at the boarding facility when I had to be pried from her stall because I just wanted to sit and hang out with her.
Ladybug and I bonded quickly and in classic horse girl fashion, we were inseparable. In fact, I neglected to ever put a lead rope around her when walking around the barn because I knew she would shadow me wherever I went. Just one month of leasing and we were convinced – she was meant to stay. The years that followed were full of quality time with my dream horse.
We went to playdays, we hauled to local trails, we swam in the lake, we carried flags, and we even chased some cows. My middle school life revolved around that mare and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She was there with me making some special friendships and creating memories that I’ll treasure forever. I was by her side when we battled multiple scary colic episodes. It all felt so meant to be. We became each other’s safe place.
One winter morning, Ladybug came up lame on her front right foot. We were no strangers of the clinic with her colic history, so I called up our trusted vet to haul Bug in.
After some basic lameness examination, it was determined something was wrong. First, we had to decide how aggressive we would labor to uncover the cause. We started small with a month of bute and stall rest. Nothing changed. I called my mom on the way home from the barn that day and just wept. Somehow I knew in my gut this was way bigger than just a sore foot.
For a more thorough examination, we sent her to a specialist to get an MRI. I will never forget sitting across from his desk in that leather chair when he told me she had a torn suspensory ligament, minor navicular syndrome, and some slight cracks to her sesamoid bones. It was a career-ending diagnosis. Quickly I had to wrestle with how something so meant to be, could end. Just like that.
I wish I could have been there to hug that sixteen-year-old girl who thought life as I knew it with Ladybug was over. I would reassure her that God’s plan for us was way bigger than being able to compete in some rodeos.
Over the next couple of years, Ladybug was on stall rest. We grew our bond and picked up some trick training to keep her mind entertained. It was time for me to get back to high school rodeo so we started horse shopping again, which led us to Lacy.
Lacy was a cranky, but athletic and hard-working mare we found on a ranch. Adding another horse to the bill meant downsizing the boarding options which led us to a private self-care barn. Throughout our time there, I fell even more in love with the equestrian life. I was tasked with the barn chores of feeding, watering, blanketing, scheduling vet and farrier visits, worming, and mucking stalls. That husbandry side made me appreciate riding time even more than before. For that reason, I am always grateful for that downsizing.
When it was time to go to college, I loaded the horses up into my small bumper-pull trailer to begin our time in Aggieland. With my course load, time in the saddle started to become few and far between. Despite that lack of time in the saddle, the barn continued to be my safe place. The place where exams and studying and resumes didn’t exist. The place where I could just be. Eventually, I began teaching riding lessons at a local riding academy and grew so fond of yet another facet of the equestrian world – teaching young riders the importance of good horsemanship.
After college, Ladybug journeyed with me to Austin to start my career in the equine industry. It was scary – but I knew we would figure it out side by side. After many terrifying battles with colic, I knew the weight of caring for a horse susceptible to this condition that plagues too many horses. When looking for opportunities, one company stood out as they were on a quest to alert owners to colic in their horses. I quickly connected with their mission.
After nearly a decade with Ladybug, I had learned the importance of being bold and showing up for things you care about, so I reached out. I told my story – most of which was Ladybug’s story – and secured a job. At the time, it was just a job that would start my career in the industry, but it quickly became more than that. It was where I discovered my capabilities in the workplace and where I honed in on my professional passions.
Throughout my time there, I was introduced to the entrepreneurial side of the equine world. As a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work kind of girl, I was captivated. After a few years of saving up as much as I could, the hard work granted me the always-dreamt-of opportunity to breed my prized mare, Ladybug. This quickly became an all-out obsession as I researched all the best Quarter Horse bloodlines and stud fees and the process of artificial insemination.
After landing on the right stallion and securing the contract, Ladybug was headed to the vet clinic. In typical Bug fashion, it wasn’t easy. She looked like she would be releasing an egg soon, so I drove to and from Pilot Point (*remind me to add equine semen delivery to the resume*) to save on shipment fees. She held onto the egg, forcing us to do it all over again the next day.
Eleven long months of waiting later and we had a healthy little filly on the ground – and she was the perfect copy and paste of her mom. It truly felt like the dreams of that girl with a career-ending lameness diagnosis on her most treasured horse had been realized. Throughout the experience of breeding Ladybug and raising her spunky filly, Waffle, I gained a lot of respect for the breeding industry. It is hard work and it takes all your emotions, but when you have a wobbly-legged and playful foal licking their fuzzy little lips up at you… it’s all worth it.
When it was almost time for Waffle to be weaned from her momma, Ladybug came up very lame on her right hind leg. Primed with her extensive history, I rushed her to the vet. The next few months were a blur. Life was spent rushing between work and the vet clinic, getting hopeful calls and not-so-hopeful ones. Talking through our options and totaling up the bills. Ladybug had a severe injury to her pastern. It would require an arthrodesis surgery, plus a permanent metal plate and a set of screws.
We were headed back to Texas A&M in what felt like a cruel full circle journey. Thanks to an amazing surgeon and other kind support staff, she made it through the surgery. Her future was looking possible. Experiences like that will forge your appreciation of the veterinary community and humble even the most independent horse owner. It takes a village to raise and keep a horse. I am so thankful for Ladybug’s village.
Cut to a few years later, more horse girl dreams were realized. My husband and I were fortunate to find and purchase land outside of Fort Worth where we live with Ladybug and Waffle. We wake up every morning, enjoy our coffee while pouring grain into their buckets, and watch them grazing out in the pasture from our kitchen. Together we are all making the Ogden Acres home. I honestly have to pinch myself to remember I’m not dreaming.
When I look back on these first thirteen years with Ladybug, I can’t help but smile. When my family bought Ladybug, I thought we were buying a horse to ride. And when we received that career-ending diagnosis, I thought it was all over. But Ladybug has proved me wrong. Little did I know then that “the most beautiful horse I had ever seen” would lead me all over the equine industry. She would turn my small love of riding horses into a full career completely immersed in this lifelong passion. She would introduce me to new skills, new people, and new opportunities. She would show me the world that would become my home.
The best part of Ladybug’s story? It’s just getting started.