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A Growing Friendship
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by Michelle Ripple
As a little girl, I was fascinated with horses. I'd have to do my chores and I'd earn the chance to take riding lessons every Saturday at a farm in Jarrettsville named Friendship Farm. I started to ride when I was six and rode until the age of seventeen. Of course, college was approaching and I had gotten a job. Therefore, the time to ride slowly drifted away.

Approximately ten years later, a friend and do-worker asked if I'd like to go with her to the horse farm where she volunteered named, ERRI. I immediately said, "yes." I'd missed riding and being around horses for such a long time. I was so excited. The first day there, I signed up to volunteer. While volunteering, I always admired a handsome gelding in the rescue that was nicknamed, Mr. T. His birth name was Teddy's Outlaw. He was a dark bay thoroughbred with a black mane, tail, and socks with a white star on his forehead. After a few months had passed, I was getting used to riding again. I asked the president of the rescue, Debbie Frank, if I could ride him. She thought about it long and hard. I really mean long----and----hard----. I believe she contemplated his reasons for being in the rescue in the first place. He was originally a racehorse and ended up at Tranquility Farm. As I was told, he was a bit intimidating to use for lessons at that farm and his current owner had loved him enough to place him in the rescue. After the longest thirty seconds of my life, Debbie finally said, "yes." I was so happy! I began to ride Mr. T and continued to ride him faithfully since that day over two years ago.

Our first few rides together were quite different than they are today. One of our first lessons together, I remember losing my stirrup over a jump and realizing that he doesn't stop in a hackamore. As we were going around the ring at Mach 10, I decided it was time to get off in a location of my choosing. After the fright of a stirrup banging on his side, he finally stopped galloping around the ring. I got back on him and started working again.

Since that day, we've had many learning experiences, which have helped mold us to what we are today. We both learned to trust one another. I began taking more lessons to become a better rider and to learn how I could rehabilitate him. I've had to learn to slow this ex-race horse's pace down a bit and learn not to be intimidated by such a strong and powerful animal. We took it slow and gradual because that is what he needed. I fostered Mr. T for about eight months to ensure that he was the horse for me. About a year ago, I finally adopted him. We've made so many improvements since we first met. He has relaxed tremendously with me. He's been to a Pipe Opener and a Hunter Pace this summer. He did extremely well. Mr. T has jumped ditches, embankments, and even a water jump with no refusals. He's even starting dressage, and I'm planning to attend our first event this summer.

I'm thankful that my friend asked me to join her for a day at the barn two years ago. I've been given the opportunity to revive the passion that I have for horses, which lay dormant for over ten years. I'm also thankful that there is such an organization as ERRI that looks after horses that have been abused, neglected, or not wanted. Without this non-profit organization, I would have never met my friend, my horse, Teddy's Outlaw.

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Michelle and
Mr. T