Throughout the 17 years I have been on this earth, I have encountered many amazing friends, each of whom has influenced me in some way. The friend whom I love and cherish most, though, is not even a human being, but a horse. I call him Teddy Bear, or Teddy for short. Before I had him, I owned a number of other horses, each very special, but as difficult as it is to admit, Teddy is my favorite. I saw Teddy for the first time two years ago. A young boy brought him over from the Netherlands but had grown too tall and was forced to sell him. Teddy arrived at my barn before anyone even knew he was for sale. Although I was not in the market for a new horse, my trainer immediately recognized his incredible potential and after long negotiations, Teddy became mine. I knew then that I finally had a horse capable of helping me achieve my dreams in the show ring, but I didn’t know I was about to gain the best friend ever. In Teddy I found a selfless, respectful, vivacious personality who has taught me more than I could ever learn from a human. He has taught me self-reliance, love, dedication and compassion. It is in this horse that my personality and hard work shine through. The bond between horse and rider is stronger than you might imagine. Horses possess the ability to sense whatever the rider is feeling, and it affects their feelings, too. Due partially to Teddy’s personality, I initially found it difficult to have this kind of relationship with him. He has a very distinct personality, one that makes me laugh regularly. As far as Teddy is concerned, he is a king to be treated like royalty. Therefore, when he first became mine, he was not particularly sentimental and I found it hard to connect with him. Fortunately, once I recognized his royal nature, I was able to develop a relationship with him. After a long period of struggle and frustration, Teddy and I grew even closer, to the point of winning multiple blue ribbons. Teddy and I were a triumphant team. Showing competitively requires a full-time commitment by both rider and horse, which I was more than willing to make. This meant riding at least five days a week and often being away on the weekends at shows all over the country. My friends often ask, “Do you ever get sick of it?” Without a moment’s hesitation I always reply, “No.” Riding for me is not a commitment, but a passion. Going to the barn is not a chore, but a privilege. I ride to live, and live to ride. Riding has taught me lessons not only on horseback, but also in life that I will use forever. Now, as a senior, I feel incomplete when I go for more than a day without seeing my horse. Teddy has come to mean more to me than anything in this world. He is like a child to me, and so much more. Knowing that his complete health, happiness and existence rely on me has become a great motivator. I honestly believe I owe a huge amount of my happiness and fulfillment to my always and forever best friend, Teddy.