Life Lessons From Duckie

By Hannah Spitzer

Southridge High School

My footsteps echo down the barn aisle, cutting through the early morning peace hanging in the air. Elegant heads gaze out at me with curiosity as I prepare for another long day ahead. Working with horses is certainly a tremendous amount of work, but my lovely mare, Duckie, makes it all worth it.

I first started riding horses when I was seven years old. Like so many little girls, I was infatuated with ponies and begged my parents to buy me one of my own. While they didn’t oblige to that just yet, they did agree to let me start riding lessons. Weekly trips to the barn to ride brawny lesson ponies snowballed into daily rides, a horse of my own, and competing in dressage and eventing.

Duckie is like a child to me. I love her soft auburn hair and her shrill nicker. I have never connected with a horse the way I do with her, and I know that she feels similarly. While I adore her, she certainly isn’t an easy horse to ride and manage. Countless falls, failed competitions, and many tears have taught me so many life lessons. A very valuable lesson Duckie has taught me is that winning isn’t always the most important thing, and that success is a relative term. Judges can tell me a great deal about my riding. They can tell me how beautiful (or not) my equitation is. They can tell me how close to perfect I have come that day. But the one thing no judge can tell me is how successful I have been. My personal goals and happiness with my riding are more important that all the blue ribbons in the world.

Duckie has taught me incredible patience. The hours and hours of hard work I have dedicated to my riding certainly do pay off, but I have to be willing to let success come when it does. Some days will not be our day, and that is perfectly fine. Getting frustrated with myself or my horse will never make my riding any better, in fact it will make it worse. Thinking through to a rational solution is always the best option.

Although I have learned countless more lessons, the most important thing Duckie has taught me is to find something you love, and never let it go. I love riding horses so much that my entire life revolves around them. But more than just that, I love Duckie. I almost lost Duckie this past year. She colicked severely in April of 2014. We rushed her to the veterinary school at Oregon State University, but my family and I believed she would need to be euthanized. Luckily, Duckie recovered brilliantly, and is currently faring better than ever. My eyes were opened from this experience as to how much I took Duckie for granted. I didn’t realize how truly lucky I am to have her until I almost lost her. I know now how important it is to live every moment you have with someone to the fullest. You never know when you might lose them. Someday Duckie will pass on and I will be heartbroken. But for now I have her, and I love her more than anything in the world. She gives me the will to get up in the morning, and the motivation to power through the day. When I walk down the dusty barn aisle and see Duckie’s beautiful face waiting for me, I feel in my heart how lucky I am. I am with her, and I am home.

About Grace Masback

Grace Masback, 17, aspires to give voice to the voiceless and holds the modest ambition of becoming the voice of Gen Z. Frustrated by the dearth of impactful platforms for teen journalists, she founded WANT, a news, sports, and entertainment website that aggregates the best in high school journalism from school newspapers and teen bloggers around the world (

There is one comment

  1. Sarah Vogelsberg

    As a fellow horse-lover, I understand the emotional connection you describe with Duckie. I appreciate the fact that you focus on the relationship with your horse and the meaning you take from that instead of winning ribbons. Bravo Hannah and Duckie!

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