I Rediscovered a Childhood Hobby—And It’s Brought Me Even More Joy as an Adult

Getting back in the saddle with my 20-year-old Haflinger horse is the best thing that ever happened to me.

Haflinger Horse ThorCourtesy Jen St. Louis

Thor came to us with the name Sterling, but it didn’t suit him. While Thor is of course the Norse god of thunder, we named him after the Chris Hemsworth character in the Marvel movies. With his long blond mane and playful attitude, it just seemed to fit. He’s got the wiggliest upper lip I’ve ever seen on a horse, and he uses it to nuzzle and dig through pockets.

This 20-year-old Haflinger horse is my pandemic pony, the fulfillment of my childhood dream of having my own horse. He is also the best thing that has ever happened to me. I apologize to my dear husband, Dave, when I say that.

We board Thor at a barn roughly 25 minutes’ away by car from our home outside Elmira, Ontario, where he shares a grass-free paddock with two other horses. The Haflinger horse breed originated in the mountains of Austria and northern Italy, where they lived on scrubby mountain grasses. To help keep him at a healthy weight despite the richer grass he grazes on here, we feed Thor mostly hay—though he does get the occasional apple or peppermint.

Thor is very different now from when I first got him. Back then, he was so sour and nearly unrideable. I read that Haflingers are notorious for needing time to warm up to new owners, so I continued doing groundwork with him, such as walking by hand. Over time we developed a mutual trust.

Initially, I had no intention of doing much more than plodding around the neighbouring fields with him. I’m a middle-aged rider, coming back to horses after a 26-year break due to back pain. But once I was regularly riding again, I built up some core strength, which helped with my back.

I soon realized that Thor had the potential to be much more than just a trail horse for me. For example, he absolutely loves jumping (so do I), and I’ve entered him in a couple of shows. I’m so proud of him and how far he’s come.

I’m grateful to have found my way back to riding.

Next, check out 30 majestic horse pictures from across Canada.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada