“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

She was beautiful: a dappled, dark brown coat and rippling muscles to match.

But it was the mischievous sparkle in her eyes that caused most of my adolescent anxiety – a sparkle that kept me constantly guessing whether Cintara was going to buck me off or march around the competition ring like a seasoned champion. As my best friend in equine form, riding Cintara was like being in the presence of a military drillmaster with the finicky flare of a teenager. My admiration for her beauty and ability was only matched by my fear of her power.

Without a doubt, beautifully controlled chaos could take a rapid turn for disaster at any minute.

But through it all, I saw our potential. Her unpredictability began to feed my adrenaline. Cintara's raw talent and wild heart commanded my discipline and respect. With our tireless work, unrelenting attitudes, and shared humility, Cintara and I became the insurmountable athletes that I knew we could be.

The ribbons and trophies are collecting dust in the basement, but the lessons from my strictest teacher remain freshly polished in my heart. Where others see impossibility, I will see opportunity. Where others see challenges, I will understand the power of determination.

And Cintara, you stubborn horse, I will never give up. I will always be a cowgirl.

— Alexandra Minnis