Get your Kleenex ready. Every time I reread Emily and Lola’s story I tear up. From the slaughter pen to the Dixon Oval at Devon – that’s Lola’s trajectory. Now living her best life at the beautiful Pandora Stables in Perkasie, PA, Lola has been a constant in Emily’s life throughout her teenage and adult years. Seeing these two together you can see the trust and love between them. Emily describes Lola as her “diamond in the rough,” and I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: it’s a rags to riches story! One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.
Check out some of Emily’s own photos of Lola at the bottom of the post!
Horse: Track Rat, barn name “Lola” or “T”, show name “Down to a T”, 20 years old, thoroughbred, photographed at Pandora Stables in Perkasie, Pennsylvania
How it all started…
I came to own Lola through fate. She was picked up on her way to the kill pen by a rescue in Bernville, PA. The trainer that I was currently riding with agreed to foster her at her farm and use her in her lesson program. This provided the horse with a strong chance of meeting “their person” and finding a loving home. I rode Lola for a few years and leased her for one year. On my 15th birthday my Mom officially adopted her.
Lola was my second horse. My childhood pony Sassy had been in my life for 7 years prior to finding Lola. Sassy was a registered Chincoteague pony from Assateague Island, VA with a bigger than life personality. She was the best first horse I could’ve asked for. Sadly, Sassy passed away in August of 2020 at the age of 24, 11 years after adopting Lola. We spent 17 years of our life together. Sassy was smart, loving, talented, and a bit mischievous. I will always remember her this way.
Through such a great loss, I’m thankful to have Lola in my life.
I had grown up primarily doing hunters and some equitation with Sassy – so that was the goal with Lola as well. We ended up showing in the local circuit (AHS) for 2 consecutive years. We started in the pre-children’s hunter, working our way up the following year to Children’s Hunter. After I turned 18, I had to move on to another division. We dabbled in some rated shows, such as June Fete and the Brandywine Summer Series at Devon. Lola made the best hunter horse!
A Little History…
Lola was born into the racing industry the year of 2002, in Maryland. She started racing at 3, and her career ended at just 5 years old (2005-2007). Lola had a total of 33 starts and won 4 of those races. She placed 2nd twice, and 3rd six times. Her total earnings amounted to $48,335.
I am unsure of Lola’s condition [directly] after she was pulled from the slaughter pipeline. Once at AC4H, she still had a number stuck to her hindquarters. That’s all she was to those who threw her away – a number. When she was taken back to the farm [from which] I adopted her, she was described as ‘racetrack fit’. She was straightforward and fairly easy to ride. I imagine her time at auction was brief, based on her physical appearance. However, despite appearing fine to the naked eye, the emotional scars are everlasting. Lola was one of the lucky ones.
After adopting Lola, she had been under normal care for a couple of years at the farm in Lahaska. The first time I sat on Lola, she was hot and extremely heavy on the bit. She had minimal concept of bending or suppleness and often raced around the ring unbalanced with her head in the air. Lola would get herself into a panic when she experienced stress, and the only way to soothe her is to call it a day and try again the next time. I attribute this to the trauma she endured in her previous environment.
After only knowing to go fast, it was going to take years to rewire her brain into a level headed hunter mentality. The long and low concept was opposite of [everything] she had ever known.
How and when we met…
Lola was 8 years old when I started riding her. She had been a lesson horse at farm in Lahaska PA for a year or two prior to the first time I sat on her back. Based on the timeline, she was approximately 5 years old when she was dumped at an auction. Through lots of digging online, I was able to uncover her racing records.
It wasn’t necessarily anything that attracted me to Lola – very often, these horses are nothing more than ordinary. Serendipitous is the word I would use to describe how our paths crossed. It was 11 summers ago that I found myself attending ‘advanced camp’ and was eager to sit on anything that was given to me. I was green, willing to learn and saw the value in riding any horse I could get my hands on. I had the hunger of your typical crazy horse girl. One summer day I was given Lola to ride and to put it simply, the rest was history. She was a challenge to say the least and that was what intrigued me.
I saw Lola as a misunderstood horse who didn’t know her job and was lacking confidence in herself. Sometimes horses are a direct reflection of ourselves, and as a teenager going through the motions, I empathized with her. Lola and I clicked and became inseparable. The summer days slowly faded, and before I knew it I had found myself unable to picture my life without her. What was supposed to be nothing more than a brief summer camp tenure turned into a year of hard work, perseverance, blood, sweat, and tears.
After already having “Sassy”, my first pony, my mom told me we could never have another horse. As most know, horses are an expensive and time consuming passion, and the opportunity to own ‘one’ is a true blessing. I accepted this as I was thankful for what my mom had already made possible for me. Something that most never get to experience.
The following November, my 15th birthday was quickly approaching. I remember celebrating with my parents and a few close friends. We had gone out to one of my favorite restaurants. Towards the end of the dinner, I started to open gifts from my friends. For some unknown reason, I saved the gift from my mom for last. It was at this point my mom handed me a white envelope. I assumed it was an obligatory Hallmark card that everyone receives for their birthday [each year]. Upon opening the card I removed a folded white piece of paper and recall thinking “this is unusual”. As I slowly unfolded the piece of paper, I didn’t quite understand. Written on the inside of the folded piece of paper were the words, “Sorry, but this is all I could get you for your birthday this year”. Still fully unaware what was happening and somewhat in shock, I continued to unfold the paper. What was inside is something I will remember for the rest of my life: a picture of Lola.
After the adoption paperwork had been completed and Lola was officially mine, my barn family [had] kept it a secret until my mom was ready to tell me on my 15th birthday (November 7th, 2010). Ironically, one of my girlfriends at the time had gotten me bedazzled bell boots as a gift – little did I know the bell boots were for MY horse!
our lowest point…
Lola has suffered from her fair share of health issues ranging from stomach ulcers to Lyme disease and even low level EPM. Through lots of diagnostics, farm calls, and medication we were able to get her back on track. When Lola was Lyme positive she wasn’t herself. Her entire demeanor was different. I’m so thankful through proper medication that we were able to get her feeling like herself again! As all horse owners know, it’s always upsetting when your animals aren’t feeling well and the fact that they can’t tell you what’s wrong make its that much worse!
our highest point…
One of my proudest moments with Lola was showing in the Brandywine Summer Series at the Devon Horse Show facility. Having the opportunity to ride in the Dixon Oval where Olympic level riders and horses perform was a bucket list item for me. Lola and I also had the opportunity to show at other rated shows like June Fete and more! In addition to riding in the Brandywine Summer Series, another proud moment was winning the Children’s Hunter Division in the AHS circuit. I couldn’t believe that a once unwanted, unloved horse had single handedly allowed me to achieve such an accomplishment in my adolescent years. I was so proud of Lola and the work we had put in over the years leading up to that moment. It was a joint venture and seeing it come to fruition was so rewarding!
where we are now…
Lola is the horse I never knew I needed. She hasn’t been easy, but that’s never stopped me from loving her. Many years ago Lola was standing in a kill pen with hundreds of other horses, all bound for slaughter. All of her short life had been tainted by the humans who let her down, but little did she know, it wouldn’t always be like that.
Some of the lessons she’s taught me over the years have nothing to do with being in the saddle. During our time together, I’ve learned many things from her – always enjoy the ride, if you fall get back on, and take life’s hurdles in stride. I have no doubt she was destined to be my horse. It’s been 12 years now, and I can’t picture my life without her. Lola is diamond in the rough. She was once someone’s trash, but lucky for me I found my treasure.
I wouldn’t be where I am today without Lola. More importantly, I wouldn’t be who I am. Lola has been my compass throughout my adolescent years, guiding me through some of the most tumultuous times of my life. She is the epitome of one of my favorite sayings: Nothing worth having comes easily.
If you’ve considered rescuing a horse – this is your sign.
Here are some of Emily’s own photos!