Big and Small

Laura Fernandez learns life lessons from her pets

I don’t ride for a living, but riding is my passion. I work to be able to ride. Horses have been a part of my life since I was 5 years old, so I spend as much time as possible on horseback. I ride Contact five days a week, we jump two to three days a week and we compete every eight weeks.

It was a memorable meeting. When we imported Contact from Holland in February, he had to stay at my friend’s barn in Los Angeles for about a month before we could move him to Las Vegas. When I went out to groom him, I felt this surreal emotional connection right away, one I hadn’t felt since I was a teenager. I wasn’t able to try him out during that time because of all the mud puddles from the rainstorms, but when Contact finally came to Vegas, he recognized me. He took a deep breath, and I could just tell that he knew he was home.

A bond with a horse is different from one with a dog. While it could take years to build a relationship with a horse, dogs are quick to love—especially my Chihuahua, Zoey. She could go home with anyone and make a family. Zoey is obsessed with children and horses. She’s been known to jump into baby cradles to smother their inhabitants with kisses, and at the barn she tries to run with every horse, even though she only weighs 4 pounds.

A couple of members of our barn—Blue Ribbon Hunters and Jumpers—decided to rescue a mini horse. We found Rebel (named after UNLV) at a rescue in San Diego. He’s a firecracker. Over the past couple of months, he has really adjusted to being at the barn, and is probably the happiest mini horse I’ve ever met. 

Caring for horses has taught me a lot. By facing the normal challenges that come with owning a large animal, I’ve learned many lessons, but the greatest lesson has been how to be in the now. Life is very distracting, but when you’re riding a horse there’s no room to lose focus. If you’re not in the present moment, you or your horse could be injured. Riding pushes away all the garbage in your head. It’s very meditative.

Pets: Contact, Belgian Warmblood horse; Rebel, mini horse; and Zoey, Chihuahua

Pets’ Favorite Pastimes: Contact: Snuggling, getting massaged, eating snacks, stealing straw hats. Rebel: Chasing Zoey, getting his hair braided, nuzzling up with every horse in the barn. Zoey: Attending horse shows, obsessing over children, crying when she sees a baby.

Ages: Contact: 11; Rebel: 4; Zoey: 1

Owner: Laura Fernandez, vertical lead for travel/tourism division at Pandora Media