Behind The Barn

When he comes near me and enters my space, I kiss on his forehead – He knows it ‘s his place.

Jeff has been with us for about 9 years now and I am sadly seeing our time together quickly coming to an end. Jeff is a breed known as a Red-tick healer and he is a character. So full of life. His place is on the golf cart where he rushes frantically to get on board if he hears the motor start up. Ironically, it is due to this object of his utter bliss that caused his demise. Several years ago, Jeff took a flying leap off the cart in pursuit of a squirrel and caught his hind leg in the armrest. He didn’t break anything, but the injury set a series of hip problems in motion which has progressed over the years to the point that he has lost almost all control of his hind legs. He is not in any pain, however his inability to maneuver is quite distressing and before too long, it will be unbearable.

I just got home from running an errand and Jeff was right beside me in the front seat of the car – his other passion. I have to lift him up to help him up into the car or he fall backwards. I had my hand on his lovely head as we passed the spot where I first saw Jeff and the memory came flooding back to me. We live just off a windy mountain road in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Along this road are several spots along a creek where you can pull off the road. Jeff was sitting patiently at one of those spots not too far from our road. For three days in a row, he sat and waited in the exact same spot, staring at every car that passed but never moved. After seeing him several days in a row, I told my husband that I kept seeing that dog. He seemed to be looking for someone and was very loyal. If I saw him again, I was bringing him home. It was just too sad. The next day when I passed his spot, he was gone. I was feeling both concern and relief as I knew he wouldn’t have left on his own. I put it out of my mind for the next couple of days. On a very cold November morning two days after last seeing him, I was leading my horses to the upper pasture when something caught my eye behind the old barn. As I approached I saw it was Jeff along with another, much older Red-bone Hound dog. They just sat perfectly still and watched me. That, in itself was a phenomenon as Jeff NEVER sits still. But there they were, not making  a sound or moving  a muscle. They were both very skinny and shivering. Of course, I got them some food and made them a bed in the straw. Neither dog ever left and it wasn’t long before Jeff and Leon were a part of our family.

Leon and Jeff at Barney's Birthday Party

Leon and Jeff at Barney’s Birthday Party

I don’t know how Jeff and Leon hooked up or how Leon convinced Jeff to leave his post. I don’t know how any one wouldn’t be looking for these two special dogs. I don’t know how they knew to come to my house. All I know is that we are grateful that they did. Our lives have been all the richer for it. Leon died a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of approximately 17 and I see Jeff going down that path shortly. It will be the end of an era.


Living Up To Expectations

I know from experience what a fine friend she can be..

I always put my beginner riders on Guilty. She is safe, level headed and takes care of her rider. The problem lies in the fact that she is too careful sometimes, resulting in what some people interpret as difficult. She doesn’t move too fast or too much unless she feels it is necessary, she believes that you should be the one calling the shots, or if she isn’t quite comfortable going into a trot with a rider who can’t even make her turn or stop yet correctly. Then I start hearing the grumbles: “She won’t go. She’s lazy. I can’t make her do anything. She’s stubborn”. etc. These comments coming from a youngster who has no idea how to handle a horse much less make these assumptions. It is always the horse’s fault. Today when I heard these comments coming from a camper who is now on her third day of ever riding a horse, it hit home to me how this mindset affects the horse. If this is the kind of labels you put on her, this is what you will get from here on out.  She feels that energy and will live up to those expectations because you have a bad attitude. She knows it. It actually reminded me of an incident that I am not too proud of that happened to me when I was growing up. I overheard my mother telling a neighbor how much help my older sister was around the house -( I was the second child and always thought she favored her which didn’t help matters) – When the neighbor commented that it looked like I was a good helper too (I guess she realized I was listening and that my feelings were getting hurt ) my mother spoke up and said, “Oh no, not Bobby. I can’t get her to anything around here. Her next sentence was when she turned to me and said, “Why don’t you finish doing the dishes?”. Being the rebel I was, I got my snotty attitude on and retorted “Because I don’t want to make a liar out of you!” and stormed out the door. Granted, my claim to fame has never been for my love of housework, but I embarrassed my mother in front of her friend. Her friend probably thought I was some kind of demon child from that moment on. The point is, I was going to live up to her expectation of me – not try harder to prove  she was wrong about me. If she thought I was not a good helper, then by god, I wasn’t going to be. I am afraid that Guilty and I have that mindset in common. I tried to explain this concept to the little girl and tell her not to assume Guilty won’t do something for you – because she will, gladly, if you expect her to. She told me later that she apologized to Guilty for getting impatient and frustrated with her and for thinking bad things. She said it was funny but she thought Guilty winked at her. About a half hour later Guilty carried her her first trail ride of her life and performed beautifully for her. She was glowing.

A change in Attitudes

A change in Attitudes

I have always said that Guilty is my best teacher.


I have to believe that I will be with him again when I leave this earth, when I should die – I will meet up with my horse and take that last ride, only this time we’ll be flying together across the sky.

Never give up on your dreams, no matter how long it takes or what obstacles you have to overcome. This is a true story of a woman who made her lifelong wish to ride horseback through the mountains out west with her sister come true. Sounds simple enough. I guess I need to tell you the rest of the story.

First, the dream was created when they were children and didn’t materialize until they were well into their sixties. She had lived her entire life, raised her family, had a career, endured life’s hardships and made wonderful memories carrying that vision. It never faded, it never changed. It was only when  she was in the final stages of cancer that she decided that this was one dream that was not going to slip away before she left this world. She got her life in order, found loving homes for all of her pets including her horses, and made reservations for herself and her sister to visit a dude ranch in Wyoming in June of that year. She was fading fast when the trip rolled around but got on that plane and headed west for the ride of her life. She knew it was literally now or never. Well, she rode those scenic mountains that week with her sister at her side even though she was partially debilitated at the time. Her right arm had ceased to function and hung limply at her side. That didn’t stop her. She got help getting on and off that horse and away she went laughing and smiling like it was pure heaven on earth.

Enjoying a mountain stream

Enjoying a mountain stream

It was probably the biggest highlight of her life and even better than she had imagined all those decades when she could only daydream about it. It was her final goal and she died that autumn shortly after returning from that trip. To celebrate the meaning of that ride and the joy she found though horses, her saddle pad and boots were draped over her casket at her funeral. Kind of said it all to us fellow horse lovers who understand the significance of that statement.