The Picnic

My beautiful paint gelding is like a blank canvas awaiting the brush – My plan is to dedicate plenty of time and not give him the rush

Eddy-O has been my number one project for the past couple of years. He was born here and he and I have pioneered our own path. The problem came when he had to postpone any further riding or training for three months due to a sore foot. I used this time that he was recovering to work with Patches. She had just come into my possession and I needed to get to know her and her limitations before using her for my program. I spent a great deal of time with her and even took her on trailering trips. Eddy would stand at the fence and stare at us the entire time we were working in the arena. Then, all of a sudden, Patches started bossing Eddy-O around in the pasture and driving him off his hay. My attention to Patches raised her level of hierarchy in the herd and drove Eddy-s self-confidence down. He felt he went from being the favorite son to the bottom of the pile. He had gotten his feelings hurt. I tried to spend time with him by just hanging around some, but it wasn’t the same. Finally, he was given the green light to start up light work and riding again. Excited as I was to get back to work with him, something was different. We just didn’t have that same connection we had before the injury. When I rode him in the arena with someone else riding Patches, he was ill-tempered and did not want to be anywhere near her and even pinned his ears and tried to bite at her if were rode side by side. That had never happened. Eddy-O has always been everybody’s best buddy and does not have a mean bone in his body. I knew I had to fix that and reconnect on the level he needed. So, I took him on a picnic – just him and me.The picnic

It was a gorgeous October day and I packed a lunch, making sure I had plenty of goodies for him too, and set out on foot with him. I walked him way back to the field that was lush with grass and far away from any other horses. I dropped the lead rope and settled in on a log to eat while he happily munched away. Every few minutes he would walk over to me and check in and see what I had for him and then go back to grazing just a few feet from where I sat. After about an hour, we continued even further and explored together. We then returned the long walk home, side by side. After a short break, I put the bareback pad and bit-less bridle on and we had the easiest ride ever. Later, I saddled him up and we went out alone without a hitch. No calls to the herd or any hesitations whatsoever. We were a team again.

This morning, I put out some flakes of alfalfa hay and Eddy-O stood his ground and Patches did not steal his hay today.

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Horses That Haunt Me

There is absolutely no substitution to cure the unfortunate broken hearted – Than acquiring another horse to love once your four legged friend has departed.

There wasn’t many things in this world that I loved more than my first horse and her colt – including my first husband. Which was a big part of the problem. When the marriage didn’t work out, I had to leave the farm and figure things out. When I went back to visit my horses, they were gone. No warning, no notice, just gone. I frantically investigated and finally one of my husband’s friends took pity on me and told me where they were. My soon-to-be ex had sold them to a horse trader who buys horses based on the poundage. We all know what that means. I found out where he was keeping them and paid him a visit. It was winter in Michigan and he took me out to a big open pasture where he had about 30 horses. They were all shaggy with mud crusted winter coats and it had been several months since I had seen my horses. At first, I couldn’t pick them out. As I stood there, out of the herd came my two horses. They walked right up to me as if we had never been apart. The man was astounded as he was the kind of guy that would never consider actually having a relationship with an animal. I spent a few minutes caressing them and breathing in their familiar smell. I pleaded with him to sell them back to me. He refused. I asked for just one of them. He refused. Broken hearted,  I had no choice but to turn and walk away from them knowing I would never see them again. Before I left, I made sure he knew these horses were not ordinary horses. They had papers – good registration papers and would make the right person a fine horse. All I could do was hope that he used that information to market them instead of taking them to slaughter.

Sad, but true

Sad, but true

Actually, I don’t know what I would have done if he had agreed to let me have them back. I was young, broke, living at my parents and had no plan. All I knew was that I loved those horses and would have done almost anything to keep them in my life. But, at the same time, I knew deep down it wouldn’t work  right then. I had to take care of myself first and couldn’t ask anyone else to take on the burden. If I would have been more mature,  I would have made sure they were taken care of properly by finding them great home before I left the farm. I was in denial and assumed they would be there when I got ready to reclaim them. It was my fault they ended up with that man.  I guess I can’t really blame my ex for not keeping them for me. It took me over 25 years to have my own horses again. Now I am blessed with 4 incredible horses including my colt who was foaled here on the farm. It is more than I deserve and I have learned the important lesson of responsibility for them. Even with all I have now, I am still haunted by that day in the frozen field when Blaze and Devlin came up to me,forgave me and said our good-byes.

The Empty Stall

This isn’t the way he would choose to live – And you can’t watch him go on this way. With a heavy heart you call in to the vet – Knowing your horse will be gone after today.

I dreaded going to the barn the morning after we had to have Barney put down. I can’t begin to tell you how heavy my heart was, even though it felt empty. I felt almost physically sick as I pulled on my boots and started down the path to the barn. I braced myself for the wave of grief that I knew was waiting to descend on me when I reached the barnyard and saw the empty space where Barney’s handsome face would normally be watching for me to bring his breakfast.

Our Beloved Barney

Our Beloved Barney

As I came around the corner and his stall came into view, I got a whiff of the medicine that he had been on for the last couple of months while we fought to postpone the inevitable. It was the horrible, sickening smell of DMSO combined with other equally potent EPM paste. He hated that stuff as we all did. It was the necessary evil that we had to try as a last resort. The strangest feeling came over me when that smell registered and my eyes took in the emptiness where he once stood. A feeling of unexpected extreme relief washed over me and instantly lifted my spirits. Barney belonged to my best friend who adored him. He was boarded at my farm and I had cared for him for the past couple of years. The last few months were a constant emotional drain as Barney would improve slightly and then fall back. It was heartbreaking to watch my friend cope with his pain and discomfort, not to mention her sorrow knowing he was slipping away. It dawned on me that I no longer had to worry about Barney. He wasn’t  suffering and struggling with the exhausting task of survival. He had wanted to go for some time -but we were not ready to let him go. Now there was a peacefulness that replaced that helpless and desperate feeling. Of course, the loneliness still remained and the pain of loss was still acute, but the last bit of doubt had been lifted. The feeling was so strong and so surprising that I somehow felt that he not only forgave us for having to make  that call that ended his life, but was reassuring us that he was grateful. He had had a very hard life for many years as a school horse, but he knew he was loved those last few years he spent as Julia’s horse. He left a huge gaping hole in our hearts but that is the price we willing pay to know the love of a horse. The pain we feel when they leave us is a very small price for the joy they give us when they are here.