Bittersweet

sharing space

sharing space

But for all of the trouble and all of the pain, If I had to do it over, I would do it again.

I guess it is kind of like being a parent when you own and love a horse. It means you are willing to do what is best for the horse and put your own feelings aside when you know deep in your heart that it is the right thing to do. – even when it means letting them go.  Don’t worry, this story has a happily ever after ending even though somewhat painful to me. You see, when I have a horse, it is family. He is going to have a wonderful, stress-free and know-he-is-wanted life. I can do that – easily – because I love horses passionately. I have been extremely lucky to have always had incredible horses (at least in my opinion). I am not in the business of horse trading for the sake of selling horses for the money. If a horse leaves my hands, it is only because I feel fairly certain that the horse will have a better life with someone else. Usually, the deciding factor is a matter of time and attention someone else can give it that I can’t. Every horse should be someone’s “special” horse. My problem is that I have too many to be able to give them all that kind of time. Twice now I have done just that with two very different results. The first was sold to a young teen who had taken a couple of years of lessons on this particular horse and decided she had to have him. I knew where he was gong and that he would be well cared for. I made up a contract for the girl to sing stating the importance of caring for her horse and putting him first even when she was not in the mood. Of course, she eagerly signed it. I had visions of her spending endless hours with her horse for many years to come. I sold her that horse even though something told me she was not the one that would give him that. But she promised and her parents insisted it had to be that horse and I had others, so we made the deal. I was really disappointed in the way that has turned out. It is not so much what she does wrong, it is what she doesn’t do. The other day she came out to ride the horse and it took her over half an hour to catch him. That should have told her she was missing something called a relationship with her horse. She was complaining about it and I made the suggestion that possibly he felt used. When she came to see him, she just got him, saddled him, drilled him in the ring and then left. There was nothing in it for him. No fun, no joy, no pleasure. Hopefully, she will start to understand that before he completely tunes her out. The second horse hit the Irish Sweepstakes. This 15 year old girl’s life revolves around that horse. She sits with him while she does her homework, personally tends to his stall even after the crew comes through, rides bitless and works at liberty with the horse. They are learning and experiencing the magic of horses together and she cannot get enough of it. Her horse is the love of her life and he knows it. I am so happy for him because even though I loved him dearly, she can give him that special something that will give him heart.

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Bittersweet

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.

All In Good Time

Then there is Cruise, my handsome slightly higher strung black – Who just can’t seem to settle while I’m on his back.

I fell in love with Cruise the first time I laid eyes on him. We were visiting my stepdaughter’s horse at the farm where she was boarding at the time. My attention was drawn to a very handsome black face with a pretty white star watching me from another stall. The eyes were so soulful and something just struck my heartstrings. I spent my entire visit standing and staring at that horse.

A well-loved Cruise

A well-loved Cruise

Of course, he belonged to someone else and we didn’t even own the farm yet, but there was something about him that said he belonged with me. When we moved onto the farm, Cruise came up for sale, but I already had a couple of horses by then. My soon-to-be son-in-law was searching for a horse and I told him I knew the perfect horse. That didn’t work out and he was sold to another lady who adored him and changed his name to Beauty. Once again, he slipped away. Over then next few years, I always asked about Cruise and kept track of him. The story was always the same. His owner loved him and he was doing fine. I always finished those conversations with: “I always liked that horse”. Five years after I first encountered Cruise, I was at a party where the woman who had boarded him happened to be. Again, I asked about him and again I repeated “I always liked that horse”. About a week later my phone rang and it was her. She asked if I still had an interest in him. The owner had fallen and broke her wrist. When they treated her, she discovered that she had a severe case of Osteoporosis and would have to undergo extreme treatments for a couple of years. She was going to have to sell her horse as she couldn’t ride any longer. Of course I was interested, but I had 4 horses already and didn’t need another horse, couldn’t afford to buy another horse and my husband definitely did not see any reason to get one. With a broken heart, I told her I couldn’t buy him. She called me back and asked if it could be worked out that she could give me the horse, would I take him? I emphatically told her that I would figure something out if that was the case. Turns out it was a possibility. Now my brain and my heart are both racing. I said I was interested but I hadn’t seen the horse for over five years and would like to do that before making any commitments. I went to visit him and he was the same horse I fell in love with. He was magnificent. The place where they were keeping him was not he ideal situation and he obviously wanted to come home with me. He behaved beautifully and was a little stunned when I left without him that day. I could just see him asking me with those deep dark eyes what he did wrong – he tried so hard to please me. But the owner asked me to give her 30 days to try to sell him and make some money back on her investment. I told her I was definitely interested and agreed to her request. Ten days later she called me, crying: “Come get my horse”. She was not happy or comfortable with the options given her from interested buyers. She didn’t have a good feeling about his future. She knew he would be happy and well loved and cared for with me. When you really love your animals – the money is not the issue. It meant more to her to know he was going to be OK. A woman after my own heart. So, long story short -I now have Cruise in my pasture just like it should be.

A Little Cowgirl’s Christmas Wish

Christmas didn’t hold wishes for baby dolls or Barbies for me –
it was that big deluxe farm set I wanted to see under the tree!

visions of sugarplums

Visions of sugarplums

I always knew I was a country girl at heart, even though I grew up living in town. I loved those weekend visits to the farm – any farm –  and jumped at the opportunity to visit whenever it presented itself, even when I was very young.

I loved everything about the country. I could physically run free on what seemed to be endless acres while my imagination happily played out real life-in-the-country scenes. There were barns with hay lofts, corn cribs, rows of corn in the fields, fresh garden foods in the fruit cellars and homemade quilts on the beds. Everything about it appealed to my deepest sense of harmony. Most of all, I loved the animals. It seemed like there was always a batch of new kittens scurrying around, the family dogs ran at your side without leashes or restraints, the chickens roamed free-range and the cows were treated with care and respect. My cousins and I would climb over the wood fences and roll under the electric wires then make wild dashes across the field with our hearts pounding hoping to get to the other side before the bull figured out he could outrun us. Rides on the tractor, the hay wagon or in the back of the pickup were always a highlight but nothing compared to the rides on the old farm horse. Two or three of us would pile on and away we would go until we would slide off in a heap only to get back up and do it again.

One of my uncles lived on a farm but didn’t have horses. He knew that one of my greatest wishes  was to ride so he would do the next best thing and lead me around on his dairy cow, Knucklehead. Worked for me. In my mind, I was a cowgirl (literally).

Try as they might, my parents could never quite sissify me and I remain a proverbial tomboy to this very day. Luckily, I now am living the life I always dreamed of. My days are now filled with horses, dogs, cats and chickens.

If you know a little girl who loves that life as I did, who dreams of having a horse of her own, do both of you a favor and indulge her whims. It is not a passing phase, especially if horses are at the center of her fantasy. For those natural-born horse lovers, dolls, tea sets, ballet and ruffles will never hold a candle to pair of boots and anything even remotely related to horse stuff. If Santa is listening, he will skip the dolls section in the toy store  and go country.