Monday, January 17, 2011

We Will Miss You, Sweet Girl

Last year my friend Bennett brought Midnight and Jewel to live with Abbey at his farm. Midnight was the type that just went catatonic if she couldn't deal with what was happening to her, and when she got there she was like that a lot. You could hardly touch her, she wouldn't look at you, never really responded to anything. One day when Brandon was at the farm she seemed to take an interest in him, and Bennett had told me that she used to let kids ride her all the time, so my guess was that she had a lot more confidence around kids, that they wouldn't mistreat her. So Brandon came out to the farm pretty regularly last year and he spent a lot of time standing near her but facing away from her, waiting for her to get enough confidence to approach.

She came a LONG, LONG way. She not only let herself be touched, even haltered, but lately started seeking human contact and following me around like a puppy when I went to feed. She got really attached to Bran but he hasn't had a lot of time to come to the farm lately and hadn't been there for months and months.

Last week he came to help me haul some water for the herd when the weather was bad, and when she saw him she RAN to him, nickering "It's you!!" It was one of the most touching things I'd ever seen. The next day when he came again (the day that picture was taken), she followed us all over, and when we left she followed us all the way back to the car, and the rest of the herd followed behind her.

I didn't realize she was saying goodbye. This morning Bennett found her curled up in a pile of hay, and she'd breathed her last. A month or so ago when the weather got bad he'd found her down and she wouldn't get up, so we thought she might not last the winter, but she'd been so full of energy recently. I personally think she was waiting to say her last goodbye, to Bran, and then she was ready to go.

Enjoy the green fields wherever you have gone, my sweet friend. You will be missed.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I know I've been the worst kind of slacker, not only with this blog but with my horses too, a lot of the time. It's been almost a year. I was so excited about having Storm, and maybe getting to ride with Russ. I'm going to tell the story of what went astray.

Not long after my last entry, Russ got on Abbey for maybe the second time (and probably something like his fourth time on a horse at all). We were in a small pasture. Both he and she were doing really well - no problem mounting, and she was moving around nicely for him. I was so excited to ride with him that I got Storm tacked up and was going to lunge her a bit before I got on. At some point amidst all of this Midnight got herself caught in the fence, spooked everybody, I dropped the lunge line, and Storm went charging around our little paddock, past Russ and Abbey twice. Abbey didn't spook till the second time when Storm went pretty close. She took off running, Russ didn't know what to do (I failed to teach him solid braking methods), he was yelling, Ab bucked, he went over her shoulder, broke his collarbone, and ended up incapacitated for nearly two months.

I had so much guilt about this... so many things that seemed like "you should know better" in retrospect. And my confidence is pretty shaken; even though I have a little dreamboat Arabian to ride, I've only ridden about three times in the past year. Abbey is also spooked and the one time I tried to get on her she was having none of it, so I think we are going to need professional help (there is a really good natural horsemanship trainer very close, so when finances recover from multiple illnesses, and the weather is not crap, we are going to be calling Pete Dillingham).

Around September I discovered I have degenerative disc disease and I was laid up myself for almost another two months, and my neurosurgeon says I really need to not fall on my head lest I end up paralyzed, so no riding much beyond a walk. Between these two things, the lost wages, the lack of confidence, the fact that we really only have one rideable horse now, the fact that Russ won't be riding till probably next year because he's used his vacation time... well, it hasn't been a good year for me with the horses.

Not that I'm neglecting them. I'm there every day and if the weather's decent, we are playing on the ground. Abbey's learned a lot of tricks, including playing ball with us. Clicker training has proven to be miraculous with her -- talk about motivated! We're considering teaching her to drive, in case riding becomes not an option for me because of my neck, at least until the surgery's done.

But here we are in the dead of winter when my fingers are freezing off and I am DYING to play with them more than I can, and even to ride Storm. I've been watching some videos and reading a new clicker training book.

Coincidentally, today I got a message on Paperback Swap from the wife of one of my favorite horse authors, Joe Camp. I loved his book, The Soul of a Horse, when I read it about a year and a half ago (if you haven't read it, DO IT). Kathleen mentioned he has a new one, The Soul of a Horse Blogged. Turns out, they are now in middle Tennessee, AND they're now mustang people. How cool is that!? Can't wait to get the new book. Go get yourself one!

So a thank you to Joe and Kathleen for the extra inspiration I needed to really jump on the next good day we get weather-wise. These two amazing people are doing great things for horses everywhere, and I just wanted to drop in a little appreciation. His blog is great, and that's inspirational too. I had intended this blog one to follow my first year with my horses, but like I said, I've been a slacker, and frankly, kind of depressed. It's crazy. I've wanted horses all my life and I feel like I've wasted another year.

Oh, hey, a plug also for Parelli Connect. It's a great way to keep track of your progress with your horse, and connect with other natural horse people in the process. To be honest, I'm a little nervous because I don't know how the fact that I'm combining clicker with Parelli will be received over there, but you know what? It's working for us. I think it will do wonders once we add in a little confidence. So if you're there, you can look up "chivalry" and find us.

Warmer weather can come any time now, we have a lot to do, even if it's just hanging out being a horse with the horses.