Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Reluctant Champion

Leann once told me Dime would teach me to be a good rider. 

This quirky, anxious little bay TB gelding (Twice Bold - Five Cent Stamp (Round Table)) 4/13/1982, a compact fellow with superb balance, a dazzling swing of a walk, a perfect canter and round jump, was with me for 27 years.

 He was my joy, one of my boys, appealing, sweet and gentle. He would nicker his welcome whenever he saw me coming. He stood, solid as a rock, for the farrier, for the vet, for baths, for mounting. He rarely spooked, but in the early years, would bolt with little warning, reaching a flat out gallop in a brief flash. But he grew to love his work, moving catlike and effortlessly over the less demanding courses he preferred. Yes, he had a powerful jump, but would frighten himself with it so required an expert approach and recovery. There was no rushing Dime, or the frantic horse would appear. Panic could easily overcome the fragile confidence of this horse, but when he was on, he was spectacular.

He was shown locally in the hunter divisions for several years. To see him float over a course almost soundlessly was amazing to me. Light of foot, wings on his heels, precise. He usually won or placed high in the hack classes, going on about his business of showing off with a fair amount of brilliance. On occasion, he competed in the low jumper divisions. Leann always rode him exactly as she did in the hunter ring, with precision,deliberation and attention. He was careful, almost too careful, and quick, but it was too easy to cross that fine line into what seemed to be sheer terror.

But he was a champion in the show ring in our modest local shows. He made me proud and allowed me to enjoy again the world I had known as a youngster, back in the late 50s and early 60s, when I showed horses belonging to others with modest success. This time, I was an adult owner living a dream with my first horse. I never really showed him because we both came to the realization that showing was not for either of us, so by the time he had become a school master, he was living a life of ease and teaching me the self knowledge necessary to connect with him to the depths of his soul.

Did he make me a good rider? He made me confident, finally, after years of apprehension brought on by his quickness and reactivity. He and I read each other, finally, after I learned his language and really began to listen to him. He taught me to feel what flying is about...not speed, but effortlessness, empathy and joy. He prepared me for my adventures with Boo, he who was so much more uncomplicated compared to her opinionated mareishness.

Dime made me much more than a good rider. He made me a horseperson, a human being of sensitivity, observation and reality.

Dime was put down 15 June, 2013 of the infirmities of old age. He still had his magnificent walk and gallop. His eyes were wise, but tired, and it was time to let him go.    

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Time, like a river....

Two years later, and the rebuilding has begun of what was so long in tearing down. Miss Boo and Dime endured rehoming to wonderful places last summer; we endured failing health and subsequent financial crisis, a total restructuring of our lives, Doug and I. There remains no other direction to go but up, and, by the grace of God, we are all together in spirit and proximity. What we have lost are the things, the trappings of a life no longer part of us. We have lost some freedoms, yet are more free than ever before. Our souls have been turned loose to soar, rejoice and seek. So difficult, the letting go. Rusty's passing had taught the lesson of dignity and courage in the face of inevitablities well, and on reflection, his example was just one more tall, bright signpost on this journey we are on. When Doug began to show cognitive and neurological difficulties two years ago, it became clear he would no longer be able to continue to work. Inconsistent at best, his income ceased, leaving us unprepared for the future in any sense. I, in my insular world of passivity, gradually became aware that the complex decisions and circumstances before us were being shifted to my shoulders. Shoulders....strength....solidity. Boo. Who had found a new home with a dear new friend. Who decided she wanted to be with a herd, to be the busy-body she is. Who signaled to her new Mom in no uncertain terms that she wanted to come home. With the caring generousity of a longtime friend and fellow horseperson, Boo came back to town to a herd, to a job and to me. Her love and gentleness brought forth my tears when they needed to be shed, and she would hug me in her powerful neck, her deep eyes knowing, wise, accepting. This spring, when the grass was growing strong, Boo and several young mares and a few geldings, were turned out on the 50 acre hill the other side of the Hemlock Brook. Virtually on their own, this little group would venture down to the gate at feeding time, or when whistled in. On the days they chose to ignore my best attempts at calling them in, I would find them at the top of the steep hill, blissfully, lazily casually ignoring any percieved urgency on my part. Ah, but the days they did respond to my whistle provided a wonderous joy as their hoofbeats became audible on the hill. I, standing at the edge of the brook...more like a river... would suddenly spot Boo's sweet blaze and pricked ears, head up, in the lead as she cantered from the shadows, splashed across the river with her companions, to stop to nuzzle me as I awaited her in utter humility at the beauty of my beloved mare running freely to me.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Time and Seasons

Almost nine months have passed, and Boo has kept her word to continue to inspire. She has students who adore her. One young girl, in particular, recognizes a kindred spirit in the mare's soul. They would spend days this summer in each other's company, bareback, saddled, haltered, bridled, wandering over the farm, free and totally in the moment. Boo is expert finding these people to share her journey, taking them on her broad back to worlds of possibility and dreams.

I hate to bring her home to the quiet life here. The boys will become dizzy with her energy, they who have few challenges in their retired life. I am hoping Boo's new friend will come visit her, perhaps ride her, for Boo will be sorely missing her herd and her kids.

She has taken me away from those annoying musts and shoulds and provided me with 'I will' s and yesses. She has never gotten ahead of me, but pulls me along with her, her eyes huge and open, ready for her doddering old mother. We've trail ridden, jumped, played and been least, she has made me happy!.

We are looking for a young girl like Libby, who will join in Boo's adventures, tell her secrets and braid her forelock and tail. I so long to be that young girl for Boo.

Perhaps she will be my path to renewal and joy, able to see past my wrinkles and regrets to a soul waiting to fly free!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter high, influencing neighbors and playtime

Early morning, the world around us glistened with low freezing wisps of fog, an ambient sun spreading promise in the still air through the haze. Tiny details stood out in crystal form, bare twigs and plant forms raising their beings to the glowing sky. Bands of white spread across the dark mountain shoulders, climbing and plunging into valleys, not reaching the peaks, made of multitudes of individual forms ready to burst into shimmering dazzle as the sun found its way through the thinning fog. Snow, a bit crusty and needing refreshing, sparkled in the chill stillness, a last show before the heavy rains clear the canvas later this weekend.

The horses felt the glow, the light's energy propelling their sure feet across the gripping snow. Boo seemed to fill with joy as she joined her herd, her stout body gathering into a rippling wave of power, throwing her heels then galloping off, tail flowing, playing catch up. She is a happy horse, enjoying her teaching and her herd, confident and sociable. She has worked out how to maximise her interaction with the others in her usual fashion. Breaking a small portion of the fence separating her large herd from the boys one night, she joined them, clearly expressd her desire to be with them at night. She flirts, squeals, delights in their attention, showing off . She keeps tabs on the larger group when with them during the day. Effectively, she has enlarged her sphere of influence by once again making her wishes clear. That those who care for her recognize and respect this about her is deeply gratifying.

She has moved far ahead of me this winter. Her strong frame is fit and showing little of the fat pockets of the past few years. She has a job which she takes seriously, and quite a few who are swept up by her generously gentle personality. Her large eyes seem to have grown larger and more kind, if that is possible, and she gazes at me with pure openness. I can not ride well this year because I have not ridden enough, yet she reminds me what I need to do to rebuild my sense of self. My question, and perhaps hers, is whether I can do what is necessary to return to our partnership. I remain afraid too much time has passed.

I don't want her to leave me behind as she did her tail as she pounded off across the pasture.

The old boys at home danced and ran in the snow later in the afternoon. They, too, bucked and caprioled before galloping strong and sure up the hill. Dime's gait is still breathtaking in its efficiency and grace. At 28, he floats scross the uneven terrain, strong and sure. Prime follows and keeps up just off Dime's off haunch and they reach the top of the hill snorting and blowing, eyes bright, heads proudly raised.

They, too, inspire wondering, that their age and infirmities are really no obstacle, that joy continues to be part of their lives, that they still love playing in the chilly, still golden light.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

As the World Turns...

...And time passes into winter, sleeping around us.

This Christmas Eve, a few days past the Solstice, we listened with rapt joy to the annual BBC broadcast of 'Nine Lessons and Carols' from King's Chapel at Cambridge. The timeless story of Jesus' birth spoken in the King's English and illustrated by exquisite music sung by the boys and men of the choir. The carols, some very familiar, some less so, and one new, resonated with eternal tones, what we'd describe as the sound of the Universe on its journey through the Vastness, tapping into our deepest soul. Peace was found there, and Joy, as the heart expanded with a warmth and stillness absent for some months now. Moments in that time to be cherished, the renewal and redemption of a sometimes flagging Spirit to be held close with wonder and gratitude.

The year has been a difficult one on many levels. Rusty, returning to the Earth beneath his cairn, is free from the turmoil which swirls above him, as are all who have passed through before us. Slowly, the Wise Ones move to a happier place, there free from the 'mortal coil' which seems to tighten around our world in ever increasing darkness. We are shaken by their loss as we are all in sore need of their collective Guidance.

When we mourn the dimming of the Light from our world, we feel anger and fear. We react to those who would seek smother our nation and burden our bodies with strife and economic slavery first with confusion and hand wringing. We gather and speak. Our voices, whispers to start, are becoming stronger as we reconnect to Truths which have been the foundation of what is the best in humanity. The light cannot be hidden for long; indeed, it grows stronger daily as the battle continues on it's ever-changing balance of power.

And the Wisdom of the Universe is there for us to feel, for it lives within our souls, as it has for Eternity. It is time to contribute Truth to the discourse of mankind: to restore Light to the shadows, to demand Balance to those who seek to overthrow, to refresh what has grown stale and to rediscover our true place in this Creation.

This season of Light is our beacon. Its our chance to grab hold of what matters for it resides within reach and must not be lost. To let it do so would negate our place in the Universe. We alone as humans lack the Wisdom to comprehend or rule all around us.

Seek Beauty, Stillness and Truth with Humility. Lift up; do not stoop. Give Joy and Strength.

Celebrate Life.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Endings and changes

In the end, Rusty chose where he would lie. He had stayed up next to the shed, under the pines on the soft drying mud covered with old hay. At times, he would become momentarily cast against the fence or a tree trunk, but seemed to work his way to a position where he could get up without panic or help. But, he would go down again, groaning as the pain collapsed his hind end. Often he would lie flat out only to curl up on his back, head tilted, legs in the air, breaths shaking his strong chestnut body. He had greeted me at breakfast time with a sweet little whinny tinged with urgency and I saw him lying down next to the manure pile. He got up, but then went down again.

"Oh, no, Rusty." It was all I could say, knowing what was to come.

He had lived with us for several years, adopted from Ashley's Barn. Saved from the killer, Rusty had been adopted out to an older gentleman who adored him, but he had become unable to carry a rider, so returned to the rescue. In his mid twenties, Rusty's body bore the scars of a hard life. His back was swayed, his hind end weak. The bridge of his long nose gave evidence of abuse, as a black scar cut across it, most likely from a chain. The left side of his haunch showed what might have been a partially ruptured tendon. The right front fetlock carried a Y shaped scar typical of a severe wire cut. He was lame on this foot and showed definite neurological symptoms in his sacral area. His eyes ran and a tumor bulged from his thyroid. His lip was tatooed, so he had raced, and Dot felt he had been used as a Western working horse.

When I met him, he was well cared for but depressed and listless. Dot said he no longer looked to be adopted and had withdrawn into himself. He was pastured with a more dominant paint horse and seemed to want to hide behind his companion as we approached.

As soon as I touched him, he raised his head and turned toward me. His ears went up, his eyes brightening. He knew he would be coming to live with us, to keep Dime company in his retirement.

Rusty proved to be quite a remarkable horse. He established himself as the boss, accepting Dime's somewhat insecure clinging with patience. When Boo joined us, Rusty quickly stood up to her pushiness. He led the way out to the pasture in the morning and brought up the rear on the return in the evening.

Gradually, his eyes cleared, bright and eager. His rich chestnut coat glowed, his head held high. He was a horse who had a tremendous degree of pride and discipline. A war horse, Rob described him. A survivor, tough, wise, calm and always in control. He even began to show affection, tipping his head to nuzzle, accepting hugs and fussing.

Rusty got up from under the trees when he saw Greg arrive and walked shakily away from us toward the lower gate. Waiting for us to open it, he lay down again. With urging and gentle prodding, the old horse struggled to his feet one last time and led the way through the opened gate, down the path to the lower pasture. Across to the far end Rusty led us, Doug, Greg, Dime, Boo and me to a patch of soft grass, where he went down for the last time. Greg slipped the needle into his neck. Rusty lay quietly, gave a last great sign, raised his head and let go.

We who knew this horse are honored to have shared in his life. We will never know details about his life, but can certainly appreciate the heart which he must have lived it.

Thank you, dear Rusty.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Back again - or, was never far away

That magical late spring has arrived with soft cooling breezes, fresh greens, blues, purples, pinks and vibrant orange. The oreoles flash through the new leaves, uttering their clear sharp calls in counterpointe to the softer musings of the quieter birds. There are many crows this year which regularly harrass the red-tailed hawks. A pair of mallards and a lone great blue heron frequently visit our stream.

The gardening is well under way, with several of the beds being restored and replanted. There are veggies this year and much still to be done. For the first time in years we have the will and time to devote to the growing things, fleshed out with plans for more extensive outdoor expansion.

The horses have relished the lushness of their pasture. Boo particularly, who is adept at finding that 'greener patch' just beyond the fence. Up to now, she has rearranged her space to suit her practical sense, but the lure of growing vegetable vitality has been irresistible, and she has blithly pushed through the tape fencing, inadequately powered by a solar charger. The neighbors would come by to say she was out, grazing happily along the road with no apparent interest in becoming a runaway. We would collect her and she would sheepishly resign herself to the limitations of the round pen.

Last week, we completed the supercharging of the border fence which has caused some consternation with the mare. The boys seem fine, but Boo, after several sharp, insulting reminders, has shown a definite caution and increased respect for what is around her.

We worked her from the ground yesterday, some in hand work, some free schooling. When we put up a small jump, she eagerly popped over the left. The right was difficult for her and pointed to the need for us to begin a strengthening and straightening program in earnest. She has always been crooked, and her year off has only magnified this. We will be continuing the exercises in hand, on the lunge and move up to the mounted lateral work she so needs. Ground poles and cavaletti will be put to use on a circle to build up her balance.

We are reminded, particularly, by discussions on the varoius horsey forums we frequent how important it is to continue to learn from every area possible. Not only how and why to utilize certain methods, but how to avoid easy fixes and hurried lessons. Our responsibility to this crooked mare is to help her maintain her soundness and comfort so that she is able to do what we ask of her with a quiet and willing mind.

As we observed recently, it is a quest for truth for those of us striving to keep open minds. It is a path to wisdom and honesty, one we couldn't leave if we wanted to.