Saturday, September 17, 2016

Is This What Getting "Old" Feels Like?

I look at pictures from the last 15 years of my riding career, and I realize that most of the horses in them have died.

It's..... I don't know how to describe it.... Humbling?..... Reality Check?.... Mid-Life Crisis?

The horses of my youth were all good old soldiers, and I expected that I would outlive them. You ride old horses, Schoolmasters, when you're just starting out. After that, it changes. You start to ride younger horses. You train them, you bring them along, you outlive them.

I've been training horses long enough that now I'm outliving them. I am suddenly being confronted with the knowledge that the young horses I train today will be the old horses I will have to say goodbye to eventually.

Jack was always Spider's "replacement", and I find it difficult to work with him now because I'm not ready to replace Spider yet. In the back of my mind, I also know that I will outlive Jack, and I will have to deal with this pain again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Coming Back

It's been a month since Spider died, and I still haven't ridden. I did drive a pony the other day, and that was fun... but it's not riding.

I kept trying to use my seat to stop and turn. It didn't work, which is why my passengers look terrified.

I think about riding, a lot, but then I can't find the motivation to actually pick up the tack. It's still too raw. 

I know myself, and I know Jack. He's young and he's green and he will make mistakes. There's nothing wrong with that, but in my current raw emotional state I will blame him and I will get angry that he's not Spider and that is wrong. I can't do that to him. So, I'm not riding yet. 

I've had so many falls, including breaking my back, and never hesitated to get back on and ride again. I always bounce back, nothing keeps me down. But somehow riding again after losing Spider is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. 

I suppose it will resolve itself. The kids are back in school, and I'll have less things competing for my attention. Eventually I'll have nothing better to do, so I'll go grab Jack and we'll go for a ride. And I'm going to have to ride Beau and Spots now that the kids are in school, to keep them tuned up. It's inevitable, really. Riding isn't a choice for me, it's life. 

And maybe that's why I still haven't gotten over Spider....

Monday, August 15, 2016

One Week

One week since he died. 

I made it through the day without sobbing or even any actual tears. Loads of almost tears, but more of a bittersweet feeling than actual heartbreak. 

The farm is so different without him. It's quieter. 

We called him "The Princess" for a reason. Everything was always about Spider, and if it wasn't all about Spider he would find a way to make it all about him. 

The farm is quieter, maybe because the spark has gone out. 

I suppose we need to ignite that spark again. I don't know if I'm up to that yet, but I get a little closer every day.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Larger Than Life

I'm truly awestruck by the outpouring of condolences and love that Spider has received. I knew he was special to me, but I had no idea how many other lives he had touched. He was truly larger than life, and his absence is keenly felt on our little farm.

This was his farm, the rest of us just lived here to cater to him. He always called to me every morning when I walked out to the barn, even the morning he died. The hardest walk I've ever made was this morning's walk to the barn without his friendly greeting. 

We're still not sure exactly what happened, I didn't have a necropsy done. On Sunday afternoon I found him lying flat out in the pasture. I got him up, gave him banamine and called the vet. He laid down again in the grass next to the arena, and since he wasn't rolling or thrashing I let him stay there. He was down nearly an hour, until just before the vet arrived. 

I sat with him until the vet arrived.

The vet examined him, found a high heart rate and a grade 4 heart murmur, distension in his small intestine, but no torsion. We treated it as a colic, and decided to reevaluate the heart murmur when he recovered (the murmur had not been present at his checkup in April). He was up and moving around, and seemed to be doing better. 

The next morning while I was checking on him his gums and tongue started to turn blue, so I called the vet to come out again. While I was on the phone with her, he suddenly convulsed, then collapsed. He died with his head in my lap less than a minute later. 

The vet thinks his heart probably failed, but without a necropsy there's no way to tell. It was over quickly, less than 24 hours between the start of symptoms and his death. 

He was never sick a day in his life, until the end. He was still in active work until the day before he died. Sometimes I feel guilty, thinking maybe I should have retired him and then maybe his heart wouldn't have failed, but Spider wasn't a horse that would "retire". He loved to work, and certainly never showed any problems with stamina or energy. 

I know there will be other horses, but there was only one Spider. I told Jack today that it's a good thing he's so big, because he has huge shoes to fill. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

RIP Spider, 1993-2016

Today I unexpectedly lost my best friend, my partner of over a decade, and the best horse I have ever owned. I'm gutted.

Godspeed, Spider. We miss you so much. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Best Purchase Ever

Packing and unpacking the horse trailer is always tedious because it takes so many trips. I've seen other people with big saddle/bridle racks on wheels, but they're sort of big and unwieldy. I didn't want one of those. I wanted something light, small and easily maneuvered.

At the last show I went to, I saw somebody with a wheelbarrow made of canvas. Bingo! When I got home I immediately Googled that. Google suggested something even better: a collapsible canvas wagon! 

Set up and folded, respectively.

This thing is seriously awesome! Not only is it lightweight and maneuverable, but it managed to tote an ice chest, a grooming tote, a saddle, bridle, saddle pad, two buckets, manure fork, my show coat, and a bag full of trash back to the house from the trailer. 

Yes, it has taken me this long to unpack my trailer from the last show.

And it fits perfectly in the tack room:

I really need to sweep out the tack room.

Best purchase ever, next to wine sippy cups. Did I mention it even has cupholders for wine sippy cups? Win!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Another One To Cross Off The List

Ever have one of those days where everything that can go wrong does go wrong? That was my show day.

It started at 6:30 am, shortly after I left my house. See, I was not aware that, because of the Democratic National Convention, all traffic over 5 tons had been re-routed around Philly. Into NJ. Right onto the highway I needed to take to get to the show. It took over an hour to get 5 miles. My two hour ride turned into nearly four hours. 

The driveway of USET Headquarters.

I arrived at the show grounds seriously, seriously late. With barely 30 minutes to get on and warm up, I opened up the trailer to find that at some point my horse had ripped out all his braids and also ripped the hay bag off the trailer wall (he actually broke the damn thing, something I've never seen before). He was also covered in sweat and looked like a wreck. But, whatever, I've got to get on and warm up. I fixed the braids as best I could, sprayed some show sheen on him, tacked up and headed to the warm up. 

The warm up ring was an indoor, packed with FEI riders. Spider decided to be Spider and careened around like an idiot, bouncing off several BNTs on their fancy horses. Luckily, they were all very nice and/or felt sorry for me. Eventually, I decided to just make my way up to the ring. Then the ring steward stopped me and said, "287? Your time passed, we counted you as a no show." 

*record scratch*

With less than 24 hours notice, they had changed my time to an earlier one. I was not amused, but after a brief argument with the secretary via the ring steward's walkie talkie I managed to get back in the show with a time an hour later. 

This, however, presented a new problem: what to do with my horse? I had rented a day stall, but through another unfortunate mixup it had been double booked. I was by myself, because my friends were in the same traffic I had encountered. Well, technically, I wasn't by myself. I had my two kids with me. It was also nearly 100 degrees with no shade and no water if I couldn't get into my stall. This was not an ideal situation. 

"There's grass? I'm cool."

I went back to my trailer, gave Spider all of the bottled waters I'd packed, tried to spruce him up a bit, then immediately got back on to warm up for the second time. I did find an outdoor ring no one else was using to warm up in, so no one else got run over. That was nice. We warmed up OK, but I over did it. Two warm ups was too many, and by the time I got into the ring at noon I had no horse left. And no me left, either. 

The view was pretty cool, though.

The test is a blur, I may have blacked out a couple times. I went off course in the first movement, so that was two points off. I didn't even try for a half pass, we straight up leg yielded (for a 4.5 and 5.0, respectively). The changes were completely late behind (4.0 and 4.5). My turns on the haunches ended up being reining spins (4.0 for both) and he jigged through most of the walk work. We managed to save ourselves in the halts (7.0 for both) and the extensions and mediums (6.0 for all). The judge's final remark: "Good try of a difficult test in the heat- overall needs much more impulsion to excel at this level." Truer words were never spoken....

Final score: 51.97. It's officially my worst score at Third Level. 

After the test, I finally got my day stall, got Spider settled in, and was able to enjoy myself. (I was sticking around to help my friend with her horse later in the day.) Gladstone is gorgeous, and the stone barn is nice and cool. If only I had arrived on time, I could have taken advantage of all that for my test. Oh, well. There's always next time. 

This is the nicest place my horse has ever shit.

Considering that I knew I wasn't prepared going in, I spent nearly 4 hours driving and it was hotter than Satan's taint, I think we did pretty well. 

Sweaty, filthy and disheveled, that's how we roll.

Plus, I got to ride at Gladstone and run into famous people in the warm up ring (literally). So, I can cross that off my bucket list. We'll get ourselves back into a shape and have another go at it in September when the weather cools off, but not at Gladstone. I'll pick a closer venue next time.

"Wait.... we're not doing this again, right?"


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