Saturday, January 9, 2016

Godspeed, Levi

Last night my friend had to make the difficult decision to put her horse down. She is, of course, devastated, and my heart breaks for her.  I'd be lying if I said seeing her go through this did not bring back memories of losing Sug.

If ever there was the embodiment of a solid citizen, Levi was it.  I only knew him for a year, but in that short time, I can honestly say I never saw that sweet horse put a foot wrong.  Levi knew he had a JOB, an important JOB, and that was to take care of his mom and keep her safe.  You could see that every time she was on or around him.  He took the same care with her daughters.  Her oldest would take him into the show ring and he'd do everything he possibly could for her.  Again, I didn't know him long, but in the short time I did I never saw him give less than his all for his people.

When you see a friend go something hurtful you want to try in some way to make it better, even though you know there's no way to do that.  I'm trying to remember what helped keep me going through my own loss, and if any of what I learned could help her in some way.

I'd tell her to grieve in whatever way she needs to, for however long and hard she wants.  It's okay to curl up in a ball and cry, or to rant at the injustice of it all.  It's important to take time for herself, to rely on the support system in her life so she can grieve as she needs to and then take that step towards healing.  To talk about her sweet boy with friends, as much as she can or wants.  It helps to purge the grief and to remember the wonderful times.

I'd tell her to write her thoughts down, to look through old pictures and videos, and to just let the feelings wash over her.  That it's okay to sit in a dark room holding his halter or blanket, or to sit down on the floor and howl until it feels like she can't breathe.  I'd tell her it's gonna hurt for a long time, and not to let anyone tell her there's a time limit on grief.  I'd tell her that it's going to always hurt, and she's always going to cry, but that given time the good memories do start to outweigh the grief.

There's a song from the movie Meet the Robinsons by Rob Thomas called Little Wonders that I love, and I listened to it a lot when Sug passed.  It feels appropriate to share some of it here:

Our lives are made in these small hours
These little wonders, these twists and turns of fate
Time falls away but these small hours
These small hours still remain

I'm so glad my friend had those hours with her special boy, those memories together.  I only wish she'd had more of them.

RIP, sweet Levi.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Conversations With Indy...

Huh? What are you doing?
Is that rectangular thing a treat?
I've had Indy a little over two months now, and while we're still very much in the getting to know you
phase of our partnership, we're starting to understand each other more.  Communicate better. Understand each other's language, so to speak.

You know how horse owners tend to anthropomorphize their horses, assigning voices to them?  How we'll cheerfully tell a friend not only what our Precious Pony did that day, but also what Precious Pony thought about the activity and anything they may have said about it.

In my posts about my mare Sug I'd often include her thoughts and feeling about our adventures, as to me they were as clear and understandable as words on a page.  I had no doubt about her opinions, and had no qualms about sharing them with others.  I'm starting to get to a point where I'm starting to "hear" what Indy is saying.

If I'm standing and holding him and talking to someone he starts to noodge me with his muzzle and I hear this:"Mom. Mom. Mom! Ma! Mama! Mommy!!! Ma!!!"   When I finally turn to him to tell him to stop, I hear, "Hi! Hi Mom!  You've been chatting forever - didja forget me?  I'm right here. Is it time for treats?"

There's when he's on the cross ties and I need to run into the tack room to get something, or god forbid to the bathroom.  If I'm gone longer that 3 minute's I'll hear the sound of cross ties hitting the wall.  Then I'll hear him fidgeting.  If I'm not back at that point I'll either hear the sound of pawing or a short whinny.  When I return his face clearly says, "Oh thank God!!!  I thought you'd left!  Or forgot about me! Or died!  I was soooo lonely. Is it time for treats?"

Then there's when he's on the cross ties and I'm grooming him. Then it's a running commentary. "Oh look!  There's my friend Ray-Ban. Hi, Ray-Ban!  And there's RJ.  Hi, RJ!  Hold it. Is Ray-Ban getting treats?  Hey, Ray-Ban's mom, can I have a treat? PleasepleasepleasePLEEEEEAAAAASSSSEEE!"

When I'm grooming him he'll often twist around to look at me and I swear I hear him say, "Hey Mom!  How was your day?  Mine was good. I ate hay.  And went outside . And ate hay outside. Could you get the curry comb a little more to the left?  Yes, there. Ooh ooh ooh ooh yes!  That's the spot. And there's another spot over on my withers, can you get that one?  And my belly's itchy, too.  Can you do that?  And is it time for treats yet?"

And of course we have our ongoing discussion about the troll in the corner of the indoor arena.  That conversation goes like this: "Troll alert. There's a troll in that corner!" No, Indy.  There are no trolls. Trolls don't exist. "Yes! Yes, they do!  And they eat horses! Especially gray ones." No, Indy, there are no trolls and here is an inside leg telling you to get in to that corner. "Nononononono! There are trolls and they OOOFFF!!! You were serious about that inside leg thing. Okay, I'll move over, but if we get eaten, it's your fault."

If we are having a jumping lesson and we've stopped to wait while someone else does the course, sometimes Indy feels that means his quarter is up and the ride is over. When it's our turn I'll use a little leg to tell him to move off, and we'll have an exchange like this: "What?  Again?  No, we're done.  We stopped. We stood. That means done. No, I don't want to canter anymore.  OOOFFF! Again with the leg! Alright, we can canter if it means that much to you. But after I wanna talk to my union representative." 

There was also the time this Christmas when I asked him to wear antlers. He was less than pleased.

Oh my God!  Mooommmm!  This is soooo embarrassing!
What if one of my friends sees me?  I'll never live it down!  

Friday, January 1, 2016

To Gift Card or Not to Gift Card...

I'm glad holiday season is over. Not just because of the whole who's gonna cook what and where thing, or whose family is going to send the drama level to Defcon 1.  That is stressful shit, sure, but let's face it, finding the right gift that will make your loved one's face light up with joy is probably the most stressful part of the holidays.  I'm sure we've all agonized over a purchase, the gremlins SHOULD I and SHOULDN'T I perched on each shoulder offering their conflicting opinions.  

I remember buying a baby bouncy seat for a pregnant friend. I swear, more thought went into this than into the planning of the invasion of Normandy. Should I get the one that vibrated, or the one that didn't?  If I got the vibrating one, would that mean the baby would never fall asleep without the vibrations? If I didn't get the vibrating one, did that mean the baby would never fall asleep, or my friend would have to bounce that kid herself until her arm fell off from overuse?  Should I get the one with the umbrella thingie, or the detachable toys?  What about the ergonomic one?  (Seriously, have you seen the weird positions babies sleep in?  Ergonomic, schmergonomic. Babies are contortionists.)  By the time I bought the damn seat I was exhausted. (In case you're wondering, I got the vibrating one.  I figured my friend needed a sleeping baby and could fix any fallout issues later in the game.)

I've given myself at least 4 strokes trying to figure out the Perfect Gift to get my mother for the last umpteen years.  Same for my husband.  They both think they are easy to buy for.  Bullshit. People who say "Oh, no need to buy me anything, I'm fine!" are a huge pain in the rump.  You have to get them something, as you know if you listened to them and didn't get them anything it'd come back to bite you in the ass for years thereafter. But you can never figure out what exactly they want, because they never tell you.  So the whole gifting thing becomes a crapshoot.

That's why I love giving gift cards.  They're great. I feel they tell the giftee, "Here's free money to spend on whatever strikes your fancy. Knock yourself out!" There are those who would disagree with that, those who feel gift cards are a cop out designed to make the gift giver feel good about themselves while putting as little thought into the gift as possible.  My mother falls into that camp. She feels that giving a gift card shows a lack of regard.  Pffffffttttttt.

I completely disagree.  I think they're brilliant.  I hate to shop.  Malls give me the twitches. And hives.  There are only two places where I don't hate shopping: Tack shops and Barnes & Noble.  I could spend hours in either.  Give me a gift card to Barnes & Noble and I'll wander around, breathing in the wonderful smell of paper and ink, picking up book after book and reading the synopsis on the dust jacket, laying some aside in a must-have pile and others in the maybe pile.  

Same thing applies to tack shops.  A gift card to a tack shop means that not only can I go in and wander around to my heart's content, but I can now look at the dress sheet/breeches/helmet/halter/blanket/boots I've had my eyes on and find them more affordable.  Whole new vistas and opportunities open up!  Where before I may have only been able to consider necessities (Indy needs a new halter), now I have the option to consider luxuries (maybe that shipping halter I've been lusting after). Or at least a wider variety of necessities.  Instead of looking longingly at the Tredstep Symphony breeches, maybe now I can try them on with the intent to actually buy them!

A new safety vest, maybe?
A new safety vest, maybe?
My husband, mother-in-law, and my recently-converted mother, have all realized that gift cards are really the most thoughtful gift to give me. They know it's not just a gift, it's the whole experience. The enjoyment of  formulating  a plan of attack for post-holiday sales at my favorite tack shops.  The fun of  pulling out catalogs, and spending time leafing through to find the dog-eared pages with the items on my horsie wish list.  

A gift card is not a thoughtless gift at all.  A gift card gives the giftee the ability to make a fantasy a reality, and to revel in the process at the same time.  I love the fact that every time I look at my horse wearing his Horseware turnout rug, I know that my loved one's thoughtful gift helps keep my four-legged baby warm.

* Note: I published another version of this on Horse Junkies United, and then edited that piece for this post. So if you feel as if you've read it twice, that may be why.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Getting To Know You...Indy

Hello.  Whatcha doing?
OK, I suck.  I admit it. A year and two months after I lost the Sug I finally tell you I've bought a
horse, and then I disappear for a month and a half.  All I can say is this is my busiest time of year at work, and between the travel and working late I'm happy just to find time to get to the barn, let alone chronicle what's going on there.

So let me catch you up... Indy and I have spent the last 6 weeks getting to know each other.  It's kinda like when you first start exclusively dating someone and you're trying to learn everything about them: Do they like coffee or tea? Spicy food or mild? Are they comfortable in large group situations or do they prefer to be more private? Cats or dogs? Football or baseball?

Here's what I've learned so far: Indy is intensely curious. You pretty much can tell that by just looking at his face, as he's got a wide-eyed "Who are you? What's going on? Are we going to do something fun?" expression.  If he's on the cross ties and sees someone outside, he all but stands on his tiptoes to see what's going on. If I go into the tack room, I come out to find him leaning forward on the ties peeking around and trying to see what I've gotten up to.  Where other horses might spook and wheel away from something new, he stops, snorts, cranes his head to get a better look at The Big Scary Thing, and is then likely to walk up and sniff it.  If we're walking somewhere, he wants to stop and investigate everything we pass by. Every.damn.thing.  He can be a little ADD in this respect; he's so interested in everything that at times it's hard for him to focus.

What's going on over there?

He loves people, and wants to be the center of attention, kinda like a big Labrador.  He reminds me of my daughter, Sophie, in that regard.  All energy, all "Hi! I'm Indy. Wanna be my friend? Wanna play? I know fun things to do. " If he's alone on the cross ties and sees someone is near he will break out every trick in the book to get their attention and entice them to come over.  If I'm next to him and my attention wanders to something else he'll nudge me until I focus on him again.  It's like the "Mom. Mom. Mommy. Ma" scene from Family Guy.  He's adorable, and I swear he uses that to his advantage when he does something naughty, just like Sophie does.  He gives you that face, the one that says, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. I just couldn't help myself. You still love me right?" It's hard to resist that kind of face.

He's a snuggle bug, and loves hugs and kisses.  He loves having the kids fuss over him, and he's got his own harem of young barn girls that dote on him.  He's started nickering to me, and not just when I come in to the barn.  After I'm done untacking and grooming him I'll put him back in his stall and then clean tack.  When I go to say goodnight before I leave he'll often give a high pitched nicker, as if he's saying, "You're back! Thank God! I was lonely!"  He sometimes does it when he's on the cross ties and I leave him to go get something, as if he's afraid I've abandoned him.

Snuggles with Sophie

The harem

We're learning how we fit together under saddle.  He's been used to someone else riding him and the way their aids were given, and now he has to figure out what I'm asking him.  Same thing for me.  It's like learning a new language.  Or driving a rental car.  When you get a rental, at first you spend a lot of time learning where the different buttons are, like the windshield wipers, gear shift, radio tuner, and the mirror adjuster doohickey.  You learn how hard you need to press on the gas pedal to get a reaction, and the same for the brakes.  You play with the wheel to see if you need to over-steer or under-steer.  Indy and I are at the rental car stage.

So that's where we are.  Getting to know each other and trying to figure out who we're going to be together.
Momma's Boy

Monday, October 26, 2015

I Bought The Lettuce!

Such a sweet-faced boy.
A week or so I wrote a post I called "Lettuce" about a horse I was considering buying.  In a nutshell, it was about my tendency to overthink/ overanalyze damn near everything, which, instead of helping me make decisions, actually paralyzes me and leaves me spinning in circles of doubt. (Suzanne Adams, if you're reading this, may I join the Convicted Over Thinker's club?)  The post was called "Lettuce" because a fellow crazy-horse-girl friend saw the colossal amount of time it took me to decide on a head of lettuce and totally understood why I would analyze something like buying my next horse eighteen ways 'til Sunday. 

So many wonderful readers commented and offered words of advice and encouragement that moved me closer and closer to making the decision. A longtime reader of AWIP, who goes by the name of Fiberchick, said something that galvanized me and gave me the impetus to finally do the deed. She said, "Buy that lettuce and enjoy the salad!"

So I bought the lettuce. His name is Indy, also known as LJS Endeavor if you want to get fancy. He's a 7 year old grey Oldenburg gelding, and he's just a big bundle of sweetness. He is the equine version of a big, fluffy puppy, he loves people, and he looks at everyone with an adorable little boy face that seems to say, "Hi! I'm Indy! Who are you? Wanna play?" 

He's got a great brain, which is what really attracted me to him in the first place.  When I rode him the first time a pony came running up behind us, bucking and snorting.  Indy just cocked an ear.  One time I rode him in the outdoor ring on a cold, windy, drizzly day. No issue for Indy, he couldn't have cared less. One day after a lesson I took him away from the ring and the other horses for a walk in the fields.  He went on the buckle, looking around with interest but no apprehension. He didn't care one bit that he'd left the rest of the herd behind. 

The biggest selling point, however, was the day  I took a lesson on him and rode abysmally.  I mean I was galactically awful. I couldn't find a distance even if I'd had a GPS. That poor horse had to get us out of one jam after the other, and he did it without a single complaint.  No snarkiness, no grudges, although God knows either would have been justified.  He just continued on to the next fence.

Hi!  Is it playtime?

There's a nearby horse park that I love riding at which has lots of trails and cross country jumps.  Indy's been there, done that, and gone through the water complex, which was another huge point in his favor.  I love doing hunter paces, and I'm looking forward to going through water without a half-hour discussion first.  God bless the Sainted Mare's heart, she did NOT like the water.

I've been concerned that when I did get my next horse that I'd do the comparison thing.  I've stopped worrying about that.  This is going to be such a different journey, there won't be any grounds for comparison.  I'm thinking it's like my kids. They're both wonderful kids, but they are vastly different personalities, and comparing them to each other would be pointless.  Good brains aside, Indy and Sug couldn't be more different, and that's going to be the fun part of this journey.  Sug was 12 when I got her, and most of her job was  teaching me.  Indy is younger, and while I will definitely be learning from him, I'm thinking I'll be teaching him as well.  I always felt Sug and I were peers.  I have the sense that in this new partnership I'll be more of the Mom figure. And I'm totally good with that.

So, to Fiberchick, Karley, Anonymous, Lindsay,  Liz, SprinklerBandit, Marissa, thestorysofarequestrian, and Kitty Kat, a huge thanks for your encouragement and support!

I bought the lettuce. And now I'm going to enjoy the salad. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Getting My Goat...

The other day Noah and I were driving down to the barn.  Noah has his driver's permit and was behind the wheel, so for a good portion of the ride any conversation was limited to my observations about his efforts.

Once I'd lowered my heart rate and breathing and felt sufficiently confident that we were not likely to die, we started talking about less life and death stuff, like how our weeks were going.  Noah is very low-content, and will never use 12 words if 2 will suffice, so his recap took about a minute and a half.  It went something like this, "I went to school; it sucked. I had cross country practice and two meets.  I lowered my time in both.  I have to work Friday night." 

My recap was a bit more long-winded. (I am a high content person.  When I can say something in 2 words, I'll still use 50.  I blathered on about work, the amount of travel I had to do, the questionable decisions being made by my superiors, whether or not I should buy the horse I was considering, my frustration with my health issues, what to make for dinner that night, and all the assorted flotsam and jetsam rolling about in my overactive little brain.

(Note: If you want someone to listen to your troubles and pat your hand and say "Poor baby" Noah is not your guy.  Emotion is not his thing.  His response is to an emotional outpouring is normally more likely to be something between Mr. Spock's "That is highly illogical" or "Suck it up, Buttercup.")

After a while I stopped my verbal vomiting and the car was quiet.  Out of nowhere, Noah says,
"You should get a goat."

HUH????  Where the actual hell did that come from?? I had no earthly idea where the kid was coming from.  My inner dialogue went something like this, "A goat?  Why a goat? I have nowhere to put a goat. What did I say that made him think I needed a goat? What kind of goat? A Nubian? Australian mini? Should I get a bunch of goats and start an artisanal goat cheese business?"  Aaaaannnnnnddddd it's off! My brain, perpetually on overdrive.

After that little mental meandering I managed to circle back to ask him why he thought I needed a goat.

"You know how some trainers get goats to calm high-strung horses? Like thoroughbreds at the track? You need a goat."

Anyone know where I can get a goat?

Friday, October 16, 2015

My Happy Place...

You know, the whole riding thing is wonderful. The feeling that you and your horse are communicating and working together toward a common goal, or just out there having fun together.

I love riding, but sometimes I think I love just hanging out with the horses more. I love the grooming, the grazing, and just standing there with them in their stalls and breathing them in. I like making them feel good by massaging them and scratching their itchies. Just seeing them enjoying something makes me happy.

I absolutely adore Tiki, the horse the kids ride. He's just such a special boy, and one of the most social horses I've ever met. I could hang out and play with him all day and not be bored. This is a video my son took the other night, and I look at it whenever I'm stressed or in need of a smile.

Because how can you not smile at this?