Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Until the Day He Dies

With 3 months to go, 2010 has been a tough year.  It was supposed be a year of bliss and happiness as I set off down the road of retirement.  But instead it has been filled with more heartbreak and sadness then in all of the years I've owned horses put together.

Cisco:  My been/there, done/that, confidence builder Quarter Horse.  I was so excited to have the time to ride him at home or head out on the trails around our home during the work week once I retired.

Two weeks after I retired I lost Cisco as noted in my Post on January 13, 2010, "A Sad Day."

Champ (Want My Autograph):  The hard-headed, opinionated performance horse I inherited from our daughter when she moved onto college.  Many of my Posts in 50+ and my short-lived (http://www.lifeplushorses.blogspot.com/) are written around Champ.

Champ was a real challenge for me.  I can't count the times I wanted to chicken out (or did chicken out) when I was headed up to ride this talented but obstinate horse.

Many times I'd rather have been doing anything but going up to ride this nasty beast.  Oh the excuses I'd come up with to avoid facing those rides!  But never have I felt the high and sense of accomplishment that I got when I did ride.  Nothing tops that successful feeling - or was it the joy of being alive?  Not sure.

Champ taught me so much.  He pushed my envelope.  I read up on Ground Work and applied the tools.  I established myself as the Leader of our Herd.  My rides became predictable and Champ and I bonded into an incredible relationship.

We were well on our way to becoming an intuitive team.  The day after the most incredible ride I'd ever had on any horse in my life,  (http://www.lifeplushorses.blogspot.com/  "A +10 Day", June 23, 2010), Champ became ill.  Six days later we put Champ down.  My family and I still grieve over this bigger than life, bright red Paint who eventually became putty in my hands.

But I was so lucky.  While I was preoccupied with Champ, I'd held off on replacing Cisco at home.  I had a mental list of what I wanted in my next horse.  I could recite that list in my sleep (in fact I did).  But I wasn't on the hunt for a new horse.  Champ and our challenges had my days filled.

Two weeks before I lost Champ I met Poco.  He exceeded every expectation I'd ever had.  I looked forward to having him at home to ride.  I envisioned offering him out to ride to my novice friends.  I couldn't wait to haul Poco and Champ to Cabin Creek and go trail riding.

Now without Champ, Poco became my only riding horse.  His kind heart and gentle ways helped me through those early days of Champ's loss.

I had passed on a pre-purchase exam for Poco, thinking what did I need to know about a 21-year old horse?  Poco was in great shape and I had references from personal contacts who knew him before I bought him.

But something hasn't been right with Poco.  Weepy eyes had me accounting it to the flies.  I frequently cleaned his eyes but recently I noticed that Poco seemed to have an issue with movement on his right side, causing him to spook (so unlike him).  After a ride he'd stand with his eyes closed.  Fellow riders remarked about how I'd worn him out and he was "sleeping".  It worried me.

I had the vet come out to take a look at Poco's eyes.  The diagnosis is Moon Blindness.  My horse is going blind.  His right eye is already pretty much gone.

Would I have passed on Poco if I'd had a pre-purchase exam?  Probably yes.  So I'm glad I didn't have one because of all the horses I've owned, Poco ranks in the top 5.  I'm glad I bought him.  Who knows what might have happened to him if I hadn't?

Pity isn't going to help Poco in the future, but an assured rider will.  And for a 50+ rider who has worked hard on her confidence, this is just the Call I need to show Poco how assured I can be.

My commitment to this horse will be about comfort and trust.  Moon Blindness is painful.  I've got a meds if needed and my vet has versed me on degrading danger signs as well as assuring me to call him if things become worse.

Although I've been warned by my vet to not take Poco to unfamiliar places where he might have issues, I plan to continue to ride Poco, starting with the confines of the indoor arena with a goal of keeping him in touch with the world he used to see so clearly.  What we do will depend on his comfort zone both physically and mentally.  I refuse to force or push him into some place where he isn't comfortable.  But I also refuse to baby or pity him.

Poco will be my horse until the day he dies. 

And I sure hope that's a long way off.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Shaking The Tree

Every once in awhile it's good to shake one's tree and get the dust off of one's leaves.  The last time I did this was a year ago.  My Hubby, Hank the Dog, and I took a trip to the Northeast side of Washington State.
My husband, familiar with the area from years of hunting, took me to the most beautiful places up in the mountains.  The cool fresh air and scent of pine trees was like perfume. 

At one point on our drive, through the trees I spotted the most incredible camping spot.  I asked to pull over.  Down off of the road and through the pine trees we went to a spot that took my breath away.  It was large and spacious with a creek and small waterfall running along it.  We grabbed our camp chairs and spent a long time there that day.
I never wanted to leave this wonderful place.  We made a pact that we'd return the following year and camp there.  So a year later, here we are heading back.
Early morning, our Belgians with neighbor's buffalo in the distance, wondering what we're up to.
Ready to leave in our camper, hoping the beautiful spot we found last year isn't already occupied by someone else.
Passing many apple orchards, active at harvest time. 
Running fence is never fun but this (literally) tops all we'd ever seen!
Hank the Dog, up from a nap to check out the surroundings.
Late in the day we arrive at the spot we discovered last year to find it empty.  It's all ours!
It's as beautiful as we remembered!
A level spot to set up Camp. 
Sweat pants and shirts mandatory in the AM.  Coffee anyone?
No matter where you go, there's always laundry!  :)
During our stay we never saw another person.  It was peaceful, relaxing and fun.  A few days later it was time to head home.  We returned the same way we did last year, a different route which included this (tiny) ferry boat ride.
I was curious to check out this property with multiple lots for sale.  Last year they sat empty, driveways and roads leading to nowhere.  Sadly, no changes in the past year.  The lots still sit empty.  Just like the abandoned homes and farms we passed, a sign of our sad economy.
Climbing up and up into the sky.  Lots of hairpin turns and cliffs that drop down hundreds of feet.
Once we get up on top, we drive across miles and miles of wheat fields as far as the eye can see.
This rock wall we drove past last year fascinated us.

We hit I-90 and soon found ourselves in familiar stomping grounds, pulling onto our road right before dark.  After living out of the camper, our house seemed huge!

Yesterday I couldn't wait to see Poco.  He was happy to see me, putting his nose into my neck and then just standing there smelling me until I finally moved away.  I swear that horse missed me as much as I missed him!

The camper is off the truck and parked back where it sits when not in use.  Tomorrow my Hubby returns to work and I go back to the routine I had prior to our trip.  It was good to shake my tree and dust off my leaves, good for the heart and soul.  But it's also good to be back home!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

True Friends

I want to introduce to two very special friends, Haley and Rachel.

Haley is my riding buddy at the barn.  She's one of those people who always puts a smile on my face and makes laughter come so easily.  People like that in our lives are special.  If you think about someone you know who is like that, I bet right now you've also got a smile on your face, just as I do right now!

Haley and I are both 50+ and always seem to be in a battle to keep our confidence levels up.  Riding together whenever possible, we help each other out with observations and support. 

We always seem to have an ongoing discussion about our philosophies on life and equines.  As we cool down our horses, we carry on these mind provoking conversations.  Together on our horses we solve the world's issues.

We've come to know each other so well that recently, as we stood outside the arena watching one of our fellow riders jumping, I turned to Haley and said, "You know, maybe someday we should..." 

That's as far as I got.  Haley finished my thought with, "No Sheri, we are not jumping."  I replied, "We aren't?"  She responded, "No, we are not."  I looked at her, she looked at me, and we both broke into laughter.  Haley is right.  Jumping isn't something either of us wants to attempt.  We're much happier observing.

Rachel is my trainer.  She's helped me to become the rider I'd always wanted to be.

But the road to getting me there surely hasn't been easy.  How many trainers would have the patience to give lessons to this 50+ rider whose first lesson started outside the stall of the horse she was supposed to ride (because she was terrified of going inside the stall)? 

How many trainers would continually ask this rider at every lesson for over six months if they were ready to lope before this rider finally got up the confidence to comply? 

Rachel's quiet inner strength, her positive way with both horse and rider, her humor and way of making a statement without offending has kept this 50+ rider going and going, like the Energizer Bunny.

Two wonderful people I'm honored to call friends.  There's a special bond amongst the three of us, a love of horses and special strength that has brought us close.  It's a gift that will carry through the years of time.  We are sisters, bonded by our respect for each other, our love of horses and all things equine.