my personal mise en place; or, dealing with loss

I can't tell you when I became a horseperson. I can't pinpoint the day that I started to love them; wanted to spend every waking moment with them; chose to pursue a career riding, teaching, and training them (or rather, letting them train me). But I can tell you the day this particular horse found her way into a special, giant, 2,000 pound box in my heart- it was the day the above photo was taken. In a stable of 50-60, all of the horses are loved, cared for, brushed, ridden, bathed, fed, and shown in a loop- each of them has their own idiosyncrasies, their own special features. This horse was one of those with extra-extra-extra quirks.

She came to us on donation, and we accepted her on trial. It was clear that she had some soundness issues, and would be a bit too difficult for most riders in our program, so we attempted to send her back. They didn't want her. She required special care and attention to stay sound- and as long as she did, at least serviceably so, she could stay (and receive the care and attention she needed). She was older when she was donated, and this year she turned a ripe 27.

The students liked her, but as she was a challenging ride, she often went to the same group of riders, who eventually would say...oh...Wyoming again... as this meant they would have less chances to ride their more 'favorite' horses. That doesn't mean she wasn't loved, because she was- but her feed tub was not one that always had a carrot in it, if you take my meaning.

When I left the program, she came with me. The intention was just to keep her for a short while and get myself established, then send her back...but I couldn't do it. I fell in love with her.

We went on trail rides. We rode bareback and bridleless. We went for walks, and we took lots of baths. We never worked too hard, or asked too much. It was a gentle and enjoyable retirement life.

One of my most favorite traits (although also one of the most challenging, from a training point of view) about this horse was her fearlessness. We could go out into the vineyards alone, out of sight of the barn, and she would stay completely calm. I could trust her with the littlest person, the most precious cargo, knowing she would never balk, spook, or generally do naughty things.

wyoming 6.jpg

She was a beautiful mover- gorgeous gaits. Her trot and canter were so large that an inexperienced rider would actually be lifted a few inches out of the saddle every single step- and she would take advantage, because among other things, she was a bit of a trickster. Never anything dangerous, but she wouldn't listen unless you asked juuuust right. "Too much leg? Watch me take off! Not enough leg? Womp womp.. dead halt!". I used to joke that she was my tune-up for training inexperienced horses- if I got on her and gave the wrong cue, she would look back at me as if to say 'yeah...try that again.'

wyoming 4.jpg

She loved people, and would make friends with any human she could find. Horses were a different matter, but she was happy with human companions. 

A few months ago, as I started to make the transition from Michigan-Ohio-Georgia, I brought her back home, to the barn I took her from those years ago. I visited her a few times before heading south, knowing any time I saw her could be the last time. She was not fit enough to take a ten-hour trailer ride just to be a pasture pet, so she went out to pasture in Ohio, retired, with some old friends, and they spent the summer, companionably, in those lush green fields. A few days ago, I got the call that she was gone. Neurological complications. 

I take great comfort in knowing that the people with her as she passed loved and cared for her as deeply as I have, and she wasn't alone- never alone.

The best way I can sum up how I feel now, grieving, is with one of my favorite short poems:

Somewhere in time's own space, there must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and tall trees grow, some paradise where the horses go;
For, by the love that guides my pen, I know great horses live again.
-- Stanley Harrison

So: to put in place. To put my grief and loss in place, to set it in a safe spot; to allow myself to miss and love Wyoming as she was, and as she is. My sweetheart. My confidant. My partner in crime; and so often, the balm to my own hurts. We had a few great years together, for which I will be eternally grateful. 

I have a few excellent recipes ready to post- stay tuned to read about things like blueberry corn muffins, and the first time I shot a live cooking segment on the local news. Forgive me for my absence, and know that I am bursting with recipes and stories to share.

And send a mental peppermint to my sweetheart, Wyoming, tonight. She'll love it.