February 5, 2011

Confessions of a Horse Lover: Decisions

The act of becoming a horse owner is possibly the cheapest and easiest decision an equine-lover will make. That's not to say that being a horse owner is a cheap or that the decisions that follow the initial purchase of your new equine friend will be extremely easy. In fact, it's quite the opposite. The decisions that follow are always complicated, costly and sometimes, heart-wrenching. 

Several months ago, I began noticing a change in my equine friend. He was more aggressive and just generally annoyed at well...everything. I felt totally responsible. I'd been busy with everything...Little Miss, work, life, etc. I thought with a little time and some extra love, he'd be back to normal in no time. I thought wrong. On several occasions, I hopped onto his back & after about 15 minutes of calm, cool, normal horse- he turned into a bucking, rearing bronco. I still felt like with some more time, he'd snap out of it. Again, wrong. (Probably because at no point during those riding experiences did I have to propel myself onto the ground.) The thought of 'giving up' on my boy wasn't an option...but then he began exhibiting the rowdy behavior when I wasn't even on his back! Even though he was getting progressively worse instead of better, I was sure we could work through it. A few weeks ago, I decided to saddle him up and take him for a spin around the block. I vowed to ride him around the block every day for a week, in hopes to 'get the funk out'. We got about 5 houses away from the barn when he reared so high I thought he was going to flip over backwards on top of me. This is no exaggeration, folks. I asked God to please...let me be able to walk again...please, don't let anything be broken that won't heal quickly. I was sure I'd be a pancake. Thankfully, he didn't flip over...oh no, he came straight down with roughly 15 bucks before I dove off into someone's front yard. (Thanks for the padded-sod, neighbors!) He stopped when I landed and looked me right in the eyes. There was no fear or embarrassment in his eyes. He had a look of accomplishment...like he'd gotten what he wanted. I got back on his back and felt like I was sitting on top of a ticking-time-bomb. His body felt like a cork, getting ready to shoot out of a champagne bottle.

My whole body ached the next day...but what hurt the most was my heart. I've considered my horse my best friend since the first moment I saw him. We've come so very far in just a year and a half to go so far back. I took it personal. I work very hard to keep him safe, healthy and happy for him to work so hard to hurt me. I knew, no matter how much time passed and how many great rides we had, I would never ever trust him around Little Miss again. The relationship between a horse and rider is much like a marriage, once the trust is broken...what's the point? 

I have had to say good-bye to horses in my lifetime...horses that meant the world to me. But when I said good-bye to them, it wasn't my choice...it was God's choice. If I could've kept them forever, I would've have never said good-bye. So, I knew this decision to say good-bye wouldn't be easy. Naturally, only the good times flooded my mind...but the trust-issue rang louder than a gong on a cable television show.

I found a place I thought would both be able to handle my bipolar horse and would keep him safe, well-fed, sheltered, etc. They trained horses and then sold them...which I was fine with- as long as no one would get hurt, particularly my equine friend. In conjunction with finding him a new home, I also found a horse who seemed to be absolutely perfect...who was ironically, boarded at the same barn.

My dad and I set out for the 5 hour drive to take my old friend, Storm to his new home and look/pick up a new friend. Storm proved he was aptly named by refusing to get into the trailer, almost trampling me numerous times and taking his halter off not once, but twice on the westward drive. My nerves were shot by the time we arrived....in the dark...in the rain. It set my mind at ease that the new owners were excited to meet Storm & weren't nervous about his spirited personality. They had a beautiful barn, filled with horses who seemed well-fed and content...all except for one. 

The largest of the stalled steeds, who was the only one wearing a blanket, was walked into the aisle way to be introduced to me. His kind eyes and large body reminded me of my Brandy- the horse who still holds my heart, even from heaven. I blew in his nose, his ears perked up- as if my story was flooding his brain. He nuzzled my vest as his current owner took his blanket off of him. My heart sunk. He was incredibly underweight. I could tell he'd been eating something but not what he should. I stopped hearing what his owner was telling me and started hearing him...I need you

As much as he needed me, I needed him to need me. Storm stopped needing or wanting me- I had become old news to him. Maybe he needed a herd? Maybe he needed a cart-job? Maybe he needed...something else? This new boy just needed love...and someone who really cared. Someone who cared enough to research what food he needed and not just chalk his weight-loss up to 'he's just not hungry'. He needed to be treated like a pet a little more than just a horse. 

I climbed onto the new boy's back and rode him around the barn in the rain. He did everything I asked him to do, almost before I asked him to. I heard a horse holler from the barn as we rode- it was Storm. At that moment, I wished I knew what he was saying to me. He knew he was being traded. He knew he wasn't mine anymore. It broke my heart.

I got the new fella into the trailer and walked back into the barn one last time. I had to fight back the tears- God knows I won't cry in front of a perfect stranger...they have to think I'm tough as nails. I grabbed his red halter one last time, kissed him and told him good-bye. He looked at me with his wild eyes and sighed. I walked back to the truck alone and the tears flowed down my face.

"That was hard," I said as I climbed into the driver's seat.

"Why, honey?" my daddy asked.

"Because...I love him," I told him, hardly getting the words out before my silent tears turned into sobbing.

"He's going to be safe here. This is the best place for him. You can't get hurt on him, baby...you have Riya to think about." 

"I know...I know...but it's still so hard, Daddy."

I cried until we got back out to the main road. I knew I made the right decision- and I felt like, no matter what kind of people these folks were (b/c I'd gotten the feeling they were a little shady) they'd be able to handle Storm. 

The days that followed were difficult. I kept slipping up and calling the new boy, Storm, instead of his actual name. (Which I'm changing...to something. Ideas?) Along with the weight issue, I noticed some weaknesses here and there with him. I attempted to call his previous owner...interestingly enough, she refused all my calls. (All that is a post in-itself. Let's just say...I hope the previous owner takes a ride on Storm.;-)

The vet will be coming to the barn on Tuesday to check out my new fella. I'm praying that everything will be fine, but am prepared for the worst. Well...maybe not the worst but I'm prepared for a less than perfect report. Say a prayer for us? This new fella and I are already fast friends...his kind eye and calm heart have stolen mine. I can't wait to see what the future holds for us...but for now, I'm praying just for healthy.


  1. I wonder if Storm might need some body work. A lot of our off-the-track horses at the farm have similar issues, and it's because they hurt. Their wild reactions are telling you "I hurt here...heal me." The next time you're up this way, we should get together so you can come meet Jill. She does the most AMAZING healing work with horses I've ever seen. I can also get some good advice from her as far as supplements for your new guy. Magnesium is a big one...chromium in the spring/summer when the sugar-rich grasses come in and probably a couple more. Best of luck with him! I know how hard it must have been to let Storm go :(

  2. I just sobbed like a baby through 2/3 of that post. You did the right thing. I'm proud of you. Looking forward to our coffee/phone date tomorrow! Praying for.... what's-his-name. P.S. my vote (and keep in mind that I've never named a boy horse in my life) is
    Oliver (ollie)