I stand here with Cherry like I’ve done a hundred times while we wait for our student. Cherry is tacked up and relaxed. Her energy is quiet and she’s aware that I will not be riding her and someone else will. We share space, but today I want to be closer to her. I need to feel her, I observe how her coat is already changing and getting ready for fall, I notice her cowlick where her mane meets the skin on her neck, her tail has many colors, white, black, and grey. Her pink nose is slightly burned and I make a note to make sure we put her fly mask on tomorrow morning. She sighs and shifts her weight, I gently touch her rump and lay my head there. She sighs again.
My mind starts to wander, back a few years to when the barn was really busy. There were kids and parents everywhere. Cherry was busy too, everyone loved riding her no matter what age they were. The two of us taught well over a hundred people together. We teamed up to show them how to have a relationship with a horse, and it was possible to have a relationship with a horse that wasn’t theirs. They got the chance to learn how to walk, trot, and canter on Cherry’s long but beautiful back. They learned how to ground drive, how to lunge her, how to saddle her, how to give her a bath. For 11 years she has been my partner. She’s been rock solid and gentle. She’s been a team player and I hope she thinks that of me as well.
I love this horse, I love teaching. But today we had our last dance with a student. Cherry and I are retiring. It’s a bittersweet day, I did not expect to have so many mixed up feelings swirling through me. I am looking forward to seeing what the future will bring. I look forward to seeing my horses retire and enjoy their new partners who will spoil them and make them feel special. I look forward to spending time with my smaller herd and riding! I also look forward to spending time with my boarders and help them with their horses if they want me to. It’s been a great life. I loved to watch the kids who called me Mama Cheryl grow up. It doesn’t seem possible that the little 7 and 8 year old girls have grown up and have lives as adults. Where did the time go?
I am so thankful for our students. They have taught me more than I ever taught them. I’m going to miss that look in their eyes when they get what I’m explaining, and the look in Cherry’s eye when she softens and places herself in their hands because they earned her trust.
It’s been such an honor to have you all in our lives. I’m a bit sad that it’s time to say goodbye. To all of you that trusted me, I just want to say thank you for……everything.
I close my laptop, take a deep breath as I stand up from my chair and stretch. The dogs sense my movements, open their eyes, stand up, stretch, and yawn. They walk to the door with me and impatiently wait for me to get my winter gear on before heading out the door. Not a human word has been spoken, it is quiet here and our conversations come through in our body language and intent. The dogs run ahead of me and through the barn. I start to think about Cherry, since she is who I need to bring into the barn for a lesson. I close my eyes for a second, make sure I am grounded and breathing properly. I check in with my body and release any tension I may have. I stand up tall, feel my feet on the ground, and let my joints and muscles move me towards the mare’s pasture. I think of Cherry as I pick up the halter, unbuckle it, and drape it and the lead rope over my arm. I let the ground support me, I open my senses, feel the gentle breeze, it has a hint of warmth in it, I do believe spring is in the air and it makes me smile. The earth smells alive, wet from the melting snow, the ground is softer but still hard underneath a layer of mud. I must be mindful of where I place my feet since the ground is partially frozen and uneven with hoof prints. I reach the gate and take another deep cleansing breath. I open the gate and try not to make a harsh sound with the chain. I don’t want to disturb the herds spirit and energy. The horses notice my approach, I scan them to find Cherry. I see her, but she hasn’t acknowledged me yet. I think of her, and what we are going to do together. I think of her student. I hold him in my mind, I allow what his energy feels like to come to me so I can hold it in my heart to show Cherry.
She knows I’m coming, I see her ear swivel towards me, and then forward again. There, she turned her head and looks at me. I stop walking, my heart says hello to hers. She moves her mouth, I see her lips twitch and then she yawns. I continue my approach and stop short of her. My heart says hello again, she looks away at the bale, then over towards her herd. She really doesn’t want to come to work today. I nod my head, my heart says, I know. I hold her student in my heart and let her see him. I give him a name, so she knows him. She likes his energy, her eyes turn towards me again, her ears prick forward, and she leans a bit towards me. That’s her invitation to come in, I approach and gently strap the halter on her head. I turn to face the direction she is facing and we share space together for a moment. My heart asks her “are you ready?” she shifts her weight forward and our energy connects as we walk back to the barn together. I tie her up and gently start grooming. She pins her ears when I reach her chest, I soften my hand and gently stay there for a moment and she relaxes, her lips quiver, then she yawns. I continue grooming, watching her reaction and adjusting when she tells me I need to. Her student will be here in a ½ hour and I need to put the saddle on. I show her this in my heart and go to get her stuff. I set the saddle pad on her back, she holds her breath, I step back and just share space with her, touch her shoulder gently, and she puts her head down and yawns. I go get her saddle and gently place it on her back. Don’t pull, she says with her face and ears. I won’t my heart says, trust me, I’m watching you. I see you. I see your anxiety. Ok, she says, go ahead, be gentle. I will I say. I finish putting on her gear and we stay silent together, sharing space, sharing thoughts through our body language. I love being right here, in her world, trying to listen to what she is saying. It’s so quiet, peaceful, calm, as we explore ways to talk to each other. I show her the student again, she sighs. It’s ok we can do this. I know she says, it’s almost time. We connect again and our bodies hum with each others thoughts and energy. She’s sleepy, I feel that. I am too. I notice we both are swaying as we breathe, we hear the birds, the swan, the geese and the ducks swimming in the pond. We feel the breeze as it gently touches our faces. The sun feels so warm, it’s nice that winter is almost over. It’s been a rough one. We both slip in and out of relaxation. The only sound is our breath.
Then WHAM car doors slam, dogs go running. There is so much noise. Voices, laughing, running, barking, I yearn to go back to the peace we had, but it’s time to enter another world. I must quickly change the way I was thinking and put it back into humanness. It’s louder, harsher, startling. Others are getting into our space too fast. I can’t think of the right words to say hello. They don’t see that I’m startled, I’m trying to say hello. I shake my head, get myself back in my body and make a shield for Cherry, she’s not ready yet. I stop my student, ask him to get her bridle and I walk into the office with him. I find the human words to say hello to his family. Tell Boomer to get down, feel Lainey against my leg. We get the bridle and walk to Cherry together. He feels my energy and slows down. I gently put Cherry’s bridle on, and he responds to my quietness. He looks at me and smiles, I smile back. I ask him to take her for a walk. He connects to Cherry, she sighs and moves with him. She remembers him, she likes him, and she enjoys helping me teach him. His energy is good and he is learning how to talk to her. He feels her and is quiet. She likes that. I must use my human words to talk to him, but I use the horse’s words to show him. He likes that. Sometimes I get lost trying to find the human words, it is hard to be human when the horse’s words are so easy. They use their bodies, their minds, there intent, and their energy to tell me what they want to say. Humans are hard, they use words, but their bodies say other things, their energy jumps around, one second calm, then another worried. Sometimes I feel caught between the two worlds, not sure of who I am, or how to speak.
“For God, who said, “let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts…..
There is a rhythm here. The sound of people walking, the whoosh of the heat as it comes on, the quiet humming of the pumps as they send medications into my daughter’s vein. I hear laughter in the hall, her nurse is approaching. She hesitates outside Danielle’s door to gown and mask up so she can come into a room that is contaminated with the bacteria that lives in our daughters’ lungs. As she walks in, Danielle sits up and says, “Hiiiiiiii, what’s up?” The nurse smiles and answers. They chat a bit as her nurse examines her picc line and then her peripheral IV. Danielle draws her out some more and asks questions about her life. How is she? Does she have dogs? (which is Danielle’s favorite subject) if the nurse, physical therapist, respiratory therapist, doctor, dietician, housekeeper, or anyone else that comes into her room has a dog then they go into a deep discussion. They usually will pull out their cell phone to show her pictures, they will tell her if their dog is sick, she will offer suggestions. She pulls out her cell phone and shows them interesting photos of dogs she takes care of. The mood lightens and the person usually leaves the room with a smile on her/his face. I love to listen to her voice, her laughter, and see Gods light shining from her. People don’t want to leave her room, and it’s funny how they are shocked that they stayed longer than they intended. Danielle makes them feel better, even though they don’t realize it right away.
What they don’t see is how she is after they leave. The worry comes back into her eyes and she becomes quiet for a few moments. I wonder what she’s thinking, and I ask. Sometimes she will talk to me, other times turn away. It breaks my heart because I can’t go where she goes in her thoughts. I know she has worries and fears. I wish I could take this from her, the fear of the unknown. But I can’t, I just try to keep by her side as much as possible, make as many memories as I can with her, let her know I will stand next to her and help her fight every aspect of her disease that tries to rob her of her life. We call out to God to fight the dark thoughts and fear. I ask Him to heal her, to allow her to fill her lungs and breathe! God is here with us, right by her side, holding her in His arms and shining his light on and through her. She is filled with his joy and his light. People feel it and bask in it. He heals souls through her. She is a miracle and a light in a place that is filled with pain and fear. My heart ponders this as I fall into the rhythm of the hospital and the other side of our life, the side that tests our faith, our relationships, our finances, and our sanity. But inside of it all we know God has our back; He finds ways to show our little girl, our family, our friends, and everyone that comes into her room His wonderous light.
He feels cold. His energy is so low that he shakes from the effort to stand. He is locked deep inside of himself. There is no real pain, just dullness and lack of coordination. He can’t seem to figure out how to get into the trailer. He doesn’t feel afraid, he is tired, and his body isn’t working right. Finally, he is in the trailer. He’s not sure how he got there, but he is relieved that they helped him in. The trailer ride is soothing, the swaying feels comforting. Arrival to the hospital is a relief and he finds his voice to nicker a greeting. His beloved, Her, comes to him and he talks to her. She smiles through her fears and reassures him. Her love washes over him from her heart in waves and he knows she is with him, even in his dullness. There is much activity, he hears it and feels it, but from a distance. The only thing he really feels is Her, she is there with her hand on his head, sometimes his side and when he can’t feel her hand, he feels her spirit and it’s good to rest in that. There is a weird buzzing sensation as the doctors shave a spot for a catheter in his neck, a bite that is uncomfortable for a moment, but then it’s ok. She’s back at his head. It’s soothing to him to feel her there. The bite must have been something good because he relaxes a little and doesn’t feel so thirsty. His body doesn’t tremble as much, and he can let his spirit come closer to the surface again. His eyes brighten and he notices where he is. There are so many people! He looks around and notices some from his home, She is there, and then the ones that smell like the other horses from home. They are the ones touching him like She does. Someone starts up the buzzing thing and he feels it on his side. He hears someone say “belly tap, and Lipoma, and intestines,” but he doesn’t know what it all means. It just feels better right now and he is glad he could come to the surface and be with Her. Her love washes over him, but now there is much sadness, and uncertainty. She holds his head and whispers, “surgery, should we try?” He hears hope in her voice, and it enters him. He lift his head up and looks at her. “Try? Hope? Yes.” He leans to her and agrees. More people come, he feels a warmth come inside of him, then his body relaxes. It feels so good, like he is floating. His spirit goes deep again, but from a distance he feels Her heart, and it is so good. He loves her heart, it matches his and they beat in rhythm with each other. He senses her leaving, but it’s ok. Her heart is still with him. He can feel it even though her body walks away. He goes further away and begins to sleep.
It is cold, bitterly cold, the kind of cold that freezes your eyelashes and makes breathing, walking, and chores painfully exhausting. We find ourselves wanting to rush, to hurry and get things done so we can get inside. The snow is starting to fall, walking is a struggle and we fluctuate between slipping on the ice or plowing through the snow. I’ve got my scarf pulled up over my nose and my hat pulled down as low as I can without covering my eyes. Hearing and seeing have become a struggle, a battle of either staying warm or sacrificing my senses. I’m desperate for warmth, for coffee, or soup, anything warm. I see all the horses waiting to be fed and I want to cry because each footstep is an effort. It’s overwhelming to know that we need to be out here for hours to get chores finished, and that I must come back out again to tackle night chores. Joanie and Kristin are with me, we’ve stopped talking to each other because it takes too much effort and too much time.
We know we need to take hay out, and that task is looming over our heads like a dark cloud. The knowledge that we will freeze our hands to take the top off the nets, the cutting of the net that wraps the hay is painful, and driving the bobcat freezes our hands and feet. We finish feeding grain to the 18 horses that require it, and now it’s time to take out hay. Joanie starts the bobcat, Kristin is finishing up in the barn, and I head out to open the nets in the feeders. I’m walking out to the feeders, sight and sounds are muffled and my head is down as I search the ground for the best path. Suddenly, a pocket of warmth envelopes me and I stop. I look up to discover I have walked into a circle of horses and it is their warmth that stops me in my tracks. I close my eyes and feel them reaching out to me. The song “Breathe”, by Johnny Diaz starts to play in my mind.
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to take it in, fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe (just breathe)
let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe (just breathe)
I feel a rhythm here, it’s the rhythm of the herd and my body starts to follow their rhythm as I close my eyes. I feel my heart slowing down and my breathing changes. Chaos does not exist here and it is quiet. There is no worry, no pain, no suffering, no anxiety, just breathing and heartbeats, just being right here, right now, in this moment of time. That’s all there is. I find God here, I find rest here. The horses have become my gentle leaders, and I am grateful that they opened their circle of warmth to show me how to “Just Breathe”.
There is a shift in the circle, I hear the bobcat moving. Joanie and Kristin come out of the barn and down the driveway. I look up and see them. I see the smile in their eyes, and their spirits lift me up. I can’t wait to tell them what I experienced, but for a little while I want to hold it quietly in my heart. God, my horses, and my friends have shown me how to find warmth and rest where only moments before there was worry and exhaustion. There is such beauty here, even when the world is frozen.
That phrase has been showing up everywhere for me lately. Our pastor talked about it and how God helps us get up again. My teacher, Andrea, just gave us an article she wrote about getting back up again. At Bible Study last night we talked about Job being lifted up by God. My grandma used to say, “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. It seems like we all need to get up at some point in our lives. I got to thinking about it a lot since it felt like God REALLY wanted me to ponder this. I’ve stepped back and rolled it around in my brain for awhile and my take on it is this.
We all fall down and our choice is to get up, or lay there. But there are times we can’t get up on our own. For instance, yesterday after morning chores I was exhausted. I had spent 9 hours the day before in the barn giving lessons and getting prepared for the cold snap. When I got in from the barn I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Wednesday morning I woke up with red rimmed eyes, a headache and depressed that I had to do it all again. I felt alone, dark, and down to the point I was nauseous and just wanted to go back to bed which I did as soon as I got back into the house from morning chores. It went from bad to worse. I tried praying, asking God why? And please pull me up out of the blackness. I hate to tell you but He didn’t immediately step in and lift me up into a shaft of bright light. I felt myself sinking deeper. I started to feel like a worthless lump of coal, good for nothing, can’t take care of anything right. I should still be in the barn taking care of things. I have horses to help, a chicken coop that needs revamping and etc. As I laid there I heard my cell phone ring, I ignored it. I heard texts coming through. I ignored them and kept telling myself how lazy I was and how useless. My alarm went off and nap time was over. I had an hour to get the house cleaned for bible study and I still had to give 3 hours of lessons in the barn. I dragged myself out of bed asking God to help me again. I had to put on a brave smiling face. People would be here that I had to help and horses that needed me to be there for them. Then out of the blue my phone rang in my hand. It was my sister, Chauna! She was FaceTiming me. I answer and there, right in front of me, is sweet Olivia’s face! Chauna and Olivia called me and we chatted. I pulled up a silly song on Alexa for Olivia to sing to. My heart got lighter, I started smiling and I felt peace wash over me as I lifted up. I saw the sun shining, felt my dogs nose under my hand and came back into the world of light. God did help, but I had to wait for his timing. I ended up really enjoying lessons that night after she called me. We had laughter, sunshine, and the sweet acceptance and unwinding from a horse that was worried before his lesson. During Bible Study my house was filled with women who all have had struggles, got knocked down, some of us are still down, others are standing up again. But we support each other in our journeys and everyone left with hugs and smiles.
As I pondered all this I realized yes, we all fall, and yes, we all should get up again. I got to thinking even more and realized that we don’t even know when we may be lifting someone up. I bet Chauna didn’t know she did that for me and that she saved my day. So, when you get that nudge that you should call someone, to smile at someone, or stop and ask them how they are doing. Go ahead, follow that feel! Once a small light appears, the darkness gets chased away and the light gets passed on to another. It’s pretty cool that when I got knocked down I got up again because my sister made that phone call, and a little 3 year old passed some of her light on to me.
They are as still as statues, the only sound you hear is the sound of their breath moving air in and out. You may see a shift of weight,or a flick of an ear when someone leans in too close, but that’s it. They allow me to move into their midst but just so I don’t touch or get too personal, I must stay in my own space.
It’s warm inside their circle, it’s peaceful. Contentment and quietness is present and their warmth washes over me. I don’t want to leave, I could stay there all day. It’s a place of peace.
Until…..Tefah comes in too far and Brandi lays her ears back. Tefah stops,exhales, and yawns. The peace returns and I feel blessed they let me into their world. Ah, to stay there would be heaven, but the world goes on and chores must be finished. Thank you, for letting me be a part of the herd and share warmth with you it was an honor.
Yep, another mistake. I was working with Jethro and his owner last Friday and got bigger than I needed to and he tipped too far into worry to keep learning. I had to take a breath and slow down until he felt better about what we were doing. It seems to be the way it goes, but holy cow, it’s so frustrating! We try, we make mistakes, we try again, and we learn. Horsemanship has lots of mistakes. When I think of the horses I knew from 2002 until now, I cringe. I let so many of them down with my lack of knowledge and with the mistakes I made. There are so many times I’ve quit on a horse and sent him down the road because I didn’t know how to handle the situation, or I was scared of his/her behavior, or impatient. Sometimes those thoughts stop me in my tracks and paralyze me. I get angry at myself and think what in the world am I doing? I don’t know enough! I’m a bad person! If anyone knew how incompetent I am they would never trust my opinion! But then I settle, I remember, I let the words of my teachers settle in my brain I let the feeling of a horse reaching up to say hi to me reach my heart. Because of my human teachers and four legged teachers, I have learned. I have a learn a lot!
Lets look at Dutchess and travel back in time to the year 2004. She was our sons horse. Nick loved Dutch, he went trail riding and gaming with her and they were a good team. Then she broke her scapula out in the pasture one night. She recovered enough to move but was never the same after that. She got mean! I mean really mean. She would hiss like a goose and kick you when you tried to get on her. Once you were on her she would kick the bottom of your foot. Nick became afraid of her and quit coming to the barn. I became afraid of her and didn’t know what to do. So I sold her to my friend who bought and sold horses. He knew the situation and he probably matched her up with someone that knew what they were doing. I sure didn’t . Looking back, the meanness she showed probably was because she was in pain. Today I would have waited it out longer, called in a chiropractor, called in a body worker, changed her diet and added herbs to help her with inflammation…. So many things I’ve learned since she was here. She’s one I wished I knew then what I know now.
Lets take a look at JJ. I had decided that join up was something I really wanted to do with each and every horse that I owned. Yep, every single one of them! Even JJ, the one that knew me, who knew my heart and soul. As you read this you probably think, No, don’t do it Cheryl! But alas, I did, I put my best friend in the round pen and chased him, moved him, and tried to make him submit. He ran away from me, looking over his shoulder and keeping his eyes on me like I was a deadly snake. I eventually stopped and met his eyes. I fell to my knees in horror of what I almost did. I almost broke our trust, I will never forget the feeling of that. If I was trying to be a horse advocate, how could I have tried to make him submit like that? I was so humiliated and overwhelmed with a feeling of total stupidity. JJ came to me as I knelt there and touched me with his muzzle on the top of my head. I know, it’s ok he said. You stopped, I still trust you. Thank God he knew who I was in real life and that the creature that almost ran his heart to the ground wasn’t who I was.
See, the horses are cool like that. They know our intent, even when we make mistakes. Maybe they know that we have to learn from our mistakes, that we are human and our egos get in the way. They seem to make allowances for our egos. Thank God they do or I would be in lots of trouble. I’m a bit slower in making mistakes since one lesson I have learned over and over again from them is slow down so we can see when the learning stops and panic sets in. For some horses the panic comes fast when we put pressure on them, others it comes slowly. I’m finding even when I think I’m moving slow, for some horses it might not be slow enough. I’m not taking about moving in slow motion, I’m talking about increasing pressure. For example lets look at Tefah. For those that know me, Tefah has been the horse that has taught me more than any other. I have learned much more from her than she will ever learn from me. She has taught me to wait, to listen, that she is a horse that is so sensitive that we cannot use physical pressure, she responds to my thoughts and intent and responds quickly! It’s hard because when I work with her, my direction has to come from the inside, the rope can’t pull on her, the reins cannot be used to drag her along. She will resist any pressure past what gets her moving. And by moving I mean her moving on the inside. If I put pressure on her past that tipping place I lose her. I used to lose her a lot, but it’s getting better. I wasn’t sure I was right in what I was doing with her, so I sent her off to my friend, Heather, who I trust absolutely, and who knows who I want to me with my horses. I was so relieved to find out she thought the same thing as I did.
So, the moral of this story is it’s ok to make mistakes, don’t let your past relationships that failed with horses stop you. Try not to go down that rabbit hole, keep learning, keep trying and thank the horses that were here before you know what you know now. Let the guilt go and don’t be afraid to listen to your gut. The horses from the past are who have made you the horse person you are today. And if you still think your gut may be a little crazy, go ahead and ask someone to help you, someone who knows who you are with horses and can give you an honest evaluation. If you have people in your lives like that, you are truly blessed.
I didn’t expect this to happen. I thought this blog would be in chronological order, but I guess God has other ideas. He put Captain in my mind today and I can’t let it go, it’s like he can’t wait for his story to be told and he won’t leave me alone. I mean, it’s so bad that I had to go to my computer after chores and taking care of John this morning (John had jaw surgery yesterday), and look up dates and everything I had about Captain. You see, he was a horse that came here at the end of his life. In fact he only lived with me from 12/10/2011 until 3/30/2012.
All I know of Captains previous life is that he was a rodeo pick up horse. He had to run next to bucking horses and pick up the rodeo contestants that needed help. I bet if we knew his whole history we wouldn’t be able to count how many men he saved. Captain was a horse with a big heart, soft eyes, a big body, and a kind soul. We met back in 2011 when my friend Annie called and asked if I had room for a rescue that she had picked up at a local feed lot. She warned me that he was bad, and that he would need some dental care. He arrived 12/19/2011 blanketed and had a huge swelling on his face. We took the blanket off and gasped, he was so skinny, and had lots of ticks on him. I don’t know how ticks could be on him in the winter. It was gross and heartbreaking. We quickly went into life saving gear, everyone here surrounded us, helped us financially and supported us emotionally on a journey that was uplifting, painful, joyful, and heartbreaking.
We quickly called out Dr. Marion who examined him and asked us to bring him into the clinic for teeth extraction. He ended up having two teeth removed that day and then we were on our way to helping him gain weight. Dr Marion did mention he had a heart murmur and that he was probably in his late 20’s early 30’s.
Captain was a gentleman, he was very quiet, like he didn’t want to cause any trouble or call attention to himself. I guess that you would call him stoic. He seemed to always have a worried look in his eye and I hoped that we could change that and give him some quiet time with all the food he could eat, all the grooming he could tolerate, and time with humans when we weren’t asking him to do a job. I was hoping that he could just be a horse, interacting with us just being humans and sharing the same space without him feeling like he had to be worried.
Over the course of a few months he gained weight, he got brushed by us and the lesson kids. We found he liked kids, they seemed to help the worried look leave his eyes and I couldn’t wait to see what he would do when one of them took a lesson with him.
On 2/1/2012 Captain was healthy enough that I thought I could sit on him for his first ride. He had gained some weight and seemed to have settled in quite well. He had started to relax out in the pasture, take time eating his grain, and we often saw him standing up by the barn enjoying the sun. The days were starting to get warmer and we all were excited to see how he would look when he shed out in the spring. He seemed so big to us. I bet he stood close to 16 hands which, if you know me and the horses I get, that’s huge! In fact I had to buy a new bridle that was big enough for his head.
On 2/9/2012 Captain became sick, he had this nasty goop running from his nose and it smelled to high heaven. I called out Dr Marion again and he diagnosed him with a sinus infection. When a horse gets a sinus infection it’s not an easy thing to clear up. They have to have a hole drilled into their sinus cavity, a catheter placed in the hole and we have to flush it daily with a mixture of saline solution and betadine. It’s an interesting procedure to watch, but I would rather watch it done on a horse that wasn’t mine. Captain was sedated, and the vet used a drill and then a bore to punch through the skull into the sinus cavity. Then he stitched the catheter in place and showed us how to administer the flush.
I’m not sure how long we had to treat him, but it seemed like a long time. He was a good patient, I’m sure it felt so weird to have us push that warm flush into his sinus, but he never put up a fuss. He stood so quietly, with his head down. We often would pet him and he would lean on us. It was a time to really bond with him, and I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with him for anything. We got to learn more about him, we learned he was patient, he was gentle, he was ok, and I think he was glad we were with him. To this day I can remember what his head felt like as it rested in my arms. I can still hear his breath and feel the gentle sway of his body with every inhale and exhale. It was a time of quiet contemplation.
Captain eventually started to feel better and I decided to try him in a lesson. We had a girl here named Hannah who loved my horse JJ and rode him regularly . She was a student I could count on to consider the horse she was on and stop the lesson if Captain needed her to. I felt that if I matched him up with a person that was a gentle as he was, that they would enjoy their time together. Needless to say the lesson was awesome. Hannah started out nice and easy, but Captain wanted to go, so they ended up trotting a bit and I think he even took her for a little canter. I know before he passed they cantered together, but I’m just not sure when that happened. They had a few lessons together and from the pictures that follow, I believe they enjoyed themselves.
In March we noticed that Captain seemed hot all the time. At least that’s what we thought. He was breathing hard and his energy level seemed low. Once again we called Dr. Marion out and he quickly diagnosed him with congestive heart failure. His big heart was failing and his lungs were starting to fill with fluid. We didn’t want him to suffer so we set up an appointment on March 30th to say goodbye. Over the next couple of weeks we spent quiet time with him, giving him treats, grooming him, and just letting him hang out with us, human to horse, sharing the same space. I wish I had known him when he was younger, when his joints weren’t swollen, when he was running next to the bucking horses, when he moved freely and challenged the wind. Oh I wish I had known him then. But, on the other hand, I got to know a wise soul, a gentle creature that was large in body, but soft in his communication. I think he was happy here, I think he got to feel love without demand for work and he understood how special he really was. I hope somewhere out there, there is a cowboy who remembers a big red pick up horse that saved his life. I hope in his heart is filled with gratitude for that big red horse. That’s all Captain needs, just someone to say thanks and remember him. As I write this I see him in my minds eye. He is alive in heaven, he snorts, dips his head down and runs away with his tail up in the air and his head held high. He says thanks for reading about me, and for remembering. He says he had a good life for the most part and he was glad for the gentle hands of children that petted him, hugged him, and let him be himself.
I look for him everywhere. Any time I see a red dun horse my heart skips a beat, I look at the ground, then slowly lift my eyes up to look at him. I search his face, could it be him? I know that he’s passed away by now since he would be in his 40’s but my heart still searches. Dunny was the first horse that truly was a friend, who listened to me, let me cry in his mane, who let me become such a part of him that it felt like we shared the same skin. I still can close my eyes and see him, the small star on his forehead, the way his coat glistened in the sun and the different shades of colors on his body that looked like puzzle pieces. I’ve never seen a horse that looked like him, and probably never will again. I believe he was magical. He talked to my heart. He steadied it and he accepted me for who I was. It’s actually hard for me to write about him, and that shocks me a bit because he is responsible for how I feel about horses today.
Oh Dunny, how I loved you. I loved the way the sunlight shimmered when it touched your coat, your warm, broad back, the white snip on your upper lip, the way you smelled, the nicker you gave me when I walked out to the corral. I loved the way you let me lay on you, feeling your breath underneath me and the warm sun on my back. How you would stand for hours with me up there. When I rode you, you let me ride and ride and ride. We explored all the roads around the farm, rode out in the pasture where Dixie lived. You taught me how to ride out a buck, how to run like the wind with you. I even think you loved me. Thank you for teaching me for being patient with me, for being gentle, and letting me have conversations with you. You showed me how to listen to you and understand what you were saying. You taught me that I could feel your thoughts through the reins, even though I didn’t know that was a thing. You taught me I could ride freely with you, no saddle, no bridle but you took me wherever I wanted to go. Thank you for letting me dream, for allowing me to pretend you were my horse and letting your heart beat with mine. When Uncle Ed sold you I thought my heart would shatter. I couldn’t believe you were gone when I got to the farm that summer. The pain of it staggered me and I was in total disbelief. I thought you would be on the farm forever. Didn’t they see how special and magical you were? Didn’t Uncle Ed know you were mine? How could he sell you? Did you think about me after you left for your new life?
Today I feel the pain in my heart almost as strongly as I did then, the tears run down my cheeks as I write this, and my heart aches. Every time I go to a rodeo or see a team of ropers I look for you since I was told your were sold to a roper on the circuit. I never saw you again, never got to say goodbye or hear your gentle nicker. I hope the rest of your life was sweet and beautiful and every once in awhile you remembered a little girl who loved you. You were a brave strong horse and you were my hero. I will probably always search for you and I will carry what you taught me in my heart forever.