The first lesson horses teach us is to never, ever, pretend that we KNOW what will happen next. Not the next second, the next minute or even the next year. Treat them as if you do know, train them as if you do know, but keep close the knowledge that horses will forever and always surprise us.
One of those instances where I knew what would happen next was when I saw a small, powerful little mare run toward the gate of a 40 acre field in Texas because her owner had rung a dinner bell. She regarded me and I KNEW. I knew this horse would make it's way to my farm. I knew this horse would take my daughter from her pony to horses in the way only a really good horse can. It helps to think that she knew that too.
I was smart enough to think that I shouldn't take her because of some cosmic occurrence. There was a tough vet check to pass. There was a price to negotiate. There were the logistics of transport. But most importantly, would my kid even want a mare that so obviously was going to teach her the tough lessons along with the fun ones? Would a 9 year old be able to ride a keen, bossy 8 year old Sport Morgan well bred and trained by Texans to event and do endurance? The very same mare that was pitching, weaving and popping on her hind legs in front of us to be picked first? The list of cons got shorter when I saw the owner hand the lead to my daughter. The fiery mare dropped her head to sniff my daughters outstretched hand, then walked respectfully by her side. I knew.
Later that month she came off a 4-day, transport breathing absolute fire, leaping and snorting, shaking her head defiantly. A vet that saw her come off the rig asked, "So you bought THAT for your daughter?". Yes I did.
Flash forward 12 years.That iron-tough mare protected us from her illness. Only this week did she tell us how sick she was. We listened and we knew. We've made her comfortable for her last days. The grass is soft and green and she is happy to take her share, untethered and free. We have time to reflect and to show her how much she gave us.
We're honest. We talk about the ups AND the downs.We're not ones to put a flowery, positive spin on things just for the sake of it. But the downs were not really downs at all, they were lessons that we had to learn; And boy did she teach us.
She taught us that in the early morning when the grass is slick a nervous kid can be safe cantering down a steep hill on a careful horse without studs. That smart horses respect all ditches and you need to school them properly. She taught us that even the most experienced rider needs to respect a 15-hand powerhouse that could be careful to a fault. Professionals learned from her. I was bucked off every spring when I would try to jump up a bank, to a rail and off the other side. She reminded me that I was not letting her do her job -- it's her job to jump and mine to support. But with her kid she zigged and zagged and sometimes got quick, but she never, ever bucked or ran off. She was the professor.
I knew that day in Texas that she would do her share of winning. Maybe not as much as our dreams had hoped, but she did win. She was obedient on the flat and won the dressage more times than not. A big accomplishment, miraculous really, for a small, head strong, red-hot mare, with an unimpressive trot. The first show with her nervous nine year old -- a 40 degree October day, gale force winds, warm-up outside with muck buckets flying past and horses losing it all around -- this mare put her head down and took care of her kid.
And then there's her baby. He is what I saw all those years ago galloping on air in Texas -- I knew she would be the broodmare I dared to dream of, if only I could find a stallion that was worthy. But then, just when you think you know, she lost her first foal and was tricky to breed again. Now he's the only one. He's a cocky, tough gelding that looks like he has the world at his feet, just like his Mom. But you never, ever, really KNOW. We hope the promise he shows will be realized but it can't be about winning first, it's about learning each and every lesson he has to teach; And if he's his mother's son, they are limitless.
Saying goodbye is hard, of course it is. But not saying goodbye would have been much harder. Honestly, she only wants her grass and to boss the geldings around, not much else. She doesn't have a sense of time and when she goes it will be fine for her, just not for us. Godspeed "Texas", Big D Dardanella, Blossom. I KNEW you would be The One.