Category Archives: Life Experiences

Confession Number Ten: I Am Very Bad At Grief

 

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The Wyoming Winter Sky Echoes The Sadness Within Me

An Unexpected Death Watch:

I tried, I really tried to make him well again!  I knew my boy cat, Hercules, wasn’t well.  He had dropped a lot of weight in a short period of time. His little spine felt like a dinosaur skeleton.  He was lethargic and vocally complaining a lot.

I took him to the wonderful vet, Dr. Brenda, and we did everything. Some things we did twice.  She was very accommodating, even though she knew by palpating the mass in his abdomen, looking at the x-rays and the blood tests, that, in all likelihood, he had lymphoma.  But she bore with me as I asked for yet another round of antibiotics, for more tests, for more ex-rays, ANYTHING to somehow make it not so.

Finally, this past Wednesday, we both realized she needed to open up his abdomen to see what this was, if it had spread, if it was removable.  She sent me on errands around town rather than have me drive back up to the ranch.  But in just a few minutes, by the time I had filled up my truck at the gas station, I had a call from her asking me to come immediately back to the vet’s office so I could see the mass for myself.

Most vets wouldn’t have invited the patient’s “mom” into the operating room, but Dr. Brenda had already observed my ability to watch surgical cutting, gore, and spewing blood when I remained present for Baby Doe’s leg “boo boo” surgery.  She knew I wouldn’t faint at the sight of Hercules’ open abdomen 😦

What I did see in my precious boy’s abdomen was the largest, ugliest, most grotesque, hateful mass imaginable.  It surrounded his intestines, it made viewing some of his other organs almost impossible.  For me, it was “hate at first sight”.  Dr. Brenda was right there with me, hating this hideous monster of a mass in my boy’s belly.

She gave me the choice whether to sew him back up and let him live out what was left to him or to give him the meds that would let him gently drift over the rainbow bridge.

After ascertaining the pain management options available to him, added to the fact that he had still been eating, drinking, trotting around with his tail straight up and cuddling with massive purring, I had her sew him back up.

Many might disagree with this decision, but as long as he wasn’t suffering in pain and he was still vibrant enough to get all the love and goodbyes that we all needed to give him, I would wait with him for when he decided it was time…

And so, now, it is just a matter of time.  At the first sign of no appetite, hiding out, and pain in his eyes, I WILL do what is necessary.

In the meantime, there is one room in which he likes to hang out by his water fountain.  I’ve been putting a blanket and pillow on the floor at night to sleep next to him for the few nights I probably have left with him.

My grief is almost unendurable.  He has been an amazing companion.

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Grief….pure grief….

I tell his story on my other website Christine Hendler’s Blog in a May 2014 post titled A Tail of Four Cats as well as a description of what I now realize was the beginning of his cancer in an October 2014 post titled Try To Remember The Kind Of September

In most of my posts, I try to find the lesson to be learned in the experiences I have.  In this experience, here’s what I’ve learned.

First Lesson:  My neighbor, who is a tough Wyoming cattle rancher, and who checks in on me regularly ( I think he can’t quite believe a petite, blond girlie girl is managing and living on 80 acres all by herself), actually reacted with kindness and complete understanding when he came by the other day and all I could do was sob (ugly sobbing, believe me!)  He actually praised my ability to let out my sorrow rather than hold it in.  Who knew that even the toughest cowboys “get it”.

Second Lesson: In horsemanship discussions, it is reiterated endlessly that one has to be the leader that one’s horse can trust. Being herd animals, horses look to the leader (whether horse or human) they can confidently follow.  For me, this has been an ongoing challenge in learning about “true” leadership.  I often berate myself and feel like I will never get to that point that is so prettily written about in the articles and books I read.

On the night I realized that Hercules is indeed dying of cancer, I was having a heck of a time removing the eye mask that Baby Doe must wear daily, since her light eyes could be severely damaged by the sun.

She was in one of her mare-ish Princess/Diva Doe moods and having none of it.  Finally, in my anguish, I said to her “Look, Baby Doe, Hercules is dying and I can’t handle you and your f—ing Diva ways tonight so f—ing let me get this f—ing thing off.”  At which point I broke down sobbing and couldn’t stop.  She slowly turned her head to look at me, took a step closer, bowed her head and touched my shoulder with her nose and invited me to get the mask off without any trouble whatsoever. (By the way, any horse person who tells you they’ve NEVER dropped the “F Bomb” with their horse is not exactly telling you the full story…:)

I learned that leadership equals honesty.  Horses never lie and one can never lie to a horse.  They know.  My anger and grief were my truth and she responded to that truth.

My worry about Hercules, the horses, the ranch and my loved ones, is so intense these days that my forehead needs botox! 🙂  But I still have tremendous faith in God.

I choose, now, to sit in a place of  love and gratitude for my beloved Hercules.  I choose, now,  to wait with him for the moment he tells me, “It’s time. I’m ready.”

I choose, now, that he and I will watch for death…together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Nine: Wyoming…Finally!

Wyoming Fall and Winter.JPG6An Unexpected Horse and An Unexpected Solitude:

It’s been quite a roller coaster ride!!! Glorious Wyoming, and the joy my horses are experiencing here, are the overriding impressions of almost three months of being in the sweet, grassy. soft, silent, prairie part of Wheatland, WY!!

Only now, given that the much-very- gloomily-predicted-by-locals Wyoming Winds are blowing, seemingly at gale force 😦 , silence is a precious commodity.

So much happened so very quickly upon arrival.  It is somewhat of a blur.

Two things stand out though.

About a week after I arrived, before all the horses got here, I received a message from the glorious mare Serenity’s human.  She, after much struggle, had realized that she needed to let Serenity go.  She explained that she needed to spend time with her son, her work and the cost and time of keeping a horse were getting way beyond her means.  She wondered if I would take her here in Wyoming.  Would I?????  We spoke at length and she convinced me this was what she truly wanted. Four days later, the glorious Serenity arrived here in Wyoming…

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Serenity arrives via Brook Ledge Horse Transport late on October 6!

…On the night of my birthday, October 6 🙂

I am still trying to fathom that after all the love I thought I’d lost and  the grieving I’d experienced, missing that little red mare so very much….she is here with ME.  She is mine!

I am inviting her human and her human’s son come visit her AND me in January.   I plan to continue to get them out here as much as possible.

For the past year or more, Serenity was virtually stall-bound with very little turn out, grazing or even being ridden.  When she first arrived here, she melded almost immediately into my little herd.  She ran for the sheer freedom and joy of it…

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Serenity runs for JOY!.

…and then huddled back in her stall. Which she did often.  I leave the stalls open for all the horses,except at grain time 🙂 so they can go in and out at will.  She chose mostly “in”.

Now, at the two month point, she chooses mostly “out” and grazes, wanders and runs.

Her mane and tail, which had almost been lost, due to stress, are growing back in.  Her eye is softening, losing the white sclera look of anxiety a horse can exhibit. I can “see” the smile on her face when she’s being brushed.

And when her breakfast and dinner are being served, she lifts up her sweet left front leg, curling it under her in excitement as she nickers for faster service! 🙂

This beautiful, kind mare who taught me how to be an improving human two years ago (See my second post on this site, Three Essential Lessons On How To Be An Improving Human; Taught To Me By Serenity, The Horse) is now having the horsey time of her life.

I am honored and privileged to provide it for her.

Enter the next piece of the story, the unexpected solitude.  Due to a series of events too difficult to speak of here, I’ve ended up in the “middle of somewhere” on eighty acres of ranch, alone with three horses and two cats!

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Spirit and Baby Doe “high tail” it to the pasture

I’ve had to re-organize my priorities, my thoughts and my direction.  It’s funny how life prepares one for the future, when one has NO IDEA what that future will bring!  The Third Confession on this site, Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen At Barns, tells the story of how I received a crash course in barn management with my barn buddy, Felice.  It tells of all our “I Love Lucy” moments, our mistakes and our triumphs.  Thank Goodness!

Because here I am, managing a barn, all by myself.  Somehow I just know what to do and how to organize it.  Those previous months truly paid off!

I have also been blessed beyond belief with a network of support that appeared almost immediately after I found myself alone here.  I now have a young woman ranch-handing for me, a young man (the son of my hay guy) as backup hand, a lovely woman who manages a lot of my household things like cleaning, a retired sheriff/contractor who has built my fences, my round pen, has hired others to build my pole barn and level my arena and good neighbors who stop by and check in with me, just to see if they can be of help.

They have been. Even if just to give sound advice on winter feeding and blanketing of Florida horses in their first Wyoming winter!

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Not even the “bleak mid-winter” yet 😦

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Someone LOVES rolling in the snow!

I am also blessed with a knowledgeable, kind vet and a wonderful farrier!  Every horse person knows just how precious those two roles are.  Now if I can just find the right horsey dentist…:)

I have supportive friends who call, text regularly with encouragement plus offer solid shoulders to cry on and others who send little care packages of love.

But the solitude is still intense.

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Stark beauty

The loneliness takes my breath away at times.

I know God is preparing me for something profound as I am caused to go even more deeply inside my soul, to learn more of who I truly am and what I’m truly made of.

I’m never entirely alone, of course, with three very personality-filled horses, two dear cat companions, the sunrises, the sunsets and oh, those Wyoming stars!

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Just before sunrise at feeding time.

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Each sunset more glorious than the previous ones.

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How can ANYONE be lonely when drinking wine with two superb equines?

Life continues to teach me to “expect the unexpected”!

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The unexpected bluffs just atound the corner from me…lonely beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confession Number Eight: The Novice Horsewoman Bids Farewell To Florida…

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An Unexpected Grief:

Days away from departing Florida and beginning a new life in Wyoming, the plethora of emotions are profound and dizzying.  When writing to a dear friend in an attempt to untangle some of these emotions, he suggested that some of what I am feeling might be grief.  The minute he wrote that, I knew that was IT.

Florida might be hot, humid, overcrowded, populated with some less than patient or polite people, with traffic that just won’t quit… BUT…oh how I love this lovely state!

It is here that I experienced unprecedented personal growth, had loads of fun, knew love, loss of love, laughter, sadness and yearning.  It is here that I enjoyed a certain “off-the-mainland”, unexpected wildness.  It is here I learned to dance some amazing flamenco, found peace in kick-ass yoga classes and learned to be a somewhat proficient markswoman 🙂

It is here that I found my two beloved equine “partners” and heard God’s unexpected calling.

Yes, I will always love Florida.

I say farewell with a gallery of pictures and memories.  In this case, these pictures are each worth a thousand words…

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Each morning brought a new artistic creation with the sunrise over the ocean. I never left home without my trusty camera 🙂

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Sunrise in a different light.

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Morning walks on the beach often brought companionship 🙂

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Observing pelicans was endlessly fascinating. From physical structure to hilarious personalities. they were superb!

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And then there were the boats…

...and boats...

…and boats…

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…Old Florida, cheesy, fun, tourist boats like the Jungle Queen…

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Gorgeously lit boats for the Christmastime Boat Parade, celebrated in the “Venice of America” – Fort Lauderdale

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The ancient surviving canopy over the Loxahatchee River provided breathtaking canoe trips.

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And some not-so-breathtaking muddiness when porting canoe over drier spots 🙂

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Swimming with the dolphins. Pure JOY!

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And more sedate outings to the historic Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.

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Christmas season at The Breakers is magical.

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I never imagined I would have the opportunity to get up close and personal with a giraffe! Thank you Florida for this!

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These pictures barely scratch the surface of the wealth of memories and emotions that I will carry with me in my heart as I now turn my eyes West.

Thank you, thank you Florida!

I say farewell.

This novice horsewoman will continue her confessions…the good, bad and the silly…in Wyoming!

Baby Doe and I take a walk (2)

Seventh Confession: How Falling Taught Me There Truly Is Nothing to Fear, But Fear Itself! :)

An Unexpected Fall:

My little gelding, Spirit, teaches me so much about play, happiness, resilience and just plain old fun.  The video above shows him obliviously playing so hard with his ball that he tips himself over, gets up, shakes off the dust and goes on as though nothing had happened 🙂

One of my biggest fears, as trainer Marianne and I progressed through my training, was to fall.  It was the unknown.  I had never fallen off a horse before.  As a result, even though I’d been experiencing all the strength, feelings of connection and wordless joy when I rode, something in me was still holding back….lest I fall.

As my posting trot and balance grew better and as I was able to do 4 gait transitions (walk, working walk, sitting trot, posting trot) trainer Marianne and I both felt I was ready to begin learning the seated canter.

I hadn’t known this, but the seated canter is actually quite advanced and can take students quite a bit of time to accomplish.  She wisely started me with this so that I could learn it from the bottom up…literally 🙂

We saddled up sweet Buzz, the gelding, in my Western treeless saddle. I love using  it because it has a suede seat so that one doesn’t slide around (especially as a beginner) and the seat is shaped almost iike an English Hunter saddle.

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My trusty Western treeless saddle!

After many instructions and descriptions, trainer Marianne hooked Buzz up to the longe line so that she could control that which I might not be able to.  We began the trot, then she had me say “Canter up” and AWAY WE WENT!  I hadn’t suspected that Buzz would give so much speed and feel so very powerful under me!

As I worked hard to do what trainer Marianne had instructed, it was just too much for me.  I called out for her to slow him and relaxed knowing I’d soon be in a nice, comfy trot.

Only, Marianne didn’t hear me!!!

As I relaxed, suddenly the ride became smooth, flowing, graceful and an amazing sensation!

When we finally did get back to a trot, trainer Marianne cried out, “You did it!  You sat the canter!  On the first try!”

What?  So that’s what my body had needed to do to sit it?  Not much…sit back, stay centered in your body and balance, don’t lean forward, heels down, strong thighs and go with the horse’s motion.  Wow.

The next day, since it had gone so well, Marianne brought out the English Hunter saddle to work the canter.  She again gave instruction, demonstrated, had me do a few laps of posting trot to activate my strength and balance and then hooked Buzz up to the longe line again.

This time, once the trot transitioned to canter, because I’m still building strength and balance, the saddle felt crazy slippery!  I couldn’t even begin to get my seat, I had no idea what my thighs were doing and then I did the absolutely most incorrect thing one can do in a canter.  I leaned forward!

Buzz, being a responsive horse, took that to mean he should stop.  Then it happened!  I slid slowly off the saddle, down the side of his body and into the dust.  It all happened in such slow motion that I was actually able to calculate how best to land so as to inflict the least amount of damage 🙂

I am not being glib, because falling off a horse can have tragic consequences.  I was truly blessed my first time. I also learned that the cliché, “it’s as easy as falling off a horse”, is very true 🙂

Marianne checked on me, but I was on my feet in a second.  She gave me the rundown of what I had done incorrectly but I couldn’t even really hear her.  All I could do was take in the fact that, yep, I’d fallen off a horse and that time, at least, it really wasn’t as scary and awful as I had built it up to be!

She wanted to call it a day but I couldn’t.  Not until I pulled out my trusty treeless saddle and tried just one more time!  Marianne says, at that moment, she learned things about me that she hadn’t even suspected.

So we saddled up, longe lined up, up I hopped and off we went!.  It wasn’t for a long stretch of time.  Just enough to get to that point of complete synchronization with all body parts, balance, relaxation and connection with horse that caused me to feel like I could ride like that, at that speed, for hours; and never get enough.

As Spirit’s adorable example of falling while immersed in pure, playful joy taught me so much about staying in a mind frame of happiness rather than in dread; this fall taught me that indeed my fear was much worse than the thing I feared.

This fall taught me how good it can be to let oneself risk, play, laugh and love enough… to actually FALL!……………………….from the sheer, wondrous magnitude of it 😉

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit jumping poles uninhibitedly!

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Spirit in rare form! Playing with all his heart!<3

Sixth Confession: How I Went From “Dread” To Joy!

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The very kind, old, gentleman gelding, Buzz. He made sure I felt safe with him.

An Unexpected Horse Angel, Trainer Marianne:

By the time Trainer Marianne entered our lives in late February 2015, I and my two beloved horses had pretty much become ragged messes.   Only my intense, ferocious love for my two, in spite of my novice ignorance, kept the three of us from cracking wide open with desperation.

I guessed at, but was not fully consciously aware of, the things that had been inflicted on these two horses before they became mine.  That, plus my ignorance, coupled with some of the prideful, know-it-all, uneducated barn cronies’ incessant input, combined to create a situation in which I could no longer bear to ride my horses or ANY horse, for that matter. Although I, myself, had never fallen; another woman, who was an experienced horsewoman, had fallen off my gelding during one of our rides, my mare on trail was lifting her head in discomfort, bowing to buck and coming up lame. Plus, the trail “energy” at Treetops Park was becoming increasingly creepy to me. All these elements had driven me into a state, which in the rodeo they call…”The Dread”.

Of course in the rodeo, these cowboys are experiencing massive “wrecks’ which can require months of physical rehab and pain meds.  My “wreck” was emotional and spiritual.

I prayed and prayed for the right trainer to come into our lives.  It felt like these prayers fell on God’s deaf ears and would be never answered.  I did have specific desires for what I required of a trainer.  Perhaps that’s why it took some time ;).

I needed my trainer to partner with the horse, to put the horse first, to not think of a horse as a human commodity and to be able to listen to the “still, small voice within” which, ultimately, manifests in what could be considered:  “Unconventional Training Methods”.

Enter Marianne, Horse Angel. Custom-made for me and my two.

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Marianne, in her horsey, kind way, seeing that Buzz is buckled in. This was his last bit. As of today, we are using a bitless bridle on him. He is so happy

As she began working with and understanding their hurts, needs and lacks in their training, she then turned her focus on me. ” Why aren’t you riding?”, she queried.

“Never again”, I adamantly stated.

“But it’s fun”, she cajoled.

“No it’s not.  It’s dangerous, It’s a job. I hate it.”

“Okay…”,she conceded.

Then I watched her begin the healing process on my two and my heart began to open.

One day she said, “Buzz is a sweet old gelding who gives his whole heart when he’s doing a horse show even though he’s not a show horse. Come meet him”.

I did.  He put his head in my hand and sniffed me all over and allowed me to kiss him… lots! Marianne said, “He never does that.”

I secretly knew he was telling me, “It’s okay, Little One.  You would be safe on me.”

So one day, a few weeks later, when Marianne suggested that I just climb on Buzz bareback and she would lead me and him on a lead rope, I said, yes.  I love bareback riding and it was an irresistible offer.

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Marianne leads me on a bareback ride on Buzz

We rode for maybe 15 minutes.  When I dismounted I knew I was “back”.

Marianne never pushed.  She always waited for me to ask.  But, in time, I was asking and asking.  Let me ride him bareback again.  A hunter saddle?  Let me try that.  My western treeless saddle?  Amazing connection with every muscle in the horse’s back!  Balance? Centered riding? Thighs? Core?

In time, the superb details and the kindness with which she imparted them, caused me to anticipate each lesson with complete excitement.  I couldn’t wait to learn the next thing.  To learn half-halting with the reins, how to use the back of my arms. how to two point…

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The beginning of learning the lifting and tilting of two point. Ultimately the up and down of posting in a hunter saddle rests on this. Legs and heels positioned. Pelvis shifting with the up and down.

and…recently…how to post.  Hopefully…soon… I will begin learning the seated canter 🙂

In a hunter saddle, the momentum of the thrust of the horse’s body makes one feel like one is flying. That, plus the perfection of the rhythm of the up, down, up, keeping thighs on saddle and heels balancing the whole mechanism is a perfection of impulse and synchronization that has become addictive.

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Hunter saddle, beginning posting!

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Western treeless saddle! Awesome feel!

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Posting in the western treeless! Pretty much heaven as I see it!

Marianne, in kindness, encouraged my strength, balance and coordination plus my seemingly innate feel for a horse’s body.  I don’t know that I truly have those gifts but…

Here’s what I do know:

Through patience, kindness, faith and love of human and horse, this novice horsewoman is beginning to experience a world she could not have even imagined. The profound body connection between human and horse is practically indescribable in words.

From the ashes of my “dread”, the pillar of my joy is growing and building.

Perhaps we can all begin to trust that from the “wrecks” in our lives… hope, kindness, patience and a renewal, better than where we started and beyond what we could have dreamed, are all possible.

I am still very much a novice horsewoman and novice rider. 

Sooo much more to learn! 🙂

But, oh, the joy of it all!!!

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Fourth Confession: How I Fell In Love Online….With A BLM Brand

Courtesy of Meg Hartman

Beautiful Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

An Unexpected Love…

At the beginning of the Year of the Horse, 2014, while horses were “at the gate” about to gallop into my life, bringing with them undreamed-of joy, I saw a picture on Facebook of a beautiful Mustang mare, Angel, who had been rescued and was needing a forever home.  It was love at first sight for me.  There are so many intangibles that I can only remotely describe how or why I loved her at first sight.  Perhaps it was the pure sweetness and love in her eyes… with a twinkling potential of sassy 😉

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel! Courtesy of Chris L.

One can only imagine what Chris, the founder of Mustang Rescue Network, thought, when I messaged her almost immediately that I wanted to adopt her!  When she questioned me about my horse experience and qualifications to adopt her all I could answer was, “Well, I’m leasing a glorious mare (Serenity) and currently caring for her daily as she had injured herself badly and needs a lot of TLC.  But I’m somewhat new to horses…”  (Oh yes, Novice Horsewoman indeed!)

I can now imagine Chris gently shaking her wise head and even more gently preparing how to say “No” to me 🙂  Which she did!  But that began a friendship between us, with the sweet Mustang mare as the bridge.

Angel was found in Georgia wandering down a road with many mysteries surrounding how she came to be there.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel in the woods. Courtesy of Chris L.

Her BLM brand told only a tiny bit of her story. but allowed the Rescue Network to identify her western origins and give an approximation of her age.  She had been “gathered” in Nevada in 1996 at approximately 1 year of age and adopted at about 1.5 years of age. How she got to Georgia is unknown. When they contacted the person who was currently in possession of her, he claimed her to be an abandoned horse that he knew from working with her for some people in the past. He went to their place to find it empty and figured they had abandoned her near where he usually rode. He seemed to want the best for Angel…

Mustang Rescue Network folk were able to acquire her legally and foster her while they put weight on her and slowly began discerning where she could be happiest in a forever home.

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Angel enjoying her hay! Courtesy of Chris L.

Chris has had mustangs in her heart and soul since she first read Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West  ( by Marguerite Henry) as a young girl. She had ridden often with her grandmother and grandfather when young and had had the love-of-her-life horse as a young woman in upstate New York before moving to Georgia.  Angel’s appearance in her life began a wonderful series of events which began with her creation of the Mustang Rescue Network.

Over the next few months I began contributing to Angel’s care through the Mustang Rescue Network and Chris and I kept in touch about her progress.  I was also privileged to receive extra pictures of her physical progress as she gained her weight back, got some gloss in her coat and began some gentle training.  I never stopped hoping that, as I began to get more horse experience, maybe just maybe Chris would eventually let me adopt her!

But life had other ideas ;)…

I knew, the minute I actually met Chris and Angel in person in Eatonton, Georgia and played with her in some training games, that as much as I adored this pretty mustang, I wasn’t “the one” for her.  Chris was.

Courtesy of Chris L.

Angel and Chris play together. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Christine and Angel play together. Courtesy of Chris L.

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Christine receives “Angel Love” in Georgia. 💗Courtesy of Chris L.

The months rolled on and each time I went to Georgia I met with Chris and Angel enjoying exquisite times being in the presence of this very special mare.

It never ceased to hurt my heart to see her brand and the scars in her precious face where someone had left a halter on, obviously for years, so that her face also seemed “branded” with these halter scars.  However, sweet Angel didn’t seem to notice those things and became more and more herself as she felt safe, nurtured and had her hoof issues tended to.  The sassiness, only guessed at from the look in her eyes in early pictures, came out in her personality, which, combined with her sweetness, was completely irresistible!  ” Little Miss Sweet and Sassy” (as we nicknamed her) would walk around in her pasture with the cutest little swing in her hips and an adorable swish of her tail.

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Little Miss Sweet and Sassy! Courtesy of Chris L.

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Angel Enjoys Her Life In The Pasture! Courtesy of Chris L.

Anyone and everyone who met Angel, fell in love at first sight.  Since words cannot describe the loveable essence of this beautiful mare, I’m hoping the pictures I include do 🙂

When I first began writing this story about Angel, I had trouble getting anywhere with it.  I kept procrastinating.

Now I know why…

On many different levels, Chris had trouble conceiving that Angel could and should be hers.  It was so interesting to see how happy they each were with each other, how connected, and yet, there seemed to be some unseen barriers that Chris would need to overcome to be able to actually  say, “Angel and I belong together”.

Chris patiently and persistently worked through her hesitation.  As Chris came near to working it through, I was  honored to be with them both the day Angel let HER desires be known!

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Angel quietly let Chris know her wishes!

We had been hand grazing Angel and sat down on a log to chat about Angel’s prospects and if Chris was just about at the “place” inside herself where she could see herself adopting her.  In an utterly silent yet breathtaking manner, in the course of our conversation, Angel stopped grazing and came and stood right next to Chris, in quiet stillness, for almost a half an hour as we chatted.

In those minutes, I think Chris and I BOTH knew that Angel was stating what she wanted.  To be with Chris as her forever human.

Within a couple of weeks, the last internal barriers were torn down and Chris knew beyond any doubt that she and Angel would spend their lives together. She began the adoption process!

I see now that I couldn’t have finished this story without this joyful conclusion at the end of it 🙂

Ah yes, INDEED…in life….expect the unexpected!

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

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Angel. Courtesy of Meg Hartman Photography

Third Confession: Revealing The Dirty Little Secrets That Happen at Barns :) PART ONE

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UNEXPECTED LESSONS ABOUT ADVERSITY, GOOD FORTUNE AND HUMAN NATURE:

Now that I have your attention :), let me say that the dirty secrets about barns have nothing to do with mud, dust, horse manure or even a roll in the hay ;).  Novice as I am and was, I’ve come to realize that, when at the barn, the horses are perfect. It’s the humans that can be the problem.  Any horse person reading this is nodding rapidly in agreement…we all experience it.

I also learned a profound lesson.  Every wonderful thing has a seed of adversity buried in it.  By the same token, every adversity has the seed of wondrous joy in it.

While leasing the glorious mare, Serenity, I experienced two different barns.  I was in such a blur of newness at her first barn, that I couldn’t process the incoming impressions until a bit later.  When I could, after she had been moved to a better situation, I was aghast.

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That first barn was behind someone’s private residence on about an acre of land.  The paddock fences needing mending. The training ring was no ring but just an undefined area in front of the barn.  Poor Serenity was stall bound for days at a time because the promised evening turnout wasn’t happening, due to the broken fences.  Her stall was nearest the manure pile, so the flies on and around her were dense and the fly traps were black and filled.  Her human didn’t get there regularly, so she was often standing in her tiny stall, hoof deep in manure and urine.  When she did get out, she was so “barn/stall sour” that even riding in the makeshift ring was a trial.

A very adverse situation for that poor, patient mare.  But something wonderful was already taking seed.  A woman, who had formerly leased Serenity, had found a much better barn and had found space for Serenity there!

The move didn’t happen immediately because Serenity’s human was dear friends with the first barn owner.  They would drink wine and gossip together.  So,  when the opportunity came to move Serenity, her human was conflicted and almost missed that opportunity!  Thankfully, the horse angels were with that glorious mare, and within three weeks of my meeting Serenity, she was moved to a peaceful, more spacious barn and stall, right on the border of wonderful horse trails.

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133Great news, right?  Yes.  But further down the “trail” of this story, I see now how the seeds of adversity were already being planted… lying dormant for months.

Meanwhile, as my time with Serenity was coming to a tear-filled, heart-wrenching conclusion, the seeds of joy were, unbeknownst to me, SPROUTING, as I came to know the hilarious, Appaloosa gelding, Spirit and the exquisite, Paint mare, Baby Doe, both of whom would shortly come under my stewardship. These stories are told in previous posts :).

The barn where they boarded, on the surface, looked like an equine dream home!  The name of the barn was fancy and British-sounding.  It was surrounded with white fencing, green pastures, and a stream ran through the property.  There was a proper training ring.  The buildings themselves had a grand, tudor look to them.  Ah… what a “whited sepulcher”…!

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It came clear very quickly that the owner of the barn, where trainer Bryan leased about 12 stalls for his business, was an alcoholic who would ride his horses hard and cruelly tied down, while drunk.  His horses never got turned out.  His assistant was a good-hearted woman, who had family problems,  drank on duty, which caused  loud and aggressive behavior around the horses and would slap the horses if they weren’t complying, even ones that belonged to trainer Bryan 😦

None of Bryan’s horses even got turned out in the glorious, green pastures, because the owner had the property up for sale and didn’t want the horses tearing up his grass.

Many of the lower barn buildings were in disrepair and unsafe for horses to be in. (One sweet, three- year old gelding ripped his eyelid and needed 8 stitches due to some “mystery” nail or wood splinter).

I saw such signs of claustrophobia and boredom in my exquisite mare, that even though I couldn’t verbalize the signs of her oncoming colic, I knew, 24 hours before she colicked, that something was very, very wrong with her.

There was more, so much more…as I came into stewardship of my two, I began making firm plans to get them out of there!

Then one Sunday, I arrived at the barn, to see a crashed up Cadillac, bent up metal posts and found an apple in Spirit’s water bucket!  What???

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Upon investigation, it turns out the barn owner had let his 16 year old son have an unsupervised party on the grounds of the barn, where drinking was allowed.  Clearly, these drunk teenagers had made their way into horses’ stalls.  Given the apple in Spirit’s water, I had the proof I needed that my horses needed to be moved immediately.  Trainer Bryan had, formerly, not been agreeable to this request, as they both were still in training and he didn’t want to have to travel to another barn to train them.

Yes, there it was! The seed of good fortune!  Right there, in the middle of the adversity of the horrible conditions at this barn…

(to be continued…)

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