The Downside

I’m losing Pops.

His owner’s needs have changed, and they will be moving to a facility quite a bit further away.  Realistically, I had to turn down the invitation to come ride him.  It’s hard to let go.  How long have I been riding him?  For his current owner: 4 years, 5 years?  One of those years was 5 days a week.  Then it fluctuated from 2-4 depending on circumstances.  With Pops previous owner, catch riding him was much more random.  That was about a year.  5 or 6 years is a long time to be in a horse’s life.  I am invested in his health, well-being, and I’m hopelessly attached.  I was lucky.  I got a day to say goodbye.  I know where he’s going, and I know he will get top-notch care.  That is very comforting.

I came one day to find Jumbo and Jimmy simply gone.  Not a word from their owner. I’d been caring for them and riding them for three or 4 years, 5 days a week.  I know it’s silly, but I worry about them.  Jumbo is tricky, he was my “Mafia Boss” ride.  It was a fine line to walk, dealing with his personality, and the possible undesirable behaviors that could come from not reading him correctly.  I had to out think Jumbo.  He’s smart, and plays his cards close to his chest.  A more black and white sort of rider could easily go to heavy punishment, instead of distraction, coming back to the work, and reward.  The reason his previous owner sold Jumbo, a big, beautiful mover?  Jumbo got ticked off by too much heavy-handedness, dropped to the ground, and rolled over on the cowboy, breaking 3 ribs.  Pretty darn dangerous.  What is going to happen to Jumbo?  His current owner rides well, but is intimidated by him, and gets off if she feels him ratcheting up.  She panics, and can’t think how to bring him back to earth.  I had a couple of hairy rides myself.

Jimmy has a better shot.  He’s sweet, totally honest, does nothing ‘bad’.  He’s just 8 years old and still green.  He doesn’t require finesse as much as he does consistency and structure.

The turnover at this barn is so low, that many of the horses I used to exercise are still there,but retired.  Many have also had to be put down due to injury or age-related colic.  I’ve been there a long time.

With Pops gone, I had to go throw myself on Tiny, Hudson, and even drive over to a different barn, and throw myself on Barbie. (I’ve never ridden Barbie, or even been part of her daily care.)

I needed to know they were still there.  Not as rides.  As beings I love and am attached to, who will be part of my internal makeup for my lifetime.

The horses in my life, they are mine, and they are not mine.  Right now that feels both extremely fortunate, and scary.  I am blessed, and like I feel about most blessings, I am afraid of losing them.

6 thoughts on “The Downside

  1. How sad on the one side, but I suppose you need to lose something to make room for something new. Maybe it was time for just that – perhaps something new has been waiting to come it but hasn’t been able to squeeze in. Now that something can comfortably come and fill the gap that was left in Pops wake.

  2. It’s so hard to lose the ride on a horse you’ve grown to love. I free leased a horse for three years once. Took him from walk/trot/thump into the side of the indoor to the district eventing championships. I cried buckets when I had to give him up. Since then I’ve always ended up buying the darn horses, even when I didn’t mean to (Freedom was supposed to be a foster for CANTER for a couple of months). Hugs to you for having to let him go.

  3. It’s hard, riding/loving somebody else’s horse. I had the care of a psychotic Morgan mare for a few years–a complete sweetheart on the ground, but at random intervals in the saddle, her wheels would fall off and she’d go into bucking fits, sometimes in dangerous places (in front of traffic, on the side of a cliff…) I loved her anyhow and would’ve kept her forever, but the owner sold her out from under me. She was a very pretty mare…but I heard via the grapevine that she lost her marble and nearly killed the new owner, and he sent her out on a double-decker. It’s been 15 years and I still mourn. I swore that I’d never love somebody else’s horse again.

    Right, sure. 5 years later, I started riding the Toad (a.k.a. “Mr Toad’s Wild Ride), and stayed with him for 8 years until my elderly mare died and I got a young one who needed my attention. When Toad was diagnosed with a painful bladder stone requiring $urgery, the owner opted to put him down (he was 20 years old and nobody except me had ever stayed aboard him for more than a mile). I was so relieved that he was “safely dead.” It could be so much worse.

    So, now, I swear again that I’ll never love somebody else’s horse. Think it will stick this time?

    1. Nope. 🙂 That’s the upside.

      It’s when you really care that the magic happens. If the price of connection/love is loss and sadness, it’s still worth it. Not to get all Bliss Ninny on you or anything, but I think of those caring feelings (that show as loss and sadness in me) go out as a kind of safety prayer: please be well, please be understood, please be happy.)

      I probably shouldn’t have written this – too much in the feeling at the time. Thanks for bearing with me.

  4. You are a rare bird – and the horses and their owners are so lucky to have someone as dedicated and consistent as you! The two times I tried to find someone to come over and ride one of mine to keep him sharp, I had takers who constantly no-showed and never ever even contacted me to tell me they had changed their minds. And these were women who came with references from people I knew!

    I’m sorry you’re losing your rides on Pops, but glad you got to say goodbye.

    1. Me too, thanks Billie.

      I didn’t realize I sounded so maudlin. I completely understand that circumstances change, and what once worked doesn’t work anymore. I know horses I care about are going to come into and go out of my life, or that I may no longer be the best rider for them. I’m okay with all of that. I’m happy that the new facility will iron out some issues for them both. I want the best possible situation for all “my” horses.

      I think the deeper issue is loss, and I hate it, purely on principle. 😉

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