Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Other people's horses...

Horses are expensive, and can be unpredictable, dangerous, and expensive (did I say that already??). But they are such noble, beautiful, majestic creatures, that I can't help myself loving them so much. Any kind, all kinds (well, except maybe the ones who clearly would like to kill me....but even then...).

I have always wanted one, all my life, even as other things took precedence, and the horse-craziness seemed to fade. It never did. Even though my dad recently told my middle (horse-crazy) daughter that, "Your mom was crazy for horses, too, when she was your age, but it went away after a while".

(haha, not so much, Dad!)

I've never NOT wanted to ride, to have a horse of my own, but I wanted other things, too, so horses just lurked on the edges of my passions for a long time. I've never really had a horse of my very own, not even when I married into a family with horses. I wasn't allowed to have my own, when there were already horses there for me to ride.

Me, and Alwasmi Dancer, 1995 or 1996
She was the closest I had to 'mine', a 4 year old OTTB. My riding skills were not quite up to her at the time.

And by "my own", I mean a horse that really suited me, in temperament, in skills, in work ethic and talent to do the kinds of things I wanted to do. And who was forgiving enough to put up with my (many) beginner mistakes.

I've been a beginner rider for a very, very long time. I'm still a beginner rider, sadly.

I cannot explain the odd mix of frustration and longing and cautious joy that comes from loving other people's horses. There have been so many that I have loved, from Orion and Swaps, who took me across the hunting territory of the Genesee Valley Hunt when I was in college, to Marquesa, my ex-husband's prized Trakhener mare, and to Floriana, the little chestnut mare who would have been perfect for me, except I couldn't buy her.

Me, and Marquesa, at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, VA
Novice Level, 1996

Now there's Turk, a horse I will probably never ride with ANY sort of regularity, he being of 18 hands and given to walking and trotting, mostly. But he and my (formerly terrified of horses) husband have developed such a fabulous and special bond over the last year, and it's so thrilling and wonderful to watch Travis work with Turkey. The big gelding even comes running when Travis goes out to the pasture to visit. We chip in to have Turk's feet trimmed, I bought him a flymask for keeping the bugs out of his ears, and we supply him with all the treats and hand-grazing and love we've got. I shaved his unruly, heavy mane off this summer to make him more comfortable, and Travis gave him a bath a week ago.

I admit I want this horse more than I want one for myself at this point. I already know how we'd costume him for medieval games and take silly family photos with him at Christmas. He's big, but he's the gentlest big horse I've ever met. I wish with all my heart that he was ours.

Turk's family doesn't come to visit really often, they are not "horse people" really, they just really like owning a horse. But last weekend, they came out to visit, just as we were finishing up and leaving the barn. Because we are paranoid, all we could think was that they were going to tell our trainer that they were going to move Turkey to another, or their own, barn, or that they were going to sell him, or otherwise make him unavailable to us anymore. It turned out that Travis and I were just nutty, and Turk's family had no such plans to take him anywhere. BIG sigh.

Loving Other People's Horses means having that occasional worry that something will happen and "your" horse (that isn't really yours and that you really have no claim over) will no longer be there. You want to, and sometimes you do, buy halters and grooming tools, and saddle pads in your riding colors, and bring treats and love to Not-Your-Horse, but you have only so much say as the actual owner says you can have. You have to work around riding schedules, and show schedules, and there might be differences of opinion about equipment choices and nutrition, and really, you can't always win those discussions. It's not your horse.

Someday, though, someday, in the hopefully not too distant future, there will be a farm. And it will be ours, and we will fill the pastures with Our Horses, and we will be looking for horsesitters, and mucking stalls, and arranging for hay and sawdust deliveries, and picking up grain from the feed store....and we will be thrilled, even at 3am when one of Our Horses needs the vet and several hours of continuous handwalking to avoid a colic. I am looking forward to it (except the part about the colic...), even as now it seems like only a dream on the far horizon.

For now, though, if I had to choose between having no horses, or loving Other People's Horses, I think it's pretty clear which way I'd lean.

On Turkey.

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