That's the amount of time that's passed since my father stood in my bedroom door, while I lie curled in the fetal position on my bed, with a heart shattered to pieces, and told me that sometimes bad things happened for a reason. I resented that so much that if I could have gotten out of the bed, I would probably have hit him. But I didn't.
I still miss Angel.
So much that if I think about it too long, my eyelids sting with unshed tears.
8 years ago.
"She'll look great all shined up!"
My sister and mother and I are standing in the middle of a friend's field. A mixed herd of horses, mostly comprising of percherons and a couple of paints is milling around us. At the outskirts, a gangly black mare with a mane hanging down her shoulder can't stand still. At this point, I can't tell if all of her legs are coming out of the same hole or if anyone will be able to catch her.
I need her.
She is not what I came here for. I came here to possibly lease something broke and steady that I can ride and get my feet back under myself with. Something to take my mind off the still-crippling loss of Angel. But I need her. Not just because she's pretty, but also because I've always been a sucker for a sad story fixer upper and she takes the cake. Bred too early, starved nearly to death, a mutual friend pulled her from a field with dozens of other draft horses, then sold her to this friend, and now here she is. She's to be his wife's riding horse.
He tells me her price. I have no money. I was not intending to buy a horse. And this isn't the horse I was after, either. Nonetheless, fans of the barter system, we agree that eventually I will have something he wants and we'll work it out. It takes a while, but eventually, we do. Years later, he tells me that he saw that we needed one another and who was he to stand in the way of that?
Later that same day I first saw her, I am nervously standing by as we herd her into a stock trailer with a chute built with livestock panels. We lure her into the barn with what my dad calls a 'Judas pony'. I tell myself she's just here to flip and sell, because no horse except for her own offspring will ever be able to replace Angel.
She stands in the back of a box stall and blows like a jake brake on an eighteen wheeler every time something new happens.
For two weeks, I am forced to chase her down within her stall in order to catch her. Once I do, she merely tolerates my attention, but she does come along. Eventually, I convince her to learn to lead, luring her with a steel strainer full of oats. She'll do anything for a lip full of oats. She learns to tie, and how to lunge, and just when I think I have her convinced to work with me, she gets scared and rips the lungeline out of my hands and heads for the barn. Once, she drags me on my belly for a few yards before I'm smart enough to let go.
I don't know when we crossed the line from 'project horse' to mine, but it's close to winter. Around November, I step in a hole while lunging her and sprain my foot. It makes me reconsider our plan. She's getting fat and sassy and we finally make a breakthrough with a clicker and treats--something I've used on the dogs for years. It never occurs to me to use it on a horse until I have no other options, and suddenly I have a partner, not just a horse.
In the spring, I put the saddle on her for the first time and my dad laughs. When I ask him to hold her while I climb on, he thinks I'm crazy, but I do it anyway. I can't explain why I trust her. Or why she trusts me. We don't look back.
* Round pens are your friend.
* Never load a horse in a trailer that isn't hooked to a truck.
* It doesn't matter how soft the snow looks. If you backflip into it from the back of a horse and land on your head, it will hurt.
* Never get too cocky, Bronwyn will call your bluff. Sometimes twice.
* Never approach a loose horse when you're short on time. It will be a lesson in patience.
* The madder you get, the longer it takes.
* Never teach a trick you wouldn't want to have repeated over and over... and over. It's cute the first time, but smart horses learn to offer behaviours.
* It's best to just accept that your mare is smarter than you are. Life goes easier that way.
* But seriously, trust her. Because she'll save your ass someday.
* Stubbornness and fear do not go together well.
* Most saddlemakers that market "wide" saddles have never met Bronwyn.
* Never trust a cat not to scare your horse. They are scary, levitating aliens. And that's final.
* "Watch out for that black horse."
* When that black horse who hates to be caught in the pasture eagerly comes to the gate to meet the boy you brought to the barn, you should marry him.
* Trust your instincts.
* Don't show off.
* Someday, someone is going to consider your horse the safest horse on the trail with them. It's a compliment. It will be worth all the tears and tumbles.
* The best cure for a hurting heart is sometimes just to sit on your horse and do nothing, just be.
* You will experience loss. You will live through it.
* Listen to your dad. Even if you're angry. He's probably right.
Happy 8th Gotchaversary, Bronwyn.