2015-12-15: Hi! You're probably here because you did a Google search for 'plus sized horseback riders' or you saw my content quoted elsewhere. There are a couple of things I'd like you to know.

I am still here! But I am living away from my horses and not riding often. I could tell you a lie and say that I am, but I have always endeavored to give you the truth here. As a result, I'm not feeling terribly motivated to write blog posts and I feel out of touch with the community.

I'd love for you to stay a while and look back through the archives. Visit the links listed below. We still have an active forum community and I post on the Facebook page from time to time.

I have tentative plans to try to get more involved in the horse world in 2016, and I will absolutely share whatever that adventure becomes with you, so keep checking back!

Friday, April 19, 2013

CONTEST: Adirondark Stone Works Horse Memorial

I speak often of Angel, The Horse That Changed [My] Life. A quick search through the blog brings up 10 pages of results for blog entries where I have mentioned her, and she is the sole subject of many entries. I would say that writing this blog has certainly helped me understand and navigate the grieving process and come to understand the journey that I am on in this life more fully.

Partnering with Adirondark Stone Works, we are offering the opportunity to win a gorgeous, custom horse memorial stone, as a way to give back for the way you all have helped me cope.

HOW TO ENTER: Write a 100-200 word piece about the horse that changed your life that you would like to memorialize and email it to Amanda @ A Fat Girl & A Fat Horse.  You may also enter a piece on behalf of a friend that you feel is deserving about the horse that they lost. I will email back to let you know I have received it. I will be posting them below as numbered entries as they are received.

Entries will be accepted until May 1st, 2013. At that time, the winner will be selected with randomizer.org and announced on May 2nd.

Enter away!

Entry #1 from Punks Kid Rock:


This is Honey.  She was my first horse, and I got her when I was about to turn 13. This picture shows off her summer coat pretty well- a pretty (honey) toned palomino.  Her winter coat was a bit different...
See? Her coat got lighter and dappled. She was a friendly, personable horse who liked oranges and playing in rivers.  She could be bossy and a dressage clinician once dubbed her a "baby sitter" horse. I think the clinician meant it as a bad thing but it worked for us. I didn't know a lot when I got her, so for a while she was taking care of me.  As I got older and more experienced, I was able to take over a bit.  She liked to be in control but as I figured out how to be the boss, her moments of testing me got fewer and further between.  Honey was never mean, never tried to hurt me, she only wanted to know where she was in the hierarchy.

I had two of my cousins ride her bareback once, the older one in front of the younger one.  They were probably 12 and 10 years old, and I lunged them around me while Honey had only a halter and lead rope on.  I asked her to trot with them, and she gave them the smoothest trot I had ever seen out of her.  They were able to sit it without difficulty or any real horse experience.  This was one of those times that, looking back, was a bad decision on my part but Honey made it work.  My cousins didn't fully appreciate her efforts to keep them safe, but I did. 

When I rode her for the first time, her trot was bouncy and fast.  She was nervous but doing as I had asked. It took a while for her to settle down and smooth out after I got her. 

I remember the first time we were able to canter a figure 8. We took up the whole arena but I felt so accomplished. This was a few years after I had a confidence shattering fall from her, and it had taken me over a year to begin feeling comfortable cantering again. 

I think about her still, sometimes when I am working with Rocky and think "I already taught Honey this" or "I wish I could have known how to do this when I had her." She pops up in my head fairly frequently, despite the fact that it's been 3 years since she died. In January I get sad and depressed for a while, and I don't know why until I remember that January is the month she was sick, the month I had a chance to save her and  it wasn't enough.  She died February 8.   So far, in the Januarys since her death, I take a few hours to pull out the scrapbook I made about Honey, and weep. And remember.

Yesterday she would have turned 15. Somehow, I want her to know that I'm still thinking about her, I miss her and love her. 

Entry #2 from Kelly:

When I was a little girl, I always wished for a unicorn. A creature that was gentle, wise, and loving to be my friend for life. Little did I know that my “unicorn” would arrive with big soulful eyes, feet like dinner plates, ears like skyscrapers, and a bray that could cut glass! His name was Buddy, and he was a draft mule.

He came into my life as I was trying to recover from PTSD after a terrible car accident, and I needed an incentive to come back to life – and he desperately needed a person to call his own after being abandoned by his previous owner. His intelligence, wise ways, and incredible gentle nature made me a mule convert from then on!         
We spent a glorious five months together before colic took his life, on 1/11/11 during the first snowstorm of the year, but I have missed him every day since then.I credit him with bringing me back out of the darkness of fear and anxiety- my big, homely “unicorn”.                                                                                     

Entry #3 from Kensy:

When i was younger i was in love with horses, like most girls but for me, I was lucky 
i got to take riding lessons. The horse i started with was a horse named Shaun, a white arab. I was in love with him at first sight. But he got injured going into the trailer. And a few years passed with him healing. And my life went on. I still loved horses. 

A few years later my parents decided I could get a horse, not only one but two. And with my luck i got Keshaun he was around 36 at this time with my horse i have now ben around 9. I was so happy. I spent all my time with them, Keshaun rode amazing, he was beautiful.

But what i regret to say...I got older, I "fell in love". I was so wrapped around a guy, time wasn't spent with my horses as much, i was in high school what can you say.

Time seemed to fly by and when my heart got broken, i finally came to my senses and started to ride again after a month. But with riding lessons being $40 a lesson, 
I couldn't afford it. 

Time goes by but one morning..I go outside to see my horses, when KeShaun was laying down, I somehow knew he was dying. I layed with him for what seemed forever, then the vet came. They decided to put him down. I'll never forget him, he made me who i am...

KeShaun on the left. "From the beginning I knew i would love him till the end."

Entry #4 from Madison:

How to sum this up in a few words and one picture? My Man Don. I wouldn't be the rider I am today, or the person I am today, without this horse. When the lady who owned the horse I rode in high school offered him to me for free, neither of us thought he would turn into the amazing horse he was. She couldn't sell him, and not for lack of trying. He just had a few quirks that no one wanted to take a chance on - bucking, mostly. Our agreement was this: I take him to college with me, and when I graduated, he would be mine officially.

 Well, we worked through all our quirks together, and in less than a year he proved to be a great jumper and was building even better dressage skills. Along the way I taught the horse that no one would buy because he bucked how to ride and jump with just a rope around his neck. He went from completely squirrely around traffic to the safest horse I have ever ridden out on the roads. He learned one trick (how to give hugs). He came when called, he behaved like a puppy dog for me, and a hooligan for the barn owner, or anyone else, to handle (luckily she had a good sense of humor about it), he hated apples and peppermints but would do anything for a carrot, and we didn’t even have to be riding to be happy.

 Shortly before his 8th birthday he was diagnosed with a mystery infection causing his liver to fail. His owner and I put him through treatment, made the decision to “retire” him, and he made it another 6 months before we found him in the pasture with another fever of over 105 and a blood panel showed that the infection was back, not as bad, but his liver enzyme levels were just as bad. In conjunction with the vet’s recommendation, we put him down August 15th, 2012 – only a few days before I began my senior year of college. I will graduate May 11th.
Entry # 5 from Ashley:

I have always loved horses. They're the one passion I have held onto since I was 8 years old. I've always been around horses and was always confident on the ground, but I used to be quite timid in the saddle. My horse, Apollo, was green and filled to the brim with the attitude I have come to love. But, as a 12 year old girl with diagnosed arthritis and osteopenia, or brittle bones, he intimidated me. While waiting for Apollo to fully mature and calm down, my mother came across an ad for an older Appendix Quarter Horse mare named Indigo.
We looked at her, and she was huge. She was a 15.3 hh ex-polo pony, and she moved incredibly fast for a horse of 23. I was terrified. But, my mother bought her none-the-less, and we brought her home the following day. She couldn't be cross-tied, she was girthy, she bit, and she stopped on her front end due to old stifle injuries.
But, somehow along the way, I fell in love. She proved to be calm and collected when it was necessary, and have some get up and go when asked. I learned how to ride on her; I learned how to canter without clinging to the saddle horn or the reins, and I learned how to barrel race and gymkhana on her. I learned how to hold my seat and gained confidence I didn't know I could possess.
Later, as I became more wrapped up in working with Apollo, my mother suggested allowing Indigo to teach and aid someone else with all of her wisdom. We gave her away in December of 2009 to a shy horse-loving man who wrapped her in a shiny red bow and presented her to his wife as a Christmas present. But, while she may have been a gift for his spouse, the man, Dennis, fell in love with her. He babied her, fed her all the treats she could want, and rode her slowly and carefully on the trails. But, sadly, their time together, and their time on Earth, came to a end all too soon.
August 28, 2011, the day after Hurricane Irene destroyed so many lives, Dennis went to let his horses out of their stalls, and watched as Indigo fell by the water trough and rolled down a small hill through the fence. Him and his daughter rushed to her side to find her dead. The vet said she died of a heart attack. Later that day, as Dennis tried to bury her on her favorite hill, the tractor he was driving got stuck in the water flooding the pasture as a result of Irene. It flipped, and Dennis died beneath it. I know this is longer than the word-count suggestion, but Dennis and Indi’s story needed to be shared. Indigo shared her experience and wisdom with many people, and went unappreciated for most of her life. Dennis shared all he could with his friends and family and tried his hardest to help everyone. If this entry somehow wins, I would like to present the memorial stone to Dennis' family as a way to tell them thank you for taking care of a wonderful horse, and as a way of saying what words cannot about their simultaneous loss.

Entry # 6 from Heather:

I agreed to adopt Jasmine Late summer 2006, she would be for an under privileged youth that I had been teaching to ride since her parents couldn’t afford to buy her a horse of her own. So November 17th, 2006 Jasmine was dropped off at Gena’s farm, where I worked and she would be boarded. She still lacked a little bit of weight but she had been rehabbing under Kylie and her father, Bill for 10 months. I had no intentions of ever getting my own horse, little less one that tiny as she stood 14.3 Hands. So I brought the little mare in and we worked with the Uveitis that she had in both eyes. I hadn’t ridden English in a SUPER long time, not since leaving college and Kylie behind in Cobleskill. I only had a western sadly but was able to use Gena’s English on her. As my youth wanted to work into jumping we tried to teach Jazz to jump and she would just trip over the tiniest crossrails and the trotting poles. So the youth moved to another horse leaving Jasmine without much so I rode her bareback, I rode her in Gena’s saddle and got my own eventually- we bonded. She was my staple, my go to when anything happened. She took everything in stride, two different companions to help with her eye site- Abby and Phoenix(who eventually stayed with me anyway for retirement). She took the move to Kentucky all in stride. I first started in KY with just her, she was my everything as I had no friends, except her and Phoenix. She was with me from my move from my aunts to our own place a year later. I eventually had to make the choice, March 6th, 2010 to put her to sleep. She had completely lost her eye site years before that and she injured her face badly. The vet aged her at almost 30 years old. No matter what happens she was the one that started my life of horse ownership- and she taught me more than anyone could ever have asked for.

Entry # 7 from Kelly:

A week today I had to put down my 29-year-old Hanoverian, Brook. This contest is incredibly timely, so here is my entry...
I first met Brook in 2007, when we were still living in Duncan. Her owner had 'rescued' her, then brought her to the farm where Queenie was boarded to be bred to a stallion there. She arrived in May and stayed until August. She seemed a cranky old horse, not really interested in people, and I didn't really pay much attention to her as I had Queenie. In the 3 months she was there she didn't take, and I did feel bad for her as her owner never came to see her, so I would spend time grooming her.
Then I had the opportunity to ride her, and I was amazed. She was beautifully trained, like no other horse I'd ridden. Suddenly I was interested, and offered to lease her from her owner, who refused to let her go. So I just thought myself lucky for riding such an amazing horse, and left it at that.
6 months later, I got a call-did I still want Brook? Of course I said, "YES!"

She arrived a couple of weeks later and I realized she was 'checked out' emotionally. She had no time for humans, she just wanted to hang out with horses. She did come around to liking treats, but when it came to being brushed or scratched, that was nonsense.

When we moved to the Fraser Valley, both horses came too. It was at the first barn we discovered Brook was in foal to the Friesian stud colt from our previous barn. I was not expecting a baby, but I decided she would have the foal as long as she stayed healthy. And she did. She glowed through her pregnancy. It was entertaining watching her own belly ripple, biting at it occasionally if it became too active. She also became so affectionate at that time; I would spend hours with her, rubbing her neck and she would rub her forehead on my back.

As her pregnancy progressed, I set up a cot in her stall. I spent several very chilly nights listening to her snore as she lay on her side, her belly heaving. Sometimes I awoke to her lying right beside my cot, like a faithful dog. Other times I'd be awakened by her nudging me, or her whiskers brushing over my face, as if to check on me. The night she went into labour she practically crawled into bed with me! However, I left the stall that night as I was so cold I was uncomfortable.

I returned 3 hours later to find a brand-new filly, still wet, lying on the ground. Keeva had arrived. I learned alot about equine midwifery, and I also learned how much horse I could handle. Keeva was beyond me, and when the time came Keeva went back to the farm where she was conceived.
Brook then spent the next three years in retirement, staring at the mountains. She had another older mare to chat with, and a mini gelding to push around. She kept everyone entertained with her disgusting eating habits.

When I moved Q to the new barn, Brook followed soon after. She was a dignified old lady now. Content with pets, treats and brushing. Handwalks to the grass field. My favourite day was watching her under saddle one more time, showing off her flying lead changes. She was magical. She wasn't an old horse just then, she was in her prime, jumping at Thunderbird, in the ribbons.

Sometimes the spirit remains willing but the body weakens. Brook has lost so much weight she can't catch up to where she needs to be. A diagnosis of Cushing's Disease hasn't helped. I see it in the way she walks, that things are more of an effort now. She often stands away from the herd, dreaming her own dreams-maybe of the multiple ribbons she won in her youth, or her babies? Of horsey friends? I'll never know. What I do know is I have to make the decision to send her on another journey, one I can't take with her. I'm hoping there will be others over there, animal and human, to greet her. She will be youthful again, her muscles rounded and toned, neck arched, her coat glinting like a newly-minted penny.

My horses have been my teachers. My lessons are many because I can be a bit slow at times. I am grateful to Brook for her patience, her trust and her silliness, even though she didn't like to show it. She was the grande dame, a noble woman, regal in every way.

She left us today with the grace and dignity we should all be blessed to leave this Earth with. There were people there who knew and loved her, and a vet who treated her with respect and kindness. The last words she heard were "I love you". Rest in peace, my cranky girl.

Entry #8 from dressagequeen97

I was bullied badly throughout school, and the only thing I found comfort in was riding horses. In July of 2006, I crossed paths with a gorgeous, 17h TB gelding, named Pi. Pi helped me through my struggles of life, and made me the person I am today. Together we competed in eventing, dressage, and some Jumpers. Pi essentially gave me the knowledge that I use every day now. He was far from an easy ride, but looking back, he taught me how to ride. On February 29th, 2012, I said goodbye to the only best friend Id ever had. Learning to love again was a struggle. I know he is with me everyday and I often look up to the sky and shed a tear. I miss him dearly, but without having him in my life, Im not sure where I would be.

April 1994-Febryary 29th, 2012

"May you gallop atop the clouds in heaven my sweet boy."

Entry # 9 from Heather:
I have to write this for two horses, because I bought them together, even though only one was delivered by the seller. A beautiful black TWH mare, Liberty (Libby) was exposed to a stallion before I bought her, and ended up doing the delivery of the second horse, a pretty little (soon to be big) gold champagne colt that was named Patriot (Riot). Libby was one final gift from my grandma, a month after she passed away just a few days before my 21st birthday. Libby was the perfect first horse for me and I cherish the year we spent together, and always wish that it could have been longer. She was my true heart horse. She passed away just days after I turned 22, leaving me with a 3 1/2 month old foal. I had a lovely several years with her son, and loved him with all of my heart. The day that I sat on his back for the first time when he was a 6 year old was hands down one of the most amazing days. I had given him the extra years to grow up because he was extremely slow to mature, and it was well worth the wait. Sadly, I had to have him put down after several bouts of colic. My last day with him was almost a mirror image of my last day with Libby, aside from the fact I had to make the choice to end his suffering and Libby passed away while we were waiting for the vet to come back. A necropsy on Riot showed that he had suffered from abdominal tumors, like his dam. My vet said it was probably genetic and there was nothing that we could have done.
I still miss the both of them every day, and it's hard to look through the pictures I have of them without tearing up. It will be 11 years this summer since Libby died and it was 4 years this past December since Riot passed. I kept hair from each of their tails, and made a dreamcatcher with one of Libby's old shoes, a tassle of her hair and a tassle of Riot's dangle from it. I've also planted a memorial garden at my mom's house, where Riot's ashes are scattered and I buried a section of Libby's tail hair. A dear friend purchased a shrub to plant there and a small rosebush and other colorful yellow flowers are scattered around it. Libby is buried at the Boy Scout camp I was working at with her when she passed. I still go up there some years and scatter more wildflower seeds over her grave.

I was lucky to have them in my life. They helped me through some rough times, and I'll always be grateful to them for that.

Entry #10 from Jeanne:

I choose to honor Zues. He was a tall, dark and handsome guy. He spoke softly and moved quietly with a gentle grace. He came to me in a cold November in 2008. I knew when I brought him home, that our relationship was on borrowed time. Our time together would be more fleeting than I knew. Zues had an incurable squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal cavity that was slowly suffocating him. This beautiful dark Clyde TB cross would be the first horse I would ever have to give the heartbreaking gift of euthanasia.

We had a mere thirty days together. I gave him green pastures, quiet walks, and loving care in his final days. In return, he gave me so much more. I rode him once at a slow walk and he allowed me to touch the sky. He reminded me that it is always better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. But mostly, Zues showed me a place of strength within myself that I never knew existed. As the inevitable ending drew near, he would come to me in the pasture with heavy breathing and rest his head in my arms. His soft darks eyes told me he was ready and he needed me to be ready too. I dug to a place in my soul to find the strength to end his suffering.
On his final day, Zues laid down quietly in the unusually warm December day. I held his head in my arms as he drew his last breath. He was truly a blessing and gift in my life that I will cherish forever.

Entry # 11 from Shari:

My heart is broken, a raw wound inside of my chest, I lost my sweet Coni on Aug 23, after too short of a battle for her life. This is our story:

On a bright Sunday morning in 1980, my mare Peni Fadda was heavy with foal. I checked her before heading to church ( it was my sister's confirmation Sunday) and low and behold, Peni was waxed up! I couldn't wait to get home from the service thinking I would see a baby that I had waited so long for! After church I scrambled out to the barn, no foal... I brought Peni inside to a nice clean box stall my grandpa and I had fashioned just for this occasion. No sooner had I put her inside and Peni went immediately into labor. Soon a perfect chestnut filly was born! Coni had tons of visitors that day since everyone was eager to see the newborn foal, ( I think this is why she liked people so very much, all that socialization...) Coni was named in honor of her birthdate, Confirmation.... who knew??

Every morning before school, I would head up to the barn to let Peni and Coni out on the lawn for some grazing, Coni loved to run and buck and jump and drive her mamma nuts with her antics.

Her formative years were fairly uneventful, I trained her to drive as a 2 yr old, and started her under saddle as a 4 yr old, she was a dream to ride, so smooth so energetic... We spent a lot of time just riding around the neighborhood.

In 1988 before moving to another city many miles from home, my little brother and I went on an adventure, our parents hauled our horses and all our supplies to a local state park 16 miles from home, we camped out for the weekend, enjoyed the time with our horses. We took them swimming and then trail rode until evening, then after bedding them down would make our supper and sleep in our little pup tent. We packed up our supplies and headed for home at the end of our weekend, it was a very long ride for a little 7 yr old boy, and by the end he was completely beat, but we did it! Our grand adventure!

I rode Coni on many trail rides put on by our local saddle club, and one of the old timers there told me they were taking bets to see how long I would be able to stay on my horse, see Coni had developed some of her mother's habits, she didn't like the reins held too tight and would shake her head in this little temper tantrum whenever it happened. She never liked to just walk on the trail, she was always jigging, and I didn't know any better than to just let her do it. It didn't matter, Coni was always safe for me to ride and didn't buck me off so I don't know who won the bet...

Our saddle club also rode in many parades in those days as a precision drill team, Coni was only allowed to participate in practice since there were so many riders at that time, that our abilities were not needed. She learned the drill though and we were always available to "pinch hit" on the chance that someone would be unable to attend a parade.

Coni was my friend and solace growing up, many times throughout high school when I was feeling friendless, all I had to do was go over to Coni and she would stand by me and allow me to cry my hurt feelings out on to her mane. Oh she always smelled so wonderful!!! That special scent only my good friend carried... I can almost smell it now..

One of our many trail rides together just she and I led to another adventure, we were riding alongside a county highway, when along came some of my partying friends, they were roadtripping and offered me a beer, what a nice treat after riding for miles... I learned that Coni did NOT like the sound a can makes when you breathe into it before taking a drink ( you know the sound? that faint tinny whistle?). Needless to say, the beer and I parted company quickly, but I stayed on my horse!

Coni and I were riding fence one spring day checking to make sure the fence was intact ( the horses lived in a 25 acre pasture), when we had to cross a creek that ran through our pasture, somehow she stumbled and I was thrown forward over her head, into the water and was instantly submerged with a horse coming down upon me, somehow Coni avoided crushing me under her by curling her forelegs up and jumping forward, it was a miracle I wasn't drowned with a horse on top of me, but she knew it was me under her legs and wasn't going to hurt me.

When Coni was 11 yrs old there was a pasture accident, and she lost the sight in her right eye. She adjusted well to her blindness and we were always careful to talk to her when we worked on that side.

In 1994 at the age of 33, I lost her mother Peni Fadda. I was heartbroken, but knew I still had Coni for solace. Coni was always my rock my stability point. She was so special to me...

In August 1997, my dad passed away, just after I learned I was pregnant and my fiance and I had just broken up. Coni once again was a rock for me, my reason to live, my solace... Many more tears were shed into her solid body, she allowed me to cry out my heartbreak and always gave me comfort. When my son was born, I would take him to the barn with me to do chores, Coni absolutely loved her baby! Her eyes would get all soft and she would blow softly into his face just drinking in his baby smell! You could see how much she loved babies, any babies... human, dog, cat, chicken, she would pull me over to baby strollers to see babies, and I always held the baby chicks and kittens up to her face so she could blow at them. It wasn't an alarmed blow, it was a tender sigh I could always see how much she enjoyed babies and allowed her that pleasure.

On the off chance Coni ever got out of her pasture, she didn't go anywhere except up to the house to wait in front of the door for me to see her and put her back into the pasture. I used to allow Coni to graze loose back home because she never left the yard. Coni had so MUCH personality!! She was loved by all who met her, she would just charm her way into your heart without much effort on her part...

Coni loved her treats, carrots were a favorite as well as sugar, and the peppermint horse treats. In her last hours I was able to feed her carrots, she relished those, it was my pleasure to give her what comfort I could at the end.

In 2000 we were introduced to a young friend who was looking for a horse to lease for 4-H, I had 3 horses at that time, Coni, Shom, and Nabila, and she was allowed her choice of horses. She chose Coni, my silly sweet mare. They went on to a semi successful show career culminating in a trip to the State 4-H horse show in 2001. Coni took it all in stride, until the time came to ride the Saddle Seat classes in the Coliseum... as soon as she entered that huge arena, she was black with sweat, but as scared as she was, she still tried for my young friend... she was 21 at the time, and it was a relief to bring her back home unscathed from that adventure.

Coni was named Champion Pleasure Mare at our county Fair that year, and my young friend came home with a large trophy that she proudly displayed for all to see, I was quite surprised with her win because I though personally, I was showing the winning horse ( shows how much a judge's opinion differs from mine...).
Many young people learned to ride on my sweet Coni, and then moved on to horses of their own, currently one young friend is riding the Arabian circuit and has done very well with the horse she is currently leasing, I personally think Coni is responsible for that young lady's continued foray into the Arabian horse world give her the sole credit.

After my fall from a horse a couple of years ago, Coni was the first horse I got back up on, it was like slipping into a pair of comfortable old shoes, we meshed so well, I knew I would always be safe on her back.

This summer I had no time for riding with the weather, and my job but I continued to always have time to pet and love on my horses, even if only for a few minutes. Coni always loved having her butt scratched and would make her way up to me to beg for some scratches with her soft nickers. I only had to call her from the living room window, and she would nicker back begging me to come out and give her some scratches or a treat... it was always so nice to come out of the house and know Coni would be there to call for me if she heard or saw me coming.

I don't know what happened that Wed a week after I lost Promise, but I only know Coni was fine in the morning when I did chores, and in the evening when I came out to do chores something was very wrong with my precious baby. She couldn't walk straight on her hind legs, it was like she was drunk, swaying and crossing her hind legs as if she didn't know where they were. The vet was out the next day to examine her, initially he thought EPM, but the symptoms didn't add up... she had no lethargy, no drooping of her face, her spirits were good, she was the same old Coni with the exception of her hind end. We fought valiantly for her to improve and one minute it would seem like she was better, then next she was having a set back again. I had another vet come out who did acupuncture on her, and he also thought EPM possibly, and I was trying to get her into a new drug trial when the bottom fell out of our plans. Coni fell for the last time on Sunday night, she couldn't rise again on her own. I called my brother for help and he built a sling for her and we tried to lift her with an engine hoist, we were able to get her up but her hind legs just couldn't support her, and I realized I was going to have to say good bye to my good friend. We lowered her for the last time, and I called the vet. I was unable to even say the words, "put her to sleep" but he knew it was time, just from the tone of my voice. I can't believe how hard that was, to tell him we were giving up the fight, but it was time and in my heart I knew it. I gave her several carrots and sat with her telling her how much I loved her, and that she wasn't going to suffer any longer, she wanted to live, but her body was failing her. As the vet gave her the medicine to put her in a forever sleep I was there at her head talking to her comforting her... it was soooo hard to say goodbye... my baby, my heart horse...

Coni was buried with dignity and care next to her friend Promise. I never, ever expected to have to say goodbye to 2 horses this soon, and most especially not my Coni, my sweet girl...

I am still crying myself to sleep at night, and I dread coming home from work knowing I will never see her wonderful face peeking out at me through the fence, I will never hear her welcoming nicker greeting me as I step out the door. I know I did the best I could for her and I know she had a great life with me, but this knowledge brings me no comfort. I know time only will help the hurt heal, and I know I will see her again in Heaven, but at this time, I would give almost anything to have my Coni back...

I hope in my grief I have been able to convey the love and trusting bond I shared with this special mare, I know it probably sounds disjointed I am trying to get through this in my enormous grief, my time with her just seemed too damn short...

As you read this, if you have a special heart horse, perhaps you could go out and give them a hug and know that I would be doing the same thing with my heart horse, she will always live inside of me.

Rest In Peace my sweet Coni

Entry # 12 from Kris:

Feldspar   by Kris Garrett
 March 7, 1989 – July 23, 2010
 I lost one of my best friends last summer..  It was a twist.  Why did God design horses like this?  WHY?   My friend was my very first foal.  I’d had him his entire life.  He carried me through my young adulthood, several careers, my marriage, the birth of my son, and into the autumn of my own life.  He was the horse who always greeted me first at the gate, licked my hands when I stroked his head and neck, babysat a myriad of foals without ever hurting a single one, and was the soft, strong shoulder I would cry into whenever tragedy struck our little ranch. 
 It all started 21 years ago.  The call came at 5:00 AM.  “You have a new filly!” the excited voice whispered on the other end of the phone.   I was still half asleep when I pulled my old tennis shoes on with one hand while I dialed my future husband with the other.
 “John!” I shouted excitedly, oblivious to the fact that I had just awakened him from a sound sleep. 
“The baby’s here!  It’s a girl!  I’m on my way to the barn. Do you want to go with me?” 

”On my way…” he answered without hesitation.   He knew how much this foal meant to me, and I had become something that was starting to mean a lot to him.  He was not about to miss being part of this important event.
 We were both cops at the time, John and I.  We were still “just friends” at that point, not sure if we were destined for a real relationship or just friendly work buddies. We were spending more and more time together, but we were cautious and unsure.  At least I know I was.  But John’s interest in my horses moved him up the possibility for permanence scale by at least 70 percent.  A nice guy that liked horses…well, that was rare and that got my attention.

We were at the breeding farm in Larkspur by six.  It was a very cold, early March morning and it was still very dark   The owner of the mare, Holly, got there a short time later.  Holly was a dispatcher at the Sheriff’s Office where John and I were Patrol Deputies. We had become good friends.  Holly was an amazing rider and trainer, and had the most lovely and talented mare she had ridden to a regional dressage high point championship. I worshiped her riding and training abilities and modeled myself after her whenever I could.   Holly had bred the mare to a gorgeous black Trakehner (a German Warmblood) stallion the two years earlier, and was blessed with an incredible black filly destined for the dressage ring.   She let me lease the same mare the following year to breed back to the same stallion.  Now I also had a quality black filly of my own.  We were grand-moms of sister fillies, which made Holly and me, family.
 Like any excited expectant “mother,” I had read up on babies and was ready to put all I had learned to practice.  I had purchased a tape of Dr. Miller teaching “imprinting” and had all my desensitizing objects ready.   Clippers, plastic bag, paper, a tiny halter, and I can’t remember now what else.  I rubbed and tapped and familiarized my new baby with everything I could think of before he was four hours old.   I spent so much time with him he began to think I was his mother, and not the big brown beast with the milk faucet.
 Him…  Yes, you read right, I did not just make a mistake.  The mistake was made by the young barn manager.  She missed a certain piece of anatomy when she had checked the newborn foal in the dark.  Neither John nor I had thought to check, and ended up calling him “she” for the first two days.   It was hard to change his gender in my own mind, when I found out my darling little filly was actually a handsome little colt.  I accidentally called him “she” at least three times a day for a week.
 I named him Feldspar.  It’s a type of crystal rock.  I just liked the way the word rolled off my tongue. As is the tradition of Trakehners, I had to give him a name with the first letter of his dam’s name, which was Feather.  It was going to be Feldspar, boy or girl.  I was glad I was not also trying to get used to a new name.
 He was charcoal gray when he was born, that soon became a strange mousy brown, and then shed out to an elegant and shiny jet black by the time he was a full year old.  He was born with a headlight. It was in the shape of a large, almost perfect white diamond smack in the center of is forehead. The side points of the diamond went eye to eye.  It was so perfectly shaped and so striking that it was the first thing most people commented on.  He was incredibly beautiful.
 People would laugh when I’d say that I’d had him since before he was born, but it was true. When he was still inside, I would put my head on his momma’s big belly and talk to him, telling him about how great our life was going to be together.  I felt him kick now and then, which was very exciting and only served to increase my anticipation level.  When he finally arrived, I could hardly contain my joy at the perfect little creature that came to share my life.  
 John and I had the following couple of days off so we spent most of it at the breeding barn, playing with the new boy.   When we went back to work later that week, I proudly carried in a jar of blue bubblegum cigars to pass out to my teammates.  At that point in my life I figured Feldspar was going to be my only “child,” so I was not going to waste the opportunity to celebrate.   My all-male team of fellow cops always did think I was a rather silly girl, which was fine with me.  They were good-natured about the teasing and I actually liked it. Being a bit if a clown was a great way of dealing with the tension of police work, and it was a long time before teasing the only woman present automatically equated with harassment.  
 Feldspar grew fast. Our life changed fast too. By the time he was three years old, John and I were married, I gave up police work to become a Realtor, we bought our little ranch in Parker, and I was pregnant with our son, Alex.  Holly agreed to begin Feldspar’s under saddle training while I prepared myself for human motherhood.  (And yes, we gave out another jar of bubblegum cigars when Alex arrived.)  
 Feldspar was a true Trakehner all the way…  hot, loving, gorgeous, and athletic.   And a handful.  He was a lot of horse.  But back then I was still a brave rider and I loved how forward he was. All you had to do was shape his energy, and he took responsibility for moving. And if he understood what you wanted, he gave it to you.
 I got dumped only once in Feldspar’s entire life.  We were in our arena here at our house, oblivious to the fact that our neighbors had just purchased two llamas.   For some reason horses tend to think llamas are alien invaders who have come to earth to tear out horses’ eyeballs and eat their entrails.  Just ask your horse. They KNOW.   Feldspar and I were simply trotting along in our usually forward, energetic manner, when two wooly alien heads popped up out of the tall grass in the field next door.  A microsecond later, I was lying on my back in the sand and Feldspar was at the far end of the arena at the gate, shaking like a leaf.  He’d spun out from under me so fast I never saw it coming and I didn’t have time to tense.  I wasn’t hurt at all.  But I certainly had a new opinion about the cohabitation of horses and llamas.
 Feldspar never kicked me or hurt me. Never.  But John was not so lucky.  One evening late, John was walking behind him when Feldspar had his face buried deep in the hay feeder. For some unknown reason, Feldspar kicked out, catching John on the meaty part of his thigh.  Feldspar immediately knew he was in big trouble.   John said when he realized whom he had just kicked, he took off and wouldn’t come back to the barn. John is certain Feldspar thought he had been a horse about to challenge him for his food, not a human, and once he saw what he’d done he knew he had committed a giant unforgivable sin.  John realized it was mostly his own fault for startling the horse, but Feldspar subtly gave John a wide berth whenever he could from that day forward.
 When I examined John’s leg, I was not very sympathetic.  There was no mark, and I began to think John was being a bit wimpy.   But a few days later the most horrific, colorful, intense bruise I have ever seen appeared on John’s thigh.  I was ashamed that I had not been very sympathetic, and instead found myself groveling with apologies.  To this day, I have not forgiven myself for doubting John’s level of agony. 
 And, just in case, I always put my hand on Feldspar’s rump to warn him when I walked behind him.  You know... just in case.  John did the same.
 Feldspar and I both have/had a little bit of a wicked child streak in us.  I know that, anywhere and everywhere you go, horses are simply not allowed in the feed room.  That’s a given.  Feldspar knew this too, and he would never even try to enter when John was around.  But when I fed by myself, which was often, he would calmly follow me in. I don’t remember when this started, but for years we’d had this unspoken understanding.  I am a touchy-feely person who needs lots of physical attention.  He wanted food.  He would follow me into the feed room and go straight to the barrel of pellets, flip off the lid, and stick his head inside for a quick snack. Once his head was inside the feed barrel, I would lay the length of my body along his lowered neck and breathe the scent of his mane into my face.  Sometimes, if I’d had a bad day, I would cry into his soft hair, sometimes I would just lean into him, close my eyes, and smile while my friend and I shared our forbidden moment.  We did this almost every day.  John didn’t know about it until today, after Feldspar died, when we started sharing our stories about him.   I knew John would not approve, which gave our little ritual a touch of danger along with that excitement of just being a little bit naughty.  It was like two teenagers sneaking out at night, not to be really bad, but just because it was pushing the established limits, and the danger of the challenge felt strangely good.  
 Feldspar was never hard to get to back out of the feed room.  All I had to do was say his name and put the back of my hand gently on his chest.   He would immediately step back and out of the room without a fuss and I would go ahead and feed everyone.  This was Feldspar’s and my little best friend secret, and it had a unique specialness to it that’s hard to adequately explain.
 John retired from law enforcement in 2002.  He immediately went back to school and got his real estate license.  He’s good at it for the same reason he was a good cop.  He’s a stickler for detail, and is as honest a fellow as has ever graced the planet.  But the real estate market started getting soft for us by 2006.  We started to struggle. We didn’t know that it was a precursor to this total financial meltdown, but we were concerned enough at the time to know we had to cut back on our expenses.  Horses, as any of you who own one (or more) know, are a huge expense.  So, reluctantly and with great remorse, we put every horse we had, except for Teme (whom we had solemnly sworn and committed to care for, for the rest of his life) on the market.  Feldspar was one of the best trained we had, so he had more than his share of tire kickers.
 One day a lady came out with her dressage trainer to try him out.  The gal was nice, but was very timid and I was nervous that his habit of going so strongly forward was going to scare her.  He never ran away, but he had a Trakehner’s energy and it could be intimidating.  She rode him around the arena and he was a perfect gentleman.  She was obviously enjoying her ride. I started getting nervous that she was actually going to want to buy him.  My heart started to crack.   Then her “trainer” got on, immediately took the reins in her hands and pulled his chin to his chest.  I felt myself gasp, as he has always been incredibly light in the mouth.  This woman pushed and pulled and kicked and whined, and didn’t get much out of him.  She started kicking him furiously while holding the reins so tight his mouth was gaping open and his chin quivered in pain.  She started yelling at me, demanding to know what was wrong with this stupid horse and why did he refused to canter?  I felt myself starting to fight tears as I told her as politely as I could, to PLEASE lighten up a bit on the reins!  She seemed to be angry or frightened, I don’t know which, and couldn’t let herself give him any release.  I wondered what kind of monster horse she rode (or created) that made her feel like she needed to pull that incredibly hard all the time.  She continued to kick his sides and he finally cantered, but not for long.  He broke back to a trot and started to whinny at me, as though to say, “HELP!”   I’d had all I could take and I asked her to get off.   Her student saw the tears in my eyes and said, “I don’t think you’re ready to give up this horse.”  I saw my out and quickly replied, “You’re right. I just can’t sell him. I’m so sorry I wasted your time…”  They left; I pulled the sweat-drenched tack off his back and face, and leaned into his wet neck burying my face in his mane.  At that moment, I promised him, out loud where he and the birds and other horses and God Almighty could hear me, that no matter what happened to us, our house, or our finances, I would never, ever, so much as consider selling him. He was safe with me. After all, he was my FRIEND, and true friends don’t get rid of each other.. 

I kept that promise.  And I’m so grateful today that I did.
 Feldspar started out as the baby and bottom of the herd, but eventually, as horses came and went, he advanced and grew into the position of Alfa. He was the perfect passive leader.  He was definitely in charge and no one challenged him. All it took was a twitch of an ear or a sideways look. He never attacked or bullied.  For some reason I could not see with my human interpretations, he never needed to.  He would allow other horses to eat with him, and became the protector of our little mini mare Ripley as she stood in his shadow while she shared his hay.  He was never abusive of his power.  When a young filly mistook him for her similarly colored mother and tried to suckle his male parts, he gently put his foot on her side and shoved her away.  It was not a strike or an angry admonishment, just a “NO!” with gentle firmness.  After witnessing that event, I had a new respect for his wise leadership.  I have admired his rule of our herd ever since.   I became concerned because we had no one even close to his personality ready to take over.  I had no idea how the remaining horses are going to work things out, but eventually they did.
 Shortly before he died, Feldspar had been licking me more than usual.  Anytime he got near me he licked my hands and my arms.  I thought perhaps he needed salt, but he had a salt block and free choice loose salt available at all time. I made the comment to John just a couple of days ago that it seemed odd, but that I liked it because it seemed so affectionate.   I know I have a habit of anthropomorphizing horse behavior, so I tried to stop myself from seeing his actions as loving on me.  But I have to admit that it’s hard not to think that way.  Now I wonder if he knew he was not long for this world, and he was saying something to me I couldn’t hear any other way.
 I don’t know if he could hear me through his intense pain, but I spent his last moments of life right there with him, holding his head in my hands and thanking him for the incredible gifts has given me throughout his and my life.  I thanked him for taking care of the babies and for being so gentle with me.  I thanked him for our special secret moments in the feed room, and for licking my hands and making me feel so cared about.  I thanked him for always being first at the gate to greet me, and for recognizing me as HIS person.  I could have gone on and on thanking him for hours, but the Vet’s needle was waiting and the pain was not waiting, so when the Vet asked if I was ready, I silently prayed that he understood enough to know that, if nothing else, he was deeply and truly loved.
 Feldspar was my best equine friend. There will never be another one like him.  I will never forget him.
 After he was released to whatever awaits us after death, my good friend and trainer TJ came over and helped me braid, cut, and save Feldspar’s long tail.  She stayed with me while his body was being taken away.  Her presence reminded me how grateful I am that I have human friends too. And she is one of the best.
 I found this poem online and sent it to TJ when she lost her beloved Arab gelding friend a couple of weeks earlier.  She sent it back to me when Feldspar died. 
  Where to Bury a Horse

If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call; come to you over the far, dim pastures of death, and though you ride other living horses through life, they shall not shy at him, nor resent his coming. For he is yours and he belongs there.
People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears. These are people who may never have really loved a horse. Smile at them then, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth knowing.

The one place to bury a horse is in the heart of his master. "

Entry #13 From Nina:

My story is about AQHA’a, “Above the Line”(Moon).  I purchased this beauty from a friend’s neighbor when she was a young three year old.  I wasn’t a strong rider so this purchase was not looked upon as a good idea, but I knew she was perfect for me when a dirt bike came up behind us and when he got next to us, cracked the baffles wide open, making noise that should have scared any horse.  Not Moon, all she did was crossed over in the front, saw what it was and crossed over back into place.  She became mine on the spot.

Moon became my daughter’s mount when she outgrew her pony.  Moon only had one foal, a colt in 1999.  In time we learned that Moon imprinted her disposition and habits onto her baby.  Cashs Legacy became a solid pleasure horse, earning multiple high points in Showmanship, English, Western and Trail.  He even has points in games.

When I had to sell Moon, I was heartbroken.  I sold her to a friend, who used her for beginning lessons. From there, she was donated to a riding facility which taught children with disabilities.  At age 21, she was purchased by an older woman.  To this day, I make sure I see her at least once a year so she knows I still love her.

Entry # 14 From Carrie & Emily:

I have always been into horses before I can even remember. Years of hard work and lessons learned allowed me to meet my future husband at a ranch. Long story short when we got engaged he bought me a miniature horse instead of a ring because he knew how I was (and still am) about losing things. Calamity Jayne was a holy terror to other horses and every bit the outlaw she was named after. So much so that 1200 pound horses were scared to death of her. But magic happened when you haltered her. She turned into the most amazing angelic animal that wanted nothing to do but to please you. I broke her to ride with help from a phenomenal young cowboy in about 2 hours. By broke to ride I dont mean you could just sit on her, I mean she was picking up leads. She was that smart. Time passed, I got married and knew one dy I wanted kids. I worked with bombproofing her to EVERYTHING from cannons ( thanks to a civil war reenactor neighbor) to fire crackers and flaping tarps. She learned to navigate stairs which allowed us access to schools to teach students about animal care to hospitals and nursing homes. Now this was ten years ago. Long before service minis were accepted. We even were fortunate to meet incoming wounded servicemen coming back to the US from Iraq. To see the hardened soldiers change from scarred, war weary killing machines back to the farmboys they really are is something I will never forget. Everybody knew " Boo Boo". More time passed and I had a daughter. Boo was facinated by her from day one and would follow along the fence line when Emily was in the stroller at 5 days old. I walked the fence line daily to get back in shape with that mini walking with us. I had a heart to heart one day with her when Em was about three months old. I told her " This little one is special to me. I am asking you to watch  over her and be her teacher. Be everything I always dreamed of when I was little." The time came when Em started walking. She would walk out to the pasture and climb through the gate to get to Boo. Boo wouls let her hold on to her for support as they both went exploring. The mini followed her everywhere including up the stairs onto the porch and in the house on several ocasions. Em started riding at 18 months old. She was riding unassisted (but always supervised) shortly before her second birthday. That mini never took a bad step with her. Always patient with her, never mean. It was perfect. On Ems second birthday we took Boo to a local show where Em was dissapointed that she had to ride in leadline instead of with the big kids but she had fun and came home with a blue ribbon. Time passed and Em's father and I sepearated and later divorced in a bitter mess. I fought to keep Boo and she Em was granted custody of her in our divorce papers by the judge. Emily continued to ride and improve and so did Boo. The two of them were unstoppable. We moved to a farm and picked up a neglected mare in the process. Everything was great.Life was good. Then the unthinkable happened. Calamity Jayne shattered her leg in an accident. We have no idea how it happened. The prognoses was not good. The only thing the vet said was that when it happened, ot severed all the nerve ending and she was in no pain. This allowed me a little time thank God to come up witht the words to tell a six year old that her best friend was going to be leaving. I have never in my life had to do anything like that. I hope and pray that I never will again. I had a while to sit with Boo and tell her how thankful I was that she took such good care of  Emily. I told her she was the best thing and the most perfect horse in the world.Emily came out to say good bye. We hugged Boo and went to the house as the vet came to help her cross the Bridge. After Emily went to bed I took Boo Boo and with my exhusbands help laid her to rest on his property where she will never be disturbed. I did take hair from her tail and her mane to keep. I was told a story that when a warrior lost a horse in battle he would trim a piece of the mane and when he got another horse he would braid it into his new horse's mane inhopes that the spirit of the fallen horse would teach the new horse. Time has passed but the pain still hasn't faded for me. Emily is much stronger than I am. She was able to deal with Boo's passing by taking the rescue mare we picked up and weave a bit of Boo's mane into hers. It must be working because they took first place in their riding class a few weeks ago and 6th in an open trail class with 17 competitors. A marker for her grave would mean the world to us. Thank you for your consideration. -Carrie and Emily

Emily and Calamity Jayne at their first horse show.

With Miss Pumpkin Blaze, her new mount.

Entry # 15 From Natalie:

This is my mare, KJ.  I lost her back on July 12th 2010.  She is, and always will be, the horse of my heart.  I often say that she was my "horsey soul mate" and I truly believe that she was.

I got her as a two year old, and she was my first horse. Over the nine years we saw some major ups and downs for both of us, but we always seemed to carry eachother through.  A lot of non horse people don't understand that connection between someone and that special horse, but I'm sure you and your readers/followers know.  KJ and I had that special bond and I can honestly say that I'm am here today because of her.  Several years ago I went through an abusive relationship, and the breakup was horrible.  The fear and pain were so unbearable that I often thought I should just finally end it all.  It was in these darkest moments that I would always end up in her corral, and I would end up sobbing until my throat was raw... and she just stood there.  Calm, gentle, understanding.  More than a few times during this period I wouldn't sleep, except when I happened to fall asleep in the corral with her, and I would wake up with her standing over me or near me.  She was truly my guardian angel.  She always had this habit of bumping the backs of my legs when I was in her pasture or corral and I swear to this day that when life gets especially rough I can still feel her doing that. 

The worst day of my life was July 12th 2010 when I lost her.  She had had a history of colic and I had opted for colic surgery once.  I lost her to colic when she was just eleven.

KJ will always be the horse of my heart and truly turned me into the person and horsewoman I am today.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Happy birthday, Rex!

Today, my little Rexy turns seven. This fact makes me feel older, even, than the fact that my 10 year high school reunion is coming up this summer.

Rex was absolutely instrumental in my grieving and healing process when I lost his mama, Angel. He was not even weaned when she died, and together, the two of us came to terms with her death, and for that, we will always have a special bond. He frustrates me to NO END pretty frequently, but he "gets me" and I get him in return.

I can't be with him today to wish him a real happy birthday but I can't wait to go put my arms around him - and 2013 is set to be his year, I figure. With the move back to the farm for Bronwyn and I, I'd like to get him ridden some more and give him some "life experience". I like to bring them on slow, what can I say? :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Short Term Sacrifice For Long Term Gain

Artwork credit to A Little Horse Sense

I posted the announcement on my personal Facebook but I haven't released it on the fan page - I recently made a tough decision. My boyfriend and I have been crunching numbers and working a budget in order to venture into home ownership, marriage, and making a family in the next couple of years, and we saw an opportunity to save a little more beyond what we are saving currently. At the end of this month, Bronwyn will be leaving the boarding barn we have been staying at and moving back home to my parents' farm. I have assumed a new role at my day job which gives me longer stretches of time off so I suspect I will see her roughly the same amount that I see her now (about twice a week).

Sure, it will be inconvenient having her so much farther away, no indoor arena to work in, no on-site instructor or supportive barn family - but at the end of the day, this will bring her much, much closer (as in our own backyard!) in a much shorter amount of time. It will pinch for a while, but then it will be such a sigh of relief.

If I really think about it - keeping Bronwyn and Rex at a boarding stable or at my parents' place 45 minutes away is acceptable, but my dream is to have them in my backyard, see them every day, do the work involved for them myself, and that is where I want to be for many years to come - so if I have to make a bit of a sacrifice for the next couple of years in order to get where I want to be in the long term... I guess it is a sacrifice I will have to make.  Overall, I think the next couple of years will be a new adventure, of another sort - I am in a much different place in MY life now than I was when I moved her to the boarding barn back in June, and my boyfriend and I are also in a much different place together, and it's very exciting. I can't wait to share it with you all. :) Thanks for sticking with me.