Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider

Training the Mind of the Horse and Rider
Click on Logo (Original artwork by Lanie Frick for Messick Quarter Horses. Not permitted to be copied)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Mind is on Finny

As I started searching for a gaited horse for CTR, my mind has been on Finny. A lot. Especially after I looked at Tennessee Walking Horses 2 weekends ago. Especially after I looked at a friend’s young Foxtrotter and rode another friend’s 2 Foxtrotters. Especially after I went to SE Missouri this past weekend, 7 hours away, to look at some more Foxtrotters. But especially after I rode Starlet to the field on Monday.

That was harder than I thought it would be. Today I am going to ride her to the field ago. I think it will go easier. My mind is on a replacement horse, and I’m feeling down. I really don’t want to replace Finny. I’m making myself look at other horses. I have to give some other horses a chance.

I know, as I have been on these gaited horses the past 2 weeks, I have enjoyed it. I love their forward movement. I love how they cover the ground. I love their willingness. I know I have to keep looking at horses. I will make myself look at horses.

It’s just so overwhelming sometimes. To make all of these contacts. To travel and look at these horses. To keep searching for “the” horse. To keep talking about it. This should be a fun, enjoyable time, but I just want it to be done.

Sally Swift, Centered Riding organizer, said, “Life is a Journey”. This is all about life. I guess life goes on. I guess I’ll keep looking. I’ll try to enjoy the search.

I just want a horse to continue the journey with. I thought I had the one, and now he is gone. I thought Finny would have been with me the next 10 or 20 years, to continue learning together, and to continue teaching others with. I am really starting to miss what should have been, and what I don’t have.

I wonder what Sally Swift would tell me? Maybe to keep riding.

I guess I better keep riding. That will probably make me feel better. Come along on the ride with me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Back to Riding, Without Finny

The Direct TV man left today, after hooking up 2 more tv’s (for a price that is less than what I have already been paying). The day was finally sunny and warming up into the 50’s. I decided it was time to get one of my other horses out to ride. I thought I was ready.

I had thought of working the 3 horses that I need to get back to riding. But the lots are a muddy mess, and I really didn’t want to deal with all of that mud on the horses today. Anyways, I had Jacob, Amber and Caden coming for supper, and I just didn’t want to be that rushed. I already had a pot roast in the crock pot, and was going to cook noodles in the broth about ½ hour before we were to eat. All I would have to do after I rode was to grain, fill a water tank, and feed dogs and cats.

I decided to take Starlet to the field. She needed the exercise! I should have weight taped her. I think she is at least 100, maybe 200 pounds overweight! I put my muck boots on and went into the lot to get her. She came quietly, I think due to anticipating a few bites of grass outside the gate. I tied her to the horse trailer, groomed and saddled her. All of the bridles had Finny’s CTR numbered tag on them. I removed the tag from one of the bridles and bridled Starlet.

I changed out of the muck boots and put riding boots on. I replaced my ball cap with my Troxel helmet. I mounted and rode out behind the barn. It has been awhile since I have ridden Starlet in the field, and she was heads up. She was a little goosey riding past the dogs. The edge of the corn field was a little soft, but not muddy.

I thought I would have a nice quiet, slow ride as Starlet is out of shape. As I rounded the 1st corner of the field, and started on the path that I should have been taking with Finny, his loss hit me again. I should have been riding Finny. It should have been Finny that I was taking to the field, enjoying a good, extended trot. The pain of losing him came out, and tears ran down my face.

I went on with my ride, remembering Finny. Places where he would just walk on, stopping to eat grass, Starlet was hesitant. Places where Finny went in to a lovely trot, Starlet was jigging. The sun was out, and I made myself look around me. Thinking of other things, or just watching where I was going, I didn’t want to remember and compare Starlet to Finny. I want to believe Finny is happy where he is. I want to appreciate riding Starlet again. Eventually, the tears stopped, and I rode on. After about an hour, I was back to the trailer, unsaddled, and put Starlet back into the lot with the other horses. I patted her and I think she understood how I felt, as she stood quietly.

After chores were done, I changed and washed my face. I brushed my hair back into a braid. I added the noodles to the beef broth, and set the table. The kids arrived and Tom came home from work. We enjoyed playing with Caden for awhile. When they left, I asked Tom for a hug. I told him that I had a bad moment in the field while I was riding. I needed to feel his pat on my back, telling me that everything will be all right.

I miss Finny and I always will. But I’ll get back to enjoying the other horses. I started today.

The rides might seem tough for awhile. I’ll need to go on more rides. Come along on the rides with me!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fall Continues

Fall continues. We have had rain for 5 straight days. Cool, damp rain. Cool mornings, close to freezing temps. I planted roses the last few years, and really haven’t bothered with them, except to plant more in the place of the ones that didn’t grow. This year, we have had some roses bloom. These are the last 3 roses of the season. Even though they were nipped by the cool weather, the fragrance is unbelievable.

The trees in the backyard seem to take a little longer to change colors. Instead of the leaves turning brown and dropping off, they stay green when other trees become bare.

This week, the cooler temps have turned some of the green leaves to the autumn colors of yellows and oranges and rusts.

It’s amazing that some of the leaves are still green. I’m sure that if it keeps raining, or if the wind starts blowing, there won’t be many leaves, colored or green, left on the trees.

I’m hoping for some wind! I need the horse lots to dry up. The horse lots are a mess, ankle deep with wet, slimy, greasy muck. Muck is an undetermined amount of water, dirt and manure mixed together. The only way to survive is with knee high muck boots. You hope the grain tubs are near the fence line. Then you pray that the horses haven’t dump over the tubs, or worse, have dragged the smaller, individual tubs into the slimy mess. If either of these happen, then you have to get into that mucky mixture and upright the tubs or retrieve them from somewhere in the lot. When this happens, you usually have a handful of horses, breathing down your neck for their grain. You feed who you can, keeping the mob away so they don’t bump into you and you end of sitting in the despised wetness.

I’m hoping the wind blows and dries everything up. If the horse lots ever dry up before the snow blows, then they need to be bladed and bucketed into the manure spreader to be spread out on the bean fields. If the wind blows and dries the fields, I’ll be able to get back to riding.

I would be saying “come along on the ride with me”, but I’m not sure when I’ll be riding next. But when I do, make sure to come along!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Next?

I’m getting near the end of the 2nd week since Finny died. I can talk about him now. I can talk to friends without crying. I have ridden some friend’s horses. I am ready to ride my other horses, but it has rained so much this week that it’s too cool, damp and muddy out to even want to go get them out of their muddy lots. But I will when the sun comes out!

Now, what is next? Months ago, I had started thinking about getting a gaited horse for CTR. Sometimes, Finny and I worked awfully hard to keep up to the gaited horses. When the gaited horses moved out, they did so easily. Finny and I struggled at some P&R’s, barely getting below the number that we needed before losing points. But, I have found out that gaited horses struggle also. I felt that I had Finny conditioned, as I had ridden him more days a week as other people rode their gaited horses.

Since Monday, I have been on the internet search to see what gaited horses are for sale. I have decided to look at Foxtrotters, I like the front to backward movement of their gait. I have also struggled with upper body sway going down hills. I have improved that movement by concentrating on the Centered Riding exercises that I have learned. I also feel that the front to backward movement of the Foxtrotters will help me with that sway as I go down a hill, helping me to move front to back with the horse‘s movement instead of the side to side sway.

On the internet, I have goggled Missouri Foxtrotters in Missouri. Do you know how many Foxtrotter Breeders there are in Missouri? Do you know how many Foxtrotters there are for sale in Missouri? Let’s just say that it took me from Monday evening to tonight, Thursday evening, to look at a lot of the sites and decide on a few horses to see. Right now, I’m excited to have narrowed the search down to 2 places, and more specifically, to 1 horse. I will look at this horse on Sunday. Hopefully, Sunday evening I have good news. I really like the looks of this horse. I think it is one that I can grow with. To further compete with. And to bond with.

A friend recently told me that she was glad I was looking at gaited horses. She said that looking for a gaited horse is somewhat therapeutic for me. She said I couldn’t compare Finny to a gaited horse, as the movement isn’t the same. I hadn’t thought of that before, but she is right. If I was looking for another Quarter Horse right now, I would compare each horse to Finny. I can’t compare a gaited movement to Finny’s movement. If I was looking for another Quarter Horse, I’m not sure I would be looking for another horse right now. I’m not even sure I could ride another Quarter Horse right now. I know I haven’t ridden any of my other horses yet.

I think if it ever quits raining, and the sun comes out, I’ll be able to saddle up one of my horses and ride in the fields. I’m hoping the sun comes out soon, as I’m ready to ride. Come along on the ride with me!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Riding With my Friend

Yesterday and today, I rode with my friend, Virginia. I rode her gaited Foxtrotters, Danni and Annie. Even before Finny’s death, I was considering getting a gaited horse for the CTR’s. When Finny died, I didn’t want to ride any other of my horses. A week had gone by, and I was suppose to go riding with friends for 4 days. I had planned on camping at Turkey Creek. With Finny. Then I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to Turkey Creek. And I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take another horse of mine if I did go.

Brenda W from Turkey Creek is selling some of her Tennessee Walking Horses. I made the decision to go, and not take horses, but ride some of Brenda’s that were for sale. I need to get a feel for the movement of gaited horses. The Walkers were smooth, and one filly especially moved out in a ground covering walk. But I needed to evaluate more horses.

I ride CTR’s with Virginia. She texted me Sunday morning to see if I wanted to come to her place and ride her horses. She knew I hadn’t gone back to riding any of my other horses. I had already made plans to go see a young Foxtrotter, so Virginia came with me to help evaluate her. Afterwards, I went to Virginia’s place to ride. Danni is Virginia’s CTR horse. Annie is a Foxtrotter, but she paces. I started the ride on Danni, than rode Annie. I need to get used to the movement of the gaited horses. I felt like I held a lot more with my legs. I had a hard time figuring out how much to hold and how to stay centered.

Today, I rode with Virginia again. I rode Annie the entire 2 hour ride. As I became comfortable riding her, I held her with a little more contact to control her speed, and she began to foxtrot instead of pace. The Foxtrot gait was so much smoother. The pace has the legs, on the same side of the body, moving at the same time. That gait is rough.

As I rode Annie with contact, she became smoother. There is a place on the trail that she likes to lope. She was very smooth. She was collected and light. Later, as she moved into the foxtrot, the movement was getting easier for me to feel and to ride. The movement was easier for me to achieve.

Yesterday and today, I enjoyed riding horses. They weren’t my horses, but they were horses. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to ride some of my own horses.

Come along on the ride with me. I’m ready to ride again.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Turkey Creek ride

We had a cool day at Turkey Creek, near Newcastle, NE, but the scenery is gorgeous. These pictures just don't do the area justice. With the extremely cold weather last weekend, many leaves have already fallen from the trees. There is still color, but there seemed to be more color viewing the hills in person, than from these pics. Enjoy!

Turkey Creek riders,

and dogs.

We could see s view of the river from the tree tops.

The hills are rolling mounds of trees and shrubs, leveling out to grassy hilltops.

Some of the hills were gently rolling, others had very steep ups and downs.

We rode between the hills.

I rode Brenda W's Tennessee Walkers. They definately walked out and cruised up and down these hills.

More pics:

Turkey Creek will always be special for me. This is the place that I felt a great grief lift from my heart since Finny's death. I have always enjoyed riding hills and trees, as that is what I grew up with. I believe you always go back to the beginning. You go back to what you know when you were a child. To what you love. I love hills, and trees. I love the changing seasons. I love family. And I love horses. I have always loved horses. There are pictures of me when I was a child of 5 or 6 with our family pony. There are pictures of me through the rest of my childhood with horses. Horses will always be part of my life, my soul, my heart. My heart won't beat if there aren't horses in my life.

My heart is starting to beat again. I need horses in my life. I know there is another special horse out there for me. I know there is a horse out there that needs me. And I know there is a horse out there that I need. I will begin my search. I love the changing seasons.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The End of the First Week

Tomorrow is here! I had a beautiful ride at Turkey Creek, near Newcastle, Nebraska, Friday afternoon and this morning. My heart was singing. I love the hills and trees and scenery. I felt a weighted load of grief lift from my shoulders. I took some pics that I will post tomorrow. Finny is where he needs to be right now, and I am where I need to be right now. I am sad that Finny isn’t with me, I am glad that I didn’t bring any horses this weekend, and I am grateful that Brenda is sharing her horses with me. That has made the transition in riding a different horse easier for me.

I rode Brenda W’s Tennessee Walkers. They sure do move out. Two of the horses were only 3 year olds, but they were solid on the trails. I will continue to look at horses. I need to find the right horse that will replace Finny at CTR’s. I can take my time to do that.

I had moments of sadness. I was comfortable talking about Finny, as my friends talked to me about him. We shared stories and memories. But I was ready to leave. I left Saturday late afternoon. I didn’t need to stay longer. I think that when I realized that I would be traveling home at 5 pm, and Finny was gone for exactly a week, I was glad that I was by myself.

On the way home, at 5 pm, I was at the end of the first week since Finny died. The radio played songs that reminded me that I was saying goodbye to my friend. Vayos Con Dios, Go with God. A song came on the radio, "You're always in my heart, you're always on my mind" and those lyrics will be with me forever. When you need me, I'll be there...

Then I remember the hills and trees and scenery. I remember how I felt when the sadness and guilt and pain was gone. I felt that I was suppose to be here, today, remembering Finny. Finny would want me to enjoy my rides. I think he knew me as much as I knew him. I can’t live my life grieving for him and not riding. But I can live my life remembering Finny with a great love and thankfulness. I am eternally grateful for what Finny has taught me and for what we have done together.

I will always wish that I had more time with Finny. That saddens me tonight. I am crying as I write this. I miss what could have been. I miss that I could have made Finny greater than he was. I am sorry that I couldn’t have taken better care of him. I am sorry that I didn’t have many years with him, and that I could have shared him with my lesson kids and my grandchildren. He would have been an awesome lesson horse.

But tomorrow is here. What happened, has happened. I can’t change that, but I can move on. I pray that God is riding my horse, and I pray that Finny is helping the angels learn to ride. I want to dream that Finny is running across a field, ears perked, whinnying, because he sees me at the Golden Gate, and he is running to meet me.

The Week After: Day 6

Thursday, I was to ride at Turkey Creek with friends for 4 days with Finny. Ii didn't go on Thursday. Today, Friday, I am going to Turkey Creek, but without Finny. Yesterday, I wasn’t sure I could go. Yesterday, I wasn’t sure I could take another horse. I wasn’t sure I could load another horse into the horse trailer. This early Friday morning, I had decided I could take Chick, as she doesn’t need, nor want, extra attention. Until I saw how muddy she was. I emailed Brenda at TC to ask if I could just ride her horses, and that was fine with Brenda. I didn’t need to load a horse into the horse trailer. I’m glad, as I knew if I had to load a horse, it wouldn’t be Finny.

Turkey Creek is 3 hours away, near Newcastle, Nebraska. I don’t know what happened to the first hour. My thoughts were everywhere, from horses, to the store, to parents, to the future. The next thing I knew, I was north of Fremont and had driven an hour.

I called my parents. My dad was sick late Sunday night, the day after Finny died. He was flown to a Pittsburgh hospital with an a very elevated blood pressure, due to prostrate and urinary tract problems. Luckily, they were able to treat him, and his blood pressure returned to normal. He came home Monday morning, and saw more doctors that day and on Wednesday. He is still having problems and will return to the doctors on this coming Monday. My mother has slight dementia, but seems to be doing very well this week. I think that when she gets very tired, she sleeps very well for a week, and that week that she sleeps well, she has wonderful memory. My parents are aging. What does the future hold for them?

I called my friend Dianna. She had shoulder surgery on Monday and I wanted to see who she was doing. Her father is also sick. We talked about horses, and she shared a story with me about her special horse who had died, a beautiful palomino. She dreams of her horse, seeing her loping in a field, with her flaxen mane blowing in the wind.

As I drove north, there were 2 horses in a field. One Palomino. One Black. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, less than a ½ hour after I talked to Dianna. Chills went up and down my arms. The 2 horses were standing head to tail, caressing each other’s withers. I couldn’t believe that I had just got done talking with Dianna, and less than a ½ hour, I saw these 2 horses, standing in their pasture next to the highway. Is that a sign? Are those 2 horses now in heaven, comforting each other? Were they showing their owners that they are fine? And that we should be fine?

I continued to think of the future. I am distracted. At times, I remember that Finny isn’t with me and I am sad. At times, I think of CTR, and that I had been thinking of getting a gaited horse, and I am sad. Am I being disloyal? Is it time to think of another horse already? I have talked and emailed many friends this week. Everyone had been wonderful and understanding. When I think of getting another horse, it will make it seem like Finny is gone forever. Am I ready for that?

As I drove, I came to the conclusion that I could love again. I shouldn’t be afraid to give my heart away. A good friend lost her dog, but loved the breed so much that she got another one. She showed me that to love again is special. She is very sad for the puppy that she had to say goodbye to, but she has brought another special dog into her life. I could do the same with a horse. Just because I have another horse to love doesn’t mean that I love Finny any less. It means I could share more love with another special friend. And I shouldn’t be afraid to love another horse. I shouldn’t be afraid to share that special bond with another horse. It may not be the same type of love and bond, but it will be special for that horse, and that horse only.

I realized that each horse is special. I realized that each horse brings a specific love to our life. But more importantly, I realized that I can go on and share more love. There are so many horses out there that need us, just as much as we need them. I can find that horse that I can share a special bond with, just as my friend found her dog. Our next special friend helps us with our pain of losing our other friend. I lost a very special dog, Aggie, a long time ago. I still think of this special pet to this day, sometimes with tears in my eyes. She was my dog, a well mannered Springer Spaniel, who I had through my last year of college, early marriage, and with young children. To this day, I miss the connection that I had with her. I am ready to have another dog and have that same connection. Then I realized that is the same with Finny. I will miss him deeply, and forever. But that doesn’t mean I can’t have another horse that means to me what he means to me. Finny will always mean something special to me. I am just realizing how much he meant to me. Isn’t it a shame that we realize things like this when they are gone? And that makes me sad all over again. When will this sadness and the sense that I didn’t do enough leave me? Or will it make be a better person for the next horse and dog that I love?

God says that he won’t give us any more than we can handle. I don’t know how He could think that I could handle losing Finny. My heart was breaking, and I couldn’t breathe. I sobbed in agony. How did He think I was handling that? The messages that I received from friends helped immensely. Maybe losing Finny showed me how much friends should really mean to us. Maybe losing Finny will help me with someone who loses their riding partner. Maybe losing Finny has a meaning that I have yet to discover.

I don’t know how I could have handled anything more than this. Finny’s sudden death tore my heart apart. I need to think that Finny was needed somewhere else. I need to think that someone needed Finny more than me, and my heart breaks for them, as I know how much I need Finny. I pray that the angels are having a glorious time riding him.

I believe I am healing. I rode Brenda, from Turkey Creek, Tennessee Walking horses today. And I smiled and had a good time. The horses took me on a good ride. I looked at the hills, felt the movement of the horses, and realized that I was meant to be here. I rode ahead, pushing the young mare into her gait. I needed to feel, and to sense, that this was right. Jess’s horse, Tucker, wanted to walk out. We rode side by side for a lot of the ride. She is struggling with a sickness in the family. I think our horse feel our struggles, and help us. I pray that Jess, and her family, find strength and peace in the knowledge that they have many friends around them.

As I go to bed tonight, there are still many doubts. I still wonder and question what I could have done differently. I will always feel that I didn’t do enough for Finny. But I feel differently now. I am sad, but I am learning. And what I learn will hopefully prevent the next case of colic.

As I go to bed tonight, I am starting to have wonderful memories of Finny. I am seeing the future. When I wake up, that may be the start of a tomorrow. Tomorrow is coming. I just am not sure how I feel about that

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Week After, Day 5

Today, Thursday, didn’t start off very good. I did chores, feeding dogs, cats and horses. Then I had to get the trailer ready for the weekend ride. I had planned on going to Turkey Creek for the weekend, for one last ride. I was to meet friends, starting today, but decided to postpone my start until Friday. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to go.

After chores were done, I decided to get the trailer ready. I really didn’t need to decide until Friday morning, but at least if I was going, I could fill the water tank and make sure I had hay in the trailer. Then, I realize that I hadn’t been in the trailer since I brought it home on Saturday after Finny died. As I filled water in the tank, I opened the tack room door. I only looked in, and saw Finny’s halter and lead rope. I didn’t go into the tack room. I opened the escape door of the horse area and looked in. It was stacked full of buckets and hay bags, just as my friend, Virginia, packed it hurriedly as I had to leave Indian Caves quickly. I put Finny’s halter and lead rope into one of the hay bags, close at hand but not visible. I wasn’t ready to use his halter on any other horse.

The water tank filled. I shut off the hydrant. The inevitable was waiting. I had to go into the horse area. When I open up the doors, I saw the subtle signs of struggle, and I had to clean the area. I didn’t know if I could do that. But, with tears in my eyes, I got a sponged, dampened it, and wiped the smudged areas, of small blood stains, smears, and hair on the dividers. I didn’t want to think about how they got there. But I had seen enough horses struggle in pain to know how, and my heart was breaking in two once again, knowing that my horse had struggled in pain as I rushed him to the vet clinic. And my heart ached. I couldn’t stop his pain those last 2 hours, until the end, and my heart, once again, broke in two, and I didn’t want to go anywhere in that horse trailer.

I finished the dreaded task, and went inside. My stomach was upset. I wasn’t sure if I should go ride or not. I had thought if I took a horse, it would be Chick. I wasn’t sure that if I was going, I wanted to take a horse or not. At least if I took Chick, she didn’t require a lot of attention, and I’m not sure I could give a horse much extra attention right now. I left for the store, not sure what I was doing.

Then Tammy called me. She was reading my blog. Finny meant a lot to her, too. Her horse, Windy, and Finny shared many trails and lessons, and got along . I smile as Tammy will say that Windy had a crush on Finny. And like most guys, Finny had not a clue! Tammy understood how heart breaking the situation was, how many questions I had, and how sad I felt. We will soon ride together, and we will shart memories. Healing has started.

Virginia came to the store. We talked about gaited horses, and about next year’s CTR’s. I thanked her for helping me at the trailer with Finny. And she helped me to pick out little gifts for the others who helped me on the day that Finny colicked. The vets and the people who were camped near me were wonderful, stepping in to help as soon as they saw I was having trouble with Finny.

My friend, Vicki, called, and met me after I was done at the store. She had made a crochet basket, with Finny’s name and dates on it, to hold a lock of his hair. I wouldn’t let myself get upset.

The day ended better. My friend, Tammy, on her blog, posted a tribute to Finny. At first I was sad and had tears while I read. Then the smiles came. Then the memories. And soon I was laughing. I remember the stories now. The Storm when we both were freezing, in June in Nebraska! The rattle snake sounds at Ft Rob, and once again, trying to beat a storm! That nasty horse fly at the CTR! Oh, the memories almost make me cry, but happy tears now. Thanks, tv, for reminding me that I have much more to smile about now then to cry about.

I know there are memories to make in the future. Only God knows our future, and I will let him lead my trail rides. I know I will ride a different horse, and I will try to be true to that horse. Only time heals, and I pray to God to heal my heart so that I can give my heart to another horse. There is a lot of love to go around.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Week After: Day 4

I had an early morning. Chores, which consisted of only feeding the 18+ cats and 5 dogs, and to the store by 8. I hadn’t looked at my bills for a week. I needed to answer email condolences. Today seemed as good a day as any to get back to business and accomplish that.

Bill pay. Transfer funds to pay the vet. I can’t believe how much I paid for 20 minutes of the vet‘s expertise, but that is another story. I couldn’t have put Finny down by any other method.

Emails. Who haven’t I thanked or talked to. I have a few friends that I have been emailing back and forth, trying to get answers for the question “why“. No specific answers. Maybe just things to do differently. Feed more Fiber. Worm every 2 months or with a continual wormer. Watch for high sugar diets. Watch for overtraining, and lactic acid build up in the muscles. Keep the hind gut sound. Keep riding.

A few more people sent emails. One had pictures of horses on a path to heaven. Oh my, the horse was big and black. The other email was about a poem about what God needed. I could only read 2 paragraphs. I’ll finish the poem tonight or tomorrow, and let you know if I could read the whole thing. Basically, it was about God riding our horses! That God needed them. I have always known that my heaven would be a heaven with horses. I just never pictured the angels riding my horses. I couldn’t read any further. That is going to be a tear jerker.

I am dealing with Finny’s death by thinking about another horse. I can’t stay just focused on his death, or I couldn’t leave the sorrow that I feel. For me, I need something more to think about. I really don’t want to think about my other horses that I have here, but I can think about another horse to ride. Strange, isn’t it?

I went to town with my daughter-in-law and grandson this afternoon. The day was misty and dreary out, and I really didn’t want to come home and sit in the house, doing nothing. It was great having a distraction, and I love being distracted by my grandchildren.

One of my adult lesson riders stopped by after work. She is a behavioral psychologist. We talked. She wanted to know if there is anything she can do. She is new to horses, but she talks to people about their problems. She just listened to me talk. Or she seemed to want me to talk. I don’t know if I was being evaluated, but it felt good to just talk matter-of-factly.

I’m tired tonight. A lot of thinking today. Figuring out what the answers to the questions are. I think I’ll go on my trail ride this weekend. I’m not sure I want to talk about Finny when I get there. I just want to see the scenery. I don’t really care what horse I will ride. Tom asked who I’m taking, and I told him that I didn’t have many choices.

I guess I’ll be riding soon. I’m not sure who.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Week After, Day 3

Today is better. After talking with Virginia yesterday, I knew I had to work on getting some answers to my questions. The sadness is leaving, but there is an emptiness.

I had to get up early as the horses needed a round bale. I can’t do that alone. I can get a bale, feed the horses some grain to keep them away from the open gate, open the gate, pull the tractor and bale through, get off and close the gate, and drive to the round bale feeder. But I can’t lift the round bale feeder anymore. I used to be able to do that, but what happens to your strength as you age? So that means I had to get up early before Tom left for work and get him to help me.

As I drove to my eye appointment this morning, Christi, a fellow CTR friend, called me. This was the first day that I could talk to someone on the phone and not cry. She, as well as many friends who own horses, have gone through either colic or a death of a horse. Since I have gone through all the emotions, I could talk.

I told Christi that I tried to figure out what I could have done differently. If I hadn’t rode Finny, he wouldn’t have died. But like Christi said, and to everyone out there who is reading this, REMEMBER THIS, if you don’t use your horse for what you have planned to do with your horse, then the horse would be sitting in the pasture and you wouldn’t be doing anything. Do you not go back into a car after you hear about a car accident? Some things like this happen, and we won’t know why.

Another thought: changing feed and electrolytes don’t always help. Doing anything differently that day may not have helped. Colic just happens, and it stinks.

I could talk this morning because I think the sadness and guilt and questions and anger are a little less. I have been in the horse business long enough to know that horses are going to die and sometimes there is nothing you can do. Sometimes, all we can do is make the suffering go away. Sometimes, all we can do is be their friend while they are here and remember them when they are gone.

Today, at the store, I could talk to a few people about Finny. I felt like I was talking about him as though he was a different horse or belonged to someone else. I felt like when I talked about how he died, I separated myself from Finny and was talking about the problem. Maybe today, that is how I am dealing with the emotions.

Today, I could finally talk to Sara. She only knew that Finny had colic and died. I had only texted her and briefly told her as soon as I left the vet clinic on Saturday. She had read the blog and knew what had happened. We talked about Finny. And I talked about the ride. And about Duke. And about her horses.

And I talked to Makenzie, even though all she did was wave at the phone. I ride horses to pass my love of horses on to Makenzie and Caden.

This love can’t be suppressed. We need to love. We need to mourn. We need to remember. We need to smile over the wonderful memories. We need to keep riding.

I’ll be riding again soon. Not today. Probably not tomorrow. But soon.

Today I said Goodbye to my Friend

Today I had to say goodbye to my friend Finny
We rode our best ride today
He did everything I asked and he did it well.
We were a team. We were as one.

Today I had to say goodbye to my friend and my heart hurts.
My heart is heavy. My heart is breaking in two
There is a lump in my throat and I can’t swallow
The tears and sobs come hard.

Today the reality of death has set in.
Finny, my friend, is not here.
Finny will never be here again.
And the tears come back.

Where is my tall black horse today?
He is not with the other horses.
I don’t see him because he is gone.
I won’t ever see him again. And the tears come back.

There is a tomorrow.
Tomorrow will bring memories and smiles.
I don’t know when tomorrow will be here.
I just know that today my friend is gone.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Week After Finny is Gone Day 1 and 2

Finny died Saturday, Oct 10, 2009 at 5 pm, after a fantastic CTR at Indian Caves.

Day 1. Sunday October 11. I had cried hard last night. Tom rubbed my back as I sat in bed and bawled. I couldn’t lay down as my head was all stuffed up. I got up to get a drink, laid down, and slept. I woke up at 5:30 with a headache, took a Tylenol, ate some oatmeal, and went back to bed until 8:30. I tried to read what my friends wrote to me, but I couldn’t. I processed what happened. I shut the computer off and existed until noon. Tom and I went to town. I needed to get away from here. I didn’t do morning chores and I didn’t want to see my other horses. When we got home, I did grain the horses, but did not spend any extra time with them. I had the dogs out for a few minutes, but I didn’t even want to play with them. I came back to the computer and read what everyone wrote. I didn’t cry as much. My pain wasn’t so great, or so I thought. I went to bed late, after 11 pm.

Day 2. Monday. I slept solid until 7 am. The phone woke me up. My sister called from PA. My dad was life lined to Pittsburgh due to an obstruction in his urinary tract. He was in pain and his blood pressure was dangerously high. Our small town emergency room could not get him cauterized, and they didn’t think he could tolerate the 2 hour trip to Pittsburgh. He was flown to the hospital in Pittsburgh at 1 am. My sister took my mom home to wait. By 7 am, he was safe to travel back home. My brother drove to pick him up this morning and he should be home by noon.

I thought I was better this morning. After I got off the phone, I opened my bedroom drapes. The sun was out even though it is still cold out. I thought I should ride, then realized that Finny wasn’t here to ride. The heavy sadness is coming back. This morning, before going to feed dogs, it started to snow. I thought of tears from heaven, but they must be heavy tears, since they were of snow and not rain. I wonder if Finny is as sad as I am. I wonder if he is crying. I was to meet my daughter-in-law and grandson in town. I called her to cancel. I just couldn’t. I hate not seeing my grandson, but I just couldn‘t feel happy about seeing him. I would probably just cry. I called the vet. They would take care of Finny today. I cut off his tail to bring home, but I asked the vet clinic if they would cut his mane braids. I don’t know why I didn’t do that. But I think it will be nice to have the braids. I asked my friend Virginia to stop by the clinic and pick them up for me. I don’t want to go there today. She also is bringing me my CTR cards from Saturday. I will have my last memories of my last ride with Finny.

I made a big pot of soup with whatever I could find. Beef stew meat, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, carrots, and then zucchini chunks. Tom is not going to be happy when he realizes there is zucchini in the crock pot. That thought gives me a little smile. I thought that I better eat healthy today and get some veggies into me. And I need to drink more water. My head is starting to hurt. Probably too much caffeine.

I have read a few more friend’s notes this morning. And I started crying all over again. The finality is hitting hard. Finny isn’t here any longer. I can’t look out the kitchen window and see him with the other horses. I can’t go to the fields and ride him. There is a lot I can’t do anymore. My heart is heavy and there is a big lump in my throat. Tears are streaming down my cheeks. How do I get over the pain of loss? Of guilt? Of emptiness?

Today I am home from the store. No Mondays at the store since I’ll be open on Saturdays. But the weather is crappy. Cooler temps and a dampness is in the air. I’ll have to go outside. I’ll have to see the other horses. They need their grain and their water tank filled. The dogs need to be left out to run. My other animals will make me go outside when I really don’t want to. I cleaned the toilets. I played around on my computer, saving pictures from my camera. I have no desire to do much more than that.

I feel better tonight. Virginia brought me Finny’s mane braids and my CTR cards from Saturday. She brought me a wonderful card and a letter filled with very wonderful thoughts from my fellow riders from the CTR. We shared some coffee and some memories. We talked about the reasons why. We talked about the CTR day on Saturday. We talked about how Finny looked when I got back to camp and how his condition grew worse so quickly. I talked about how this is so hard to believe that it happened so quickly. I talked about being sad, being angry, feeling guilt. We talked about what we would have done differently. And we talked about what we have learned from this. We shared some thoughts of what we might change because of going through this colic ordeal. We talked about what we will educate ourselves about before our next big rides. And Virginia told me that I will be ready to move on when it is time. Take the time to mourn, then get back to horses!

The healing has started. I’m not quite so sad. I know Finny won’t be on my next rides and I will always miss him. I’m not quite so upset about the whys. I will always wonder if I could have done things differently - that’s just part of life. What I have learned is to start doing now what I would have done differently.

But it’s hard to think about going on the next ride. It will be hard to know that I won’t be pulling Finny out of the lot to ride.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Finny and Indian Caves

Yesterday, I had to write part of the following on my friend Tammy's website Horsetales.

I had a great ride today. I had put Finny into a mechanical hackamore the last 2 weeks. We were working on some chomping the bit issues, etc. He was riding great at home! We went to Indian Caves yesterday. After check in, I rode for about an hour, just Finny and I. He was mister calm, and rode around like he does at home. I blanketed last night, and this morning was a little chilly, but no snow or rain!!! We rode 20 miles, had great obstacles, did well at P&R's. After the 2nd P&R, we had 4 miles to camp, and since we were way ahead of time, we mostly walked in, with a little trotting. No changes. He did great all day. Finny even wanted to stop and graze on the way to camp. But, at camp, he wanted to lay down even before I got the saddle off. Strange, since the only time he rolls is when I turn him out to pasture after a ride. He was off. After a little water, very little hay, a little bit of grain with some water on it, he wanted to lay down again, all within 10 minutes of the first time. Then within another 10 minutes, it was apparent that something was wrong. At that time, the vet judge was coming to trailers, and she was there to help with Finny. We got some banamine and another muscle relaxant into him, and it only took the edge off. With friends helping, while Finny was being helped, hay bags and water buckets were put into my trailer, I was already hitched, the trailer was pulled onto the road, and Finny was loaded. He needed to see a vet. I made the hard decision, in 15 minutes, to not try for colic surgery but get vet care. I trailered to the vet clinic near me, but it was too late. The vet said that nothing would have helped. Finny was twisted near the rectum, and the vet said it probably happened during the ride, since he was uncomfortable at the very end of the ride. The vet says that can happen, that guts can twist any time. Finny was already in too much pain, and I put him down. Go hug your horse tomorrow. You really never know. I was having an awesome day, but Dear God, when does the hurting stop?
I'm thanking you now for your thoughts and prayers, as I don't think I'll be able to respond for a few days. I'm having a hard time tonight.

I was able to talk to a few people. Very few. I can’t believe how bad I hurt. I can’t believe how tired my brain is right now. I feel terrible. A friend who knows horses well and understands all about pharmaceuticals, told me that I could not have seen this coming, or have prevented it. He was not stressed during the ride. His P&R and metabolic check was great just an hour before finishing the ride. The day was cold out and he didn’t sweat and become over heated.
I knew as soon as I got back to the trailer that something was wrong. He wanted to lay and roll. That wasn’t like him. He didn’t roll until he was turned out. He wanted to go keep going down. This wasn’t looking good. He got very bad very quickly. Drugs didn’t help him. I knew this wasn’t going to be good. He was in distress and help was almost 2 hours away. I prepared for the worse, hoping and praying for a good ending. As soon as I opened the trailer door, I knew. He didn’t have that death look, but he had been down and struggling. He got up, he walked with me. He walked with me to the exam. He walked with me outside. He walked with me to where he would go to sleep. He laid down easily, and I said goodbye. I tried to close his eyes. I was able to save his tail. We covered him up. I turned to my husband and cried. I started to shut out the emotions as I had to drive home. Emotions opened back up that night. My heart felt like it was breaking in two.
I have to believe this happened during the ride for some unforeseen and unbelievable reason. I have to believe that this just happened.

Tonight, I emailed my friends to thank them:
From the bottom of my heart, thank you! For your kind words, thoughts, prayers. I am better today, but very, very sad. I cried myself to sleep last night, poor Tom. He is definitely my rock. I woke up with a headache at 5:30, took some tylenol and slept until 8:30. Each of your words are healing my heart and giving me a reason to go on. TV, if you ever doubt whether this group is worth having because there is not much talking on it, don't ever go there again. The first posts made me cry harder, and I had to turn the computer off last night. This morning, I was able to read but stilled cried. Tonight, I can read without crying, then I was able to re-read everything and read what people were actually telling me. I am feeling better only because I had all of you out there, helping me in my pain, confusion, guilt, questions. I needed people who understand, and like some of you said, we understand because we have gone through this. I didn't think a heart could feel so bad. My heart was breaking last night. Going to bed was the hardest. That is when everything hit me like bricks. Dear God, I hurt so bad. Today, I didn't do chores this morning, and I made Tom take me to town this afternoon, to get away. My head cleared and I could do chores tonight. But I really couldn't talk or watch the horses. I wasn't ready to think anymore about Finny. I am mentally exhausted tonight, to the point of no thought process, so maybe that is why I can type this now. I was able to tell my sons tonight without crying. I still can't bring myself to actually talk to my daughter about Finny, I could only text her. Terri, your words were so insightful and I appreciate them. TV, thanks for what you said about what Finny was to me. To all of you, you all have made me feel a little less sad. I don't know what will happen next, but I know we all have each other.
Thanks for being our friend, Brenda and Finny

I can think about Finny now. I really don’t want to do anything with the other horses yet. I did ask my husband if he thought we had plans for Duke, our stud. I had planned on gelding him last year, and then this spring, but thought we might want to have babies again. I’m thinking about gelding him and riding him. I have always loved his lope. He is Finnys’ older half brother. But I need to wait until my heart is there. I need to be fair to both Finny and Duke.

I will, sometime, figure out the reason that this happened. Maybe there isn’t a reason why, maybe I will just understand why. I hope I will be able to go on and help someone with what I learn.

Thanks for being my friend, Finny. We have had some awesome rides together. I miss you so much already. I was, and will always be, your riding buddy. My heart aches for you, and for what happened to you. I am so sorry that you suffered. I hope I was a comfort during your last half hour.

I wish you could come along on the next ride with me. I pray that you will always be with me in spirit.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Smells and Sights of Fall

Walking outside this week, fall was in the air. One warm morning, before the cold windy weather came later in the week, you could smell fall. The warm air mixed with drying leaves. I walked outside with a jacket on and immediately took it off.

I was having the farrier come to trim horses.

The air was very warm, and rain was coming. And colder north winds were coming. Mixed that air with all the forage that was drying, and you have the smell of Fall!

I love fall. I love the colors. I love the changing leaves.

I love the deep colors of mums.

Today, I took a long ride to the field. And I took my camera. What better way to work on soft eyes than to be looking at the world around me. What better way then to see that world through a camera lens. And then to see that view, that you saw through the camera lens, in the pictures that are in front of you.

I love the red of ripened apples.

Fall is harvest time.

Soybeans and corn.

The fields are beginning to be bare.

But even the weeds are drying up.

The katydids are getting browner.

I hate these stickers though.

They seem to jump off the plant and right into the horse’s tail. I watch for these while I ride, and I veer widely around them!

The leaves are dropping off the trees.

The grasslands are turning brown.

The sumac is becoming a deeper shade of red.

The hedge apples from the Osage Orange tree.

Fall becomes crisper. And colder. But before it does, there will be plenty of days like today to ride.

Come along on the ride with me!

More Conditioning Part 2

Since the Stephens Forest CTR, I needed to actively condition my horse, Finny, not just ride him for a specific amount of time or for a specific distance. Over the last week, I continued working on what I had changed during the previous week. I really hadn’t changed anything else. I needed to make sure that what I had changed was going to work for me. And it has!

Last week, I had decided to shorten my stirrups 1 notch. I know I could keep more leg on my horse if my stirrups were shorter, and this year I could do that. This year, with my Centered Riding exercises, I haven’t ached. My feet are grounded in the stirrups, giving my a solid feeling, like I am standing on the ground. I keep a little more leg on my horse as I 2-pointed, yet I still kept my knees soft and relaxed. So that I didn’t appear as if I was hitting the cantle as I 2-pointed at the extended trot, I hold just slightly more with my calves. But I don’t hold so tight that I am squeezing with my knees. Hold enough to stay steady when you 2-point.

I constantly check my balance now. I keep aware of staying in the middle of my saddle so I wouldn’t change my balance as I move. A slight ½” lean can make you appear very off center, with one leg longer than the other and with the whole body leaning. I stay aware of my stirrup and leg length. The angle of the upper leg should equal the angle of the lower leg. As I rode this past week, I stayed aware of staying in the center of my horse. When riders are centered, they ride over the horse’s center of gravity. You feel the horse’s movement, and you move with the horse. You move as one!

I had changed my arm position as I am holding the reins. I always check to make sure that I don’t have tension in my shoulders. With the additional Centered Riding exercises that I am doing, I rarely have shoulder tension. I also stay aware of how I am holding my neck. Centered Riding is about staying BALANCED. And having skeletal alignment. Since the head is 11-14#, (isn’t that amazing!), it doesn’t take much of a head tilt, looking down or looking sideways, to have your neck out of alignment. And with that weight tipped forward, think about how much weight is on the forehand. It would be like 2 or 3 5# flour or sugar bags leaning on the horse’s shoulders!

To work on Finny’s bit chomping, I rode with a mechanical hackamore this week. I love it!!! He is not anxiously or nervously chomping on the bit. He isn‘t even trying to chomp. It is amazing! He grazes easily. I have worked on him standing longer. When he didn’t want to stand still, I moved him forward and backward. I have stayed relaxed. The mechanical hackamore has done the job of helping Finny to relax.

Now, I’ll continue riding with the hackamore this week. I’ll add some distance and some speed. I’ll let him graze after each extended trotting time. I’m hoping for a more relaxed horse next weekend!

AND, another big area that I will work on this week, is HOW I 2-point. I have a traditional Quarter Horse Hunt Seat training, or what I had perceived as correct. This was NOT correct for Jumping! While during my 2nd part of the Level 1 Centered Riding Instructors Course, I learned that the rider’s CENTER is to stay over the Bubbling Spring of the foot! AND, when you 2-point, that remains the same! My next blog will be about me actively riding this way. I have also started teaching this during my past few lessons with students!

Come along on the ride with me! And continue to stay relaxed while you ride!


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