Writing has always been a way for me to express my thoughts. While I had The Old Horse to write about, it was easy to find words because he was such a part of my life and easy to talk about. I find myself at a loss of words now because memories of actual life often bring me sadness. I want to bring forth happy memories, however it seems I am always drawn to melancholy events. I have experienced great joy in my life while also moments of extreme sorrow. Since this is my blog, since The Old Horse is gone in body, since my topic for this blog was originally about the horses and me GROWING OLD Together, I intend to keep it titled as is and move on to topics that pertain to an aging body, an aging brain, and the joys and perils of a life lived. And, of course, I will still write about my paint horse, Reo, who remains alive and well.
Sometimes it’s just too hard to put words down on paper, and so this blog has been silent for awhile. I am filled with grief over the loss of The Old Horse, Buddy. All these years of being a part of my life, with only a few separations, and now, finally, the separation is final. He died in the pasture he shared with Reo, but it was an unpleasant ending on a gloomy day in mud and pain, not what I had always planned for his final days. How sad that after all the years together with me spoiling him and caring for him, that I could not make his final hours better and peaceful. It is unfortunate that we cannot go back in time and salvage the regretful times and make them purer and more acceptable. Both my husband and I were with The Old Horse until he took his last breath. We believe he knew we were there, but that doesn’t stop the pain we felt as we lost him. My tears are for him, for me, and for my husband. Buddy is buried in a beautiful valley between a river and a creek, amidst beautiful trees and pastureland. It is a place we would like to have our ashes spread when our time comes, along with the ashes of our beloved dogs, and thereby join The Old Horse in whatever lies ahead.
We began to heal and remember moments we had shared, and then our beautiful aged dog, Jake, told us it was time for him to leave us, too. We did not want to believe him at first, but gradually his unhappiness with life bore down on us and we accepted that he was ready to join our other pets and leave us. We have not been able to stop our grieving yet, but we will, I know. It is very hard to look around and not see his big hairy body taking up all the room in our small condo. I somehow cannot convey how much I loved these animals and how much a part of my existence they had become. I am told their memories will bring me happiness and laughter, but right now I find that impossible to fathom as I hurt so very much.
They are physically gone, and I accept that part, but my heart hurts and my tears flow. I do understand that sometime in the future I will cope with this massive loss and look around and take pleasure in my family; in my two happy rescue dogs, Chloe and Nellie; and in our paint horse, Reo. They are all proof that living is good and a future awaits. But for now, I grieve.
I finally brought The Old Horse, Buddy, back with me, where I can care for him and take pleasure knowing he is close by. I am happy and feeling as if this life change we recently made is complete. We are all here now: Chuck, me, our three dogs and both horses. It is a good feeling.
I made arrangements for Buddy to be picked up and felt excited but totally in control of my emotions, that is until the trailer pulled up and The Old Horse began acting up. Imagine this…a 32 year old horse prancing and neighing because I was leading him away from his girl, Bella! His last week at his Lexington home had been pretty dramatic. Another mare came in to share the pasture with Bella and him. It was more than his maleness could handle. He tried his best to keep the new mare away from Bella, while at the same time he was intrigued with the new female entering his life. What to do?
So he ran around as he had when he was two years old, forgetting that his 32 year old horse legs were full of arthritis, and managed to keep both mares separated. He kept Bella to himself, and still eyed the new mare, deciding if she was to become part of his herd or was a true interloper. For seven days he carried on, losing weight and inflaming his arthritic knees. A rescue was in order.
After arriving at the barn, and enticing him into the barn, I attempted to calm him and wrap his legs for traveling. He was having none of that. He ran circles around me, he neighed loudly, threw his head around, and ignored my presence by pulling on the lead line and testing my muscle strength! I am not as strong as I once was, being old like him, and did not want to fight him, since he would have won by sheer size and strength. I determined that Bella had to be brought in to the barn with Buddy to calm him. Once she was in her stall next to him, he began to relax and allowed me to apply the shipping wraps on his legs.
I remained steady throughout, although I must admit I began to realize my nerves were quite reactive. I was not going to allow this situation to get away from me. Calmness was called for, and calmness was what I brought forth from within. When the trailer arrived, I attached the lead line to his halter and thought to myself that I needed more control. Rather than just the lead line I ran a stud chain over his nose for better control. In the 30 years Buddy has been with me, I may have used the stud chain three times, but I believed for my safety and his mental state, it was necessary now. We walked, kind of, down the lane to the trailer and the van driver took the Old Horse from me and led him into the very spacious trailer. Buddy followed his years of training and went in to the trailer properly with no problems. His journey to his new, and last, home began.
Now my calmness was beginning to waiver as I traveled the one and half hour drive to StoneRidge Stables. Was Buddy’s old body going to handle all this trauma; would he survive another change in his life; would he be able to get over the loss of Bella? Those questions are yet to be answered.
Upon arriving at his new home, he unloaded quietly and immediately began eating grass. He appeared to be okay as we put him in his new stall, eating the hay offered and looking out over the stall door. I relaxed.
By the next morning his week of studly behavior, and the trailer ride, showed their dramatic effects upon him. His arthritic knees and hocks were inflamed, stiff, and locked up. He could barely stand, was definitely in pain, and also experiencing gut pains, probably an ulcer brought on by his frantic behavior last week. The only thing we could do for him was give him Bute, and turn him out in the grassy field to walk about. It was the right decision, as the next day his appetite appeared and he enjoyed his grain, drank lots of water, and did not show gut pains. Of course, the arthritis did not disappear. He walked stiff legged, but he did not hesitate to go out in the pasture with Reo. What happened upon their greeting is another story. Nothing is as simple as we like.
So, here I go again. I have been thinking this over, off and on now, for two months. Should the Old Horse Buddy stay where he is, or should he join me here where I think he belongs? I have decided he belongs near me in his ending years. He is well-fed at my friends; but he is not cared for; i.e., groomed and given treats, and checked for sores, and so on. Are those things important to the Old Horse? I truly don’t know, but they’re important to me. I want to perform those things for him.
I visited him yesterday, and he appeared pleased to see me. His knees were definitely stiff, but he walked strongly through the tall grass and rocky terrain. I led him to the barn and into his stall, and he relished finishing off his morning senior feed. He really enjoyed my grooming him, as he quietly stood while I scrubbed off his dusty loose hair and dried mud with the bristle brush. Hair and dirt flew over his body and onto my clothing, and into my nose, causing me to sneeze. When I stopped brushing, he bent his head back and rubbed my hand to continue on, which I did.
Suddenly he heard Bella in the pasture behind the barn, and he became agitated at his separation from her. He nickered, and nudged my hand to encourage me to lead him back out to the field. I fastened the lead line to his halter and he gently pushed me aside as we approached the gate. He did, however, take the time to nose my pocket for hidden treats before he walked through the open gate to join Bella and Toby.
I began to think that perhaps he might be more relaxed and content if he didn’t have to worry about that mare all the time. He was much more relaxed when he lived with only geldings. I wish I could ask him if being “love sick” all the time wasn’t a burden on his psyche? And then I remembered how Reo was so uptight when he was around mares, and became so much mellower she placed with only geldings. My thoughts are that perhaps Buddy also would be more relaxed living with Reo and his pasture mates. But would the trauma of separation be too difficult for a horse his age?
I’m going to find out and move him up here to live at StoneRidge with Reo, where I can check on him a few times a week rather than once a month. I think I’m doing the right thing. Time will tell.
When I was a child I thought old people were kind of different, but lovable. I wondered what it would feel like to be old, with leathery skin and scant hair. I am no longer a child; I am the old person, and I do hope I’m lovable. But I do find myself grumpy, not feeling lovable, and having leathery skin. However, I do not have scant hair…I have plenty of hair, except my eyebrows. They are almost invisible until I put a little brow pencil to them. It’s amazing how much better a face looks with eyebrows!
As a child, waking up in the middle of the night usually meant a sad or monster dream, and mother would be there to comfort me. Now waking up means my joints and muscles hurt, or I dreamt about forgetting an important event or job or responsibility. There is no one to comfort me as I arise from bed and head to the medicine cabinet to take some Tylenol and rub cannabis salve on my aching arthritic joints. Then back to bed to feel the pain slowly ebb as the medicine begins it’s work. And sleep comes.
As a child I believed I would always be capable of performing any act I chose. I could run; I could jump; I could sleep under the stars and watch the moon’s face change throughout the night. I cannot run or jump any longer, but by God, I can still watch the moon’s face change as I look skyward in the night from my patio chair.
I rode my horses freely and without fear as a child. I galloped them, and swam with them, and felt joy in their dancing antics. I no longer ride freely, as fear enters this old mind and falling is no longer a small matter. Where once a torn face and scarred leg did not matter, now a slight bump brings bruising that lasts for weeks rather than days. And yet, the joy of sharing life with a living creature overcomes the fear and I find myself, if only for a few moments, being the child that gleefully embraces the freedom of living life upon a horse and being part of another world.
Being old is not what I thought it would be when I was a child looking at old people. It is much more complicated than I anticipated, and the lines on my face register the years of loss and happiness, of deep love, and of experiences that tested my mettle. I am not sad at being old; but I am sad at losing the child I once was.
I rode Reo yesterday. First time in a long while. My hip joints have been troublesome and the last time I tried to mount I took too long to get on and he stepped away and I took a tumble. Surprised both him and me. I did get on and ride that day, but it wasn’t much worthwhile since I was deflated by my inabilities. Yesterday I vowed I would not let my sore hip prevent me from riding. Besides, the cannabis topical cream I’ve been using has worked almost miraculously. My hip feels so much better…still a dull ache, but no unbearable pain. Amazing stuff!
I mounted without any trouble, settled in the saddle and Reo stepped out slowly toward the outdoor riding ring. Unfortunately, the ring is hard and rocky again. Too much rain, and it is in need of lots of sand. Okay for walking around; not okay for serious trotting or loping. A few rounds of walking and we head out the gate toward the lane. Reo did his usual act…afraid of everything. Here he is, a big, stout Paint horse afraid of sounds, movement in the woods, birds flying and chirping, and general life milling about. I talk to him, his ears flicker as he listens to me, but the happenings surrounding us prevent him from walking peacefully down a country lane. Look left; look right; stop; trot; and on we go. We reach the end, turn, and now we relax and walk back quietly, although very alert.
Back into the riding ring, two times around, and head back down the lane. No. He stops and insists we are going back to the barn. Nope. My spurs gently tell him to move forward, we are going down this lane again. I may be old, but I’m just as stubborn as he is. I win, and we proceed down the lane, and do exactly the same thing as the first time…everything is scary. The wind picks up, there are more leaves rustling, the four horses in the pasture nearby shuffle about, and for the first time we notice the Licking River flowing nearby. We do make our way to the end of the lane, turn again, and this time he wants to pick up the pace. We walk. We trot. We walk. Back to the ring. He is very annoyed with me now, but we walk around the ring one more time.
He wants to rush to the mounting block. We walk. He stands quietly while I dismount, and our ride is over. After grooming, grazing on the lush lawn grass, I return him to his turnout area. He snarfs the apple treats I offer, and I walk away with one last glimpse of him heading toward the other horses. A very good day, and I feel younger and at peace with my world.
My handsome paint horse, Reo, has finally settled into his new home at StoneRidge Stables. He shares 22 acres of wooded hills and grassland. Mostly woods, but enough forage to keep him healthy and satisfied. His two gelding pasture mates are like him…hefty quarterhorse types, actually Paints, with lots of white coloring and kind dispositions.
I wonder if Reo misses his favorite pasture mate, Scout, who is still at the previous barn in Lexington ? I know at first he searched for Scout at this new barn, but these two new fellows have accepted him and he them, and I believe he is comfortable and contented at last. Domesticated horses are at our mercy as to where they live and how they live. Reo is fortunate I am his owner, as I am paranoid that he be cared for properly, and kept safe, groomed, and treated with kindness. I do adore this handsome horse, with his greedy food fetish (he’ll eat anything) and his quirky mannerisms. But this horse senses I’m not agile anymore and tolerates some of my odd mannerisms, too. How many horses would stand while an old lady mounts in such a way that she basically lays on his neck while she tries to swing her arthritic leg over his back! Reo does that for me, and I do so much appreciate that. Once I’m on, he is tolerant of my training methods, my weak legs, my too soft hands, and my irritation at our failure to accomplish a nice, quiet lope. He’s 16, I’m 76. We’re a good match. I don’t take any crap from him, and he doesn’t take any misdirected crap from me. Perfect!
When we’re done riding, he enjoys grazing on the nice lawn surrounding the barn before he is taken back to his turnout area. He whinnies for his friends. They do not respond. He nudges my pockets because he knows they are filled with apple nuggets. He will get gobs of them when he enters the gateway like a gentleman, which he mostly does. He stands behind the gate and watches me walk away. I turn and watch him walk away. I find peace then, but melancholy, too. I could stand and watch him for hours, but I am called to return home. Besides the damn flies are very annoying.
It has occurred to me that I have not spoken about losing people in my life. I spoke about losing items, I spoke about the Old Horse being away, but I have not spoken about the loss of my sisters or parents. I think that’s odd, since the impact of their leaving this earth was and is difficult to accept. Now and then I find myself tearing up and realize how much I miss them; and yet, it seems so much easier to not dwell on their loss than it is to dwell on how much I miss the Old Horse, who is still alive but not with me. I wonder about emotions. My emotions don’t seem to match up with my inner self. I only lost my sister, Cyndi, a few months ago. I was forced to be strong, as though my mother told me to be. “Take care of the situation, Myra.” “Be solid. Make decisions.” And I did; but I lost any softness within me. I have had that same thing happen many times. When a favorite cat was killed on the day my youngest son went to war, and I had to hold in emotions to spare my husband pain; when Debra was my responsibility in life and death; when Chuck had a near death experience and decisions had to be made; when my children experienced painful life situations. Always be strong. Hold things together. Be “cold” and endure keeping my heart within. Can I say I resent this? Absolutely not. It’s actually much easier to be in control than to allow emotions to overflow. Of course, this is me, the woman who cries when she says goodbye to her children when they depart to their own homes. Who cries when she sees an animal in crisis. Who cries when she thinks of the Old Horse. Who cries when she watches a sad movie. Emotions abruptly appear, and just as quickly close off. Perhaps this is what being human is. Handling life as it appears.
A lot can happen in six weeks, and one thing is that I have aged three years in these past six weeks. Odd how stress and loss can alter a person’s physical well-being. I moved, along with my husband, three dogs, and one horse. I’ve left behind the old Appy, and struggle with that. I brought the paint horse, Reo, and he has had to endure dramatic changes in his life. It’s been hard on all of us, but I hope now that we are “settled” in our new environment that some sort of peacefulness will begin and we will all learn to enjoy our new lifestyle.
My loss is simply with material items, some that I felt were cherished mementos given to me by family members. I have hung on to my sister, Debra’s things because they bring her closer to me, even though she’s been gone for over 15 years. I have gifts my kids gave me that I feel wrong about giving away to strangers. I have stuffed animals that each represent an experience that needed warmth. I have photographs from my childhood that my mother saved, and now I save them. For what? Not sure. I put life into “things” and thus feel cruel discarding them. Such a childish way to live at my age. Hard to let go, as they say, with memories.
The new townhouse is much smaller than our last few homes, but it’s settled now and I am comfortable. It is rather nice to have less to maintain: no yard work, vacuum cord reaches all rooms, not so much to dust, easy kitchen clean-up, and so on. One good thing, we have managed to keep a good portion of our art work, and that pleases me.
The dogs really gave up most, I think. They used to have a big house and a private, fenced yard with free access from the house to the yard . Now they have had to learn to go to a patio door and scratch, or yip, or stare until we respond with the leashes and go out with them. They do seem to enjoy the constant contact with us, however, except perhaps Chloe, who misses her early morning free roaming. The old dog, Jake, appears to like the leash walks, except he took sick this week and struggles with the short walks. He is excited to go out, but disappointed at his own lack of energy. He is failing, but still wants to live.
As I said, the old horse, Buddy, is still in Georgetown at my friends small farm. He is still madly in love with the big mare Bella, and content with his life. I go visit him every couple of weeks, but that is not enough for me. I could go more often, but I have grown to dislike the drive, even though it’s only a little over an hour. (That is another thing that tells me I am rapidly aging.). I am still seriously thinking of moving him up here so that I can care for him properly. Last visit I was not happy with the rain rot that had developed on his back. Other than that, he looked healthy, although a little thin. He is, I must remind myself, 32 years old. If I could find a small place up here where he could have a nice pasture mate, I just might move him. Especially if my friend sells Bella, as she is thinking of doing.
Reo’s new home is much more rustic than he, or I, are used to. It is hilly, rocky, full of trees, weedy pastures, and over 130 acres. The horses are very well cared for, not pampered, and relaxed. The drive, 16 miles, is not my favorite thing, and I try to use the time to think good thoughts, but mostly I grumble to myself. Reo is pastured with mares, and his demeanor has changed quite a bit. He never cared if I took him out of the pasture when he was with his old gelding herd. But now I have to listen to him neigh, and paw the ground, and move all over. It’s been six weeks and I see little improvement. I have asked that he be put with only geldings, but they tell me is is aggressive toward them. That is a new thing, and I’m sure it is because of the presence of the mares. I will have to solve this soon so that I can enjoy riding him. He is still slightly lame, so can’t do much anyway. I find I have lost some confidence in him, which means I better get my own act together and demand his attention!
So, a new environment for humans, for dogs, and for horses.
Two days ago I went to visit Buddy. He was swatting flies away as he and his two companions stood in the shade of a large oak tree. I called to him, he looked, and then obviously did not think I was worth leaving the shade for, as he simply stood there and gazed at me. So I grabbed his halter off the stall and opened the gate to enter the pasture, all the while calling and whistling. When I got within three feet of him, he finally decided to walk over to me. He lowered his head for the halter, and quite nicely walked with me back to the gate, through the gate, and directly into the barn and into his stall. There was a little bit of Purina Equine Senior left in his feed trough, so he began eating. I added some Purina Omelene to the pellets, and his level of eating increased with enthusiasm. He used to love his midday feeding, so the combination of sweet feed and an afternoon snack was a happy occurrence for him.
Meanwhile, Bella and Toby had wandered up to the gate, neighing for their “leader” to come back. I thought for sure Buddy would be anxious to get back to them, but it appeared the Omolene was more enticing. When he had cleaned up the feed trough, he walked out of the stall (which I had neglected to close) and stood in the aisle way waiting for me to snap the lead line on his halter and take him back out. I did just that, and as we approached the gate Buddy did a slight neck arch, a deep-throated neigh and reached out to touch nose-to-nose with Bella. She responded as if to say, “Well, it’s about time.” I opened the gate, Bella moved over, Toby stood a few feet away, and I led Buddy through the gate and into the pasture. He lowered his head for me to remove the halter, and off they walked together.
Yesterday I traveled to Reo’s barn to check on him and make sure the grazing muzzle was still on. It was. I whistled and yelled out his name. He lifted his head, turned and began walking toward me. I knew it wasn’t for my smiling self that he came, but rather for the cookies in my pocket, and that he knew I would remove the muzzle and allow him to graze on the rich yard grass. I really do know this horse…he’s a horses horse! And I love him for that. He has lost much of the Spring fat he had gained, and his black coat was glistening in the sunlight. He looked very, very impressive. If he didn’t have such high withers, he would have quite the perfect conformation to match the four white stockings, a few white spots here and there on his body, and a beautiful, strong head. He enjoyed his grazing time and ignored me completely, even as I told him he only had a few more days left in this home. His two gelding pals watched as Reo chewed the clover and blue grass, and I felt sad that I was taking him away from them. They are his shadows, and neigh for him whenever I remove him from the field. Sometimes we humans do not realize the discomfort we cause our animals. They have their relationships and needs, much like we do. So my happiness about the new home Reo is going to is tempered by the loss I am causing to these other creatures. I can’t enjoy too much, because sadness overcomes my emotional state. I’m a silly old woman, I know.
Today I’m home, packing boxes. My house is a mess, in complete disarray, with boxes everywhere. In five days I will be sleeping in a new, smaller home. I need this move to end so that I can stop leaving something, but rather begin something. Soon…soon!