Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do Not Forget What You Already Know

Here is a fun picture of Frisco playing while I am riding Charisma. He was such a funny and cute baby! I've been sorting through all my Charisma related stuff lately, trying to get everything organized so that I can create a little "shrine" if you will. I happened upon my journal from when I was a working student for Sheri Dumonceaux, and once I started reading, I could not stop. I can ride her in my memory, when I read my notes. I remember it all like it was yesterday. And what I most need to remember is this....I cannot forget all that I already know. Charisma was "The Great One", my Professor. I feel very guilty that such a kind and noble mare had to be my guinea pig. Maybe it is because only a kind and noble mare could remain so generous as I grew, and change with me. So much, really almost everything, of what I have learned, I have learned with Charisma. So long as I continue to learn, and to teach what I have learned to clients, I can continue to share her great gift with others. She will live forever this way. I write a lot, it helps me learn, so I've always made notes from my lessons, even when I first was learning. I still have all my notes. It is hard to believe that going forward, when I write about what I am learning, I will not be writing about it with Charisma included in the experience. I hope and pray that I have many, many years ahead of me to write more, except that Frisco will be the star. Everything that I learn going forward will be without her, however it will be BECAUSE of her...her gift to me. I hope to make myself worthy. Everything she taught me will cast a hue on everything new that I learn.
Today-well actually yesterday-was my first experience with learning something from Frisco. He has been the easiest horse in the world to start, almost couldn't wait to be ridden. So easy that, I tend to overlook the ground manners, because it is SO FUN to ride him, and in my mind he is still that hilarious and adorable colt you see in the picture above. So I just think to myself...he'll grow up eventually, no need to be stern with him when most of the time he is so good. But yesterday, he just walked away when I removed the halter to put the bridle on. You can't really punish at that moment, because then the horse will just run away-he was loose afterall!! I managed to wrestle the bridle onto a thousand pound moving target, and then drag him to the mounting block. He wasn't really doing anything bad or trying to get out of being ridden, he just wanted to play with my stuff on the ground and go see the horse at the other tie rack. He is a kid afterall, and a social butterfly. Once at the mounting block, he was ready to go!! To go out and see much so that he kept walking off. Still I wasn't in a position to punish him, because I'd kind of set the tone already. I just ignored all the crap, and we went on with our ride, which as usual was really great. Did I mention he loves to be ridden?! But I realized we needed to go back to kindergarten on certain things. So I decided that today, I would tack him up as usual, all except for the bridle, and put him in the round pen. I've mentioned that Frisco loves to be ridden. Have I mentioned how much he hates the round pen?! He knows that's for bad ponies, and plus, he can't see a damned thing, it's boring. I sent him around a few minutes each direction until I was really sure his attention was on me. The second I allowed it, he immediately turned to me for approval and I allowed him to come to the center. I removed his halter the way our second favorite cowboy taught us...head DOWN. Then, I put his bridle on the same way...head DOWN. He knows when I put pressure on his neck, he is to drop his head for me. He didn't forget a thing. Then we went to the mounting block. A couple taps with the whip on his chest, then a patient minute spent standing once I was in the saddle, and he was allowed to quietly walk off to see the exciting world. Horses don't forget. People do. The next time you are having a problem with something, something you thought had already been dealt with, you need to take the time to step back. In the end, it will be the fastest way. Our kindergarten session lasted all of ten minutes today. Go back to the beginning, rack your brain for the answers, read your old notes, try to remember what your trainer said. You probably already know it, and your horse is just patiently waiting for you to remember.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

On the Loss of my Beloved Mare

Time finally caught up, I thought we could beat the odds. I really did, because we always have. I was wrong this time. Charisma colicked again. She had another "episode" on the morning of September 1st, a Wednesday, but she was fine when I left at 3:30, just like all the other episodes. She ate her supper and was fine at night check. Thursday morning the barn manager found her, she was already in shock. It was too late. The vet came, he didn't want to take her to surgery. He talked to Dr. Schur in Las Vegas, her surgeon, gave her the details, and they both said it would not likely go well. I had told myself I would not put her through a second surgery, but I think I needed to hear it from them too, because my heart was not willing to face this. We had to set her free. Dow, and BJ were there, we held her, and, Frisco and her friends Casper and Blue stood quietly by. She rests at Ironhill, Priddis, Alberta. "Devastated" does not do justice to the loss we feel.
I need animals in my life, I think they make us more human. Losing them, knowing full well that we will outlive them, and still being willing to give our hearts to them, I've never known another way of being. It's too easy to avoid the pain. How shallow would that make me? Deep down, I knew this was coming, she has never been right since the surgery. On her good days, and it was mostly good days, she was better than she ever had been before. We had our best show season ever, and aside from that, we both cherished our time together. But on her bad days, it was clear that all was not well. Selfishly, I am angry, and feel cheated, that my self-perceived dedication and devotion could not have garnered me even more time. But I must be thankful for the time I got, I can't become bitter for having tried, and yet ultimately failing. I have some guilt that I could maybe have made different decisions. I don't think I could have done MORE, just, maybe, different. Hindsight is 20-20. Any decisions I made were because I thought at the time with the information I had that it was the right decision, that much I do know. All I can do is learn all there is to learn from this lesson. I realize that if I only have 14 more years with Frisco, if he only lives to 16 like his mother, or God forbid, less, I for certain must set about now to assure that my horse leads the happiest life possible. I've learned so much about diet, nutrition, and equine management in the past year. I can't forget these lessons. Even if I never own another horse, and it's possible that I won't, I can apply all this knowledge to the one horse I do still own, and my clients' horses, to make him, and them, the happiest, healthiest equine athletes he, and they, can be.
I am trying to figure out why I feel compelled to ride them, that maybe Charisma would have been happiest had I not brought her back as a riding horse, if I'd just turned her out to pasture instead she maybe would have lived. Logically, I know this would not have saved her, but, I can't help this guilt I feel. I think I must want to be one with them, to be a part of them, not just brush them and admire them, sort of like some people need to climb the mountains rather than just sit on the deck and enjoy the view of them. The universe surely had to know, I was not one to just be a horse owner, when it sent me Charisma. I will have to make certain Frisco retains the wonder and intrigue for being ridden that he has now. The discipline of dressage is unique in that the whole purpose and aim of the riding is to develop a longterm, close partnership with your horse, to develop a system of communication that involves no words, only a highly sophisticated sequence of physical indicators, so minute that they are invisible to a bystander. To lose a dressage horse is to lose years upon years of study, practice, and is an irreplacable partnership. My horses have always been members of the family, so I have not only lost a family member, but a highly educated dance partner. The years it will take to establish this same level of communication with Charisma's son is a bit daunting at the moment.
When I walked through the woods with BJ and Charisma after my dog India(BJ's mother) died, I believe she visited us, in the form of a beautiful waxwing, who followed us from branch to branch. I've never seen a waxwing travel by itself, before, or since. When my grandfather died, I saw a raven circling inside a double sundog. I've never seen that before, or since. I know Charisma will visit me once more. In fact, I do not believe she is done here, I am sure she will be back.
This will make me a better, deeper, more spiritual person, I am sure of it. I can't believe I married the one person in the world who loves animals as much as I do, in the same way. Many spouses would be kind and supportive, but, how many would shed every tear with you? Share every emotion, from fear, guilt, anger, denial, to the good emotions, the good memories? We all were meant to be together...we are a chain of souls meant to link up. The links break but we will always be bound, and will keep looking for each other. I believe we have been together before, and will be again, all of us. I must believe this. I don't think I can cope with the loss without this hope.