Thursday, November 30, 2023

Thoughts On Loss



I have a personal faith that every living soul is created physically and spiritually, and it comforts me.

Years ago, I decided to start from nothing, and to build a foundation of spiritual belief, brick by brick. Every brick had to be something personal and true. 

Working with my horses day after day, I realized there is something more that animates them, something more than just the physical. And, there's something in me that resonates with that something spiritual in them. 

When my mom was visiting a few weeks ago, she saw my copies of Rilke's works, and she is reading them now, too. She flipped through The Dark Interval to a section I had highlighted some years ago, and she read it out loud to me as we sat and had coffee:

Today, my attitude toward death is that it frightens me more in those whom I failed to truly encounter and who remained inexplicable or disastrous to me, than it does in those whom I loved with certainty when they were alive, even if they burst only for a brief moment into the radiant transfiguration of intimacy which love can reach. If people took some simple pleasure in reality (which is entirely independent of time), they would never have needed to come up with the idea that they could ever again lose anything with which they had truly bonded. No constellation is as steadfast, no accomplishment as irrevocable as a connection between beings which, at the very moment it becomes visible, works more forcefully in those invisible depths where our existence is as lasting as gold lodged in stone, more constant than a star.

When Cowboy passed, I remembered that morning with my mom reading, and the words came back and came alive.  I understood them in a different way. It is impossible to lose what we have truly loved.

I just wanted to share that with you this morning. 

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Life Goes On


Grey Horse Matters shared this poem of comfort for the passing of my heart horse, Cowboy. Every single line spoke to me, and though it is anonymous, I know the person who wrote it expereinced exactly what I am going through. I am sharing it now for all those who lose a horse they love.

Where to Bury a Horse

If you bury him in this spot,
this secret place you already have,
he will be there with you when you need him,
when only he can fill the emptiness of his leaving.
And he will come, as he always has,
from the far, dim, clouded pastures of death,
to console, to heal, and once again,
give you the blood of royalty only found upon his back.
The horses you now ride through life,
shall not shy from him, nor resent him coming.
They understand it is his rightful place as you and he were one,
in a far away place, long, long ago.
Show pity to those who scoff,
who see no blade of grass bent by his hooves,
who hear no nicker pitched too fine for the deafened ears of ego.
For they will never know the fulfillment of loving a horse,
and having that love returned.
So bury him deep, and keep that part,
Forever sacred, within your heart.

~author unknown

This section, in particular, stood out to me. Yesterday, as I was taking a lesson with Tumbleweed, I had similar thoughts, but these words captured it better.  

The horses you now ride through life,
shall not shy from him, nor resent him coming.
They understand it is his rightful place as you and he were one,
in a far away place, long, long ago.



I believe there is an unlimited amount of love in our hearts and souls. Love is infinite.  Love is not a limited quantity, but time and attention are. Cowboy took a lot of my time and attention, and his passing has opened up a lot more of it for Tumbleweed.

I have often thought that you need that intensity, that focus, to get your horse where he needs to be. It's not just intensity, ....I think it's also desperation. You just have to make this horse your go-to horse, and you do whatever it takes to get there, including facing your fears.

It's tunnel vision. Stubbornness. Devotion. Obsession. All of it. And it's all starting to coalesce around Tweed.

The death of two herd elders has also changed the dynamics of the herd. Cowgirl was moved back up (along with Epona) and Tweed was moved down and put under Cowgirl's tutelage. Cowgirl doesn't baby other horses. She didn't even baby her own baby. She's tough as nails and mean as hell, and she is taking the baby out of Tweed. Good cop, bad cop, and now I get to be the good cop. He fell in line with Cowgirl quite quickly, and the rest of the herd seemed to go along with it, too. 

Quite honestly, I'm happy with the change. It will make Tweed a better trail horse.


With elderly Cowboy and Little Joe, we were running a full care nursing home for horses. It took a lot of time and effort to keep those boys going. With them gone, and no horse in need of full care nursing home attention, we are rather free. It's very weird. There are loafing sheds and two covered round bales, and we haven't had any rain or snow. The horses are existing on their own, with very little tinkering. ? 

Who am I now? What am I going to do with all this free time?


Who me? I'm never naughty.

As I said above, I had a lesson at home with Tumbleweed. The first ever. 

Getting his attention is much harder here, and he put on quite a show kicking out, rearing, and acting like a first class spaz. 

My trainer loved it.

She sees it as an opportunity to work on the finer details of getting and keeping their attention, basically, holding them together under high stress--something you want on the trail.

Oh, he gave us lots of opportunity. We used the round pen, and got all of that silliness worked out on the ground. When he kicked out or looked out of the round pen and away from me, she had me stay calm and simply reverse him and keep him at the same energy and gait.

In saddle, we worked on vertical flexion at the different gaits, and using my aids to keep him against the rail, turn him, and engage his whole body. When he dropped his collection, she had me post his trot. Then she had me get him in vertical flexion and sit back deep, deep, deep on my pockets with my belly button basically pointing up, and sit the trot until he engaged and collected. It felt very strange, but she said we have to over-exaggerate this right now until he understands the cue. When he's rough, he's moving me out of the sitting back position (engagement) and into the forward position, which makes him feel unsupported and disconnected. My trainer says that it won't take very long for him to understand these cues and then I won't have to sit back as far. 

Another issue she saw yesterday is that I am looking down and inside, where he is wanting to drift off the rail. She had me look outside the rails, outside the round pen, which put my body in a better position. Basically, I was sending him body cues to drift and looking out, though again an over compensation, changed the position of my body enough to keep him on the rail. A seemingly little thing that was actually quite big.


I haven't been able to go to the barn since Cowboy died. I went one day and put a picture of him on his stall, but then I left. I have been taking care of the horses in the turnout and pasture, and avoiding the barn. I have wondered if I will ever see the barn the same way again. Will it take the joy out of all these new improvements? 

I can't let it. I'm going to find ways to bring the memories of Cowboy and Little Joe, all my horses, past and present, into the space. I want to create meaning in every nook and cranny. 

We're getting very close to finishing the tack room, and I think I will try to find an artist to paint a portrait of Cowboy for me. 


Speaking of meaning, I have Cowboy's precious tail hair, and I started looking at possible horse hair jewelry projects. I found a lot of beautiful possibilities, but especially love these rings made in England.

It would require sending the hair overseas, and a long wait time. I don't care about the wait time, but I am very nervous about sending the hair. There is also a resin versus non-resin option. She puts a clear resin over the hair to protect it. Part of me doesn't want that because I'd like to be able to feel the actual hair.

Have any of you had experience with horse hair jewelry makers?

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Happy Thanksgiving!


This year I am deeply grateful for my blessings: past, present, and future. 

On the day Cowboy passed, I was walking to the barn at sundown and saw Epona framed against the sky. It was my reminder to look to the present and future.

Yet, there will always be a part of my spirit riding off into the glorious sunshine of days past with my golden boy, and feeling so happy viewing the world between his sweet little ears.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends! Thank you for your love, encouragement, and support all these years blogging together. May you be surrounded by those spirits who make your heart sing, today and always!

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A Perfect Place, Perfect Way, Perfect Day & Perfect Horse

 "I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted." 


I Wannabe A Cowboy

March 7, 1995-November 21, 2023

For many, many years I was obsessed with Cowboy. We spent over 20 years of our lives together. He taught me to be strong and live again. He was an orphan, and I was his fifth owner, so I promised him he would always have a home with me. I would never let him go.

I think he can hear
My head turn toward him,
Even in dreams.

As time passed, he had various health challenges, a broken P3 (which is when I adopted Beautiful Girl and Leah) and Equine Headshaking Syndrome (which is when I started riding Leah on the trails). He survived both of those things, and my longtime farrier nicknamed him the "Comeback King." 

We had many extra, glorious years together that I did not expect, but in time, arthritis and old age led me to plan for his retirement and bringing little Tumbleweed into my life as Cowboy's trail rides were phased out. This also gave Cowboy 5 years to imprint on Tumbleweed, and 2 1/2 on Epona.

Cowboy died the way he lived, on his own terms. When we had planned to put him down 17 years ago for his P3 fracture, we let him run one last time, and he went wild bucking, running, and spinning around the pasture. He told us he wanted to LIVE, and so we took the chance on him, and he did.

His passing was not much different.

Three days ago, Little Joe died in our pasture. It was another glorious fall day, sunny, and 48 degrees. We had let the herd out to graze, and that is what he was doing when he passed. It was sudden, unexpected, and surprising, even though Little Joe was in his late 20's, and hadn't been getting around like he used to.

Here is a photo of Little Joe playing with Cowboy.

(the last photo I took of Little Joe is below on November 7th, 2023.)

Finding Little Joe made me realize it was time to put Cowboy down. And I was set on it...until last night, when I started to waiver again. Cowboy seemed as if he was ready. There was a difference in him, but the weather was so nice, too,...and it was just a hard decision to make when you don't absolutely have to. I told my husband and daughter that I had changed my mind.

And then morning came. My husband went out to feed the horses and Cowboy was down. He came back and told me, and I went straight out to Cowboy. He had decided to lay down outside of his stall, in his turnout, and he couldn't get up. He didn't even really want to try. 

It appeared he had tried before we got there, but he wasn't sweaty, and he wasn't stressed. I brought him some grain and he ate it from my hands and licked my palms when it was all gone. We said goodbye to each other.

So, that is the end to one of the best chapters of my life.

I will not have to worry about him suffering in the cold or getting down when I am not there to help him back up.

He has left a hole in my heart.

But I was thinking afterward, what a perfect ending for the perfect horse. He died in the perfect place, out in the early morning sunshine, the perfect way, at peace and able to say goodbye, and the perfect day, an absolutely beautiful November 21st: sun, clear skies, and all around us, heaven.

And he took the decision out of my hands. His final act of love.

Here are some of the photos we took through the years. So many adventures! Yet, never enough.

Three horses in this photo have now passed away: Little Joe (center/front), Penny, (behind Little Joe, you can barely see her neck and tail), and Cowboy (center/back.)