Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Social networking is a modern wonder. Who knew flesh and blood friends would become outdated? With virtual pals through Facebook, chat rooms, and forums of every sort one can have thousands of “friends” worldwide with no more then a password and an identity. Before you get too excited about the possibilities remember that the concept of “identity” is fluid and infinitely creative in cyber space. Here's a song that gives you a clue. But anyway.

I think forums are a great source of networking and information. And every sort of forum exists. Elvis lover? Marble collector? There’s a forum for that where you can while away the hours discussing The King’s famous hips and the ideal width for white bell bottoms with your “friend” in Norway. Or how about comparing an awesome Tiger Eye with a pal in Chile? Totally amazing. And freakish. But that's another blog posting.

After purchasing Eli I joined a forum for stallion owners. This is meant to be a place where stud owners from all over the world share training tips and stories from a life managing the masculine wonder that is a breeding stallion. This forum has been incredibly helpful, not to mention interesting, and has deepened my knowledge of horse handling. I knew one day it would be time to breed Eli and find out what sort of horse he is jumped up on testosterone. The forum gave me much food for thought prior to breeding and now that I am in the midst of this brand new experience the forum has been there, albeit virtually, as encouraging friends.

Horses have no concept of future change. I reflected on this bit of information shared once via the forum when I went to see Eli this last week, a day or two after breeding his first mare. Because I am a novice stallion handler, and not set up safely to breed him at home, I took Eli to a nearby facility where an experienced acquaintance agreed to help me in this new adventure. All went well until the second day of live cover when Eli got kicked pretty good. Hormonally charged 1,000 pound animals can inflict a lot of damage to each other and some risk is involved, no matter how well you think you know the horses and try to be safe. When I saw my boy the day after the mare had been taken home (hopefully pregnant) he was in his stall a swollen hematoma hanging between his front legs.

I looked at my horse through the bars of his stall and felt…horrible. The injury looked worse than it was but I felt responsible. Don’t get me wrong, Eli didn’t complain about the new job. He performed it quite well minus an embarrassing bit of falling off the mare, but we won’t discuss that publicly (I promised him). Still, this was hardly his idea. I’d loaded him up, driven him to a brand new barn, and facilitated a breeding that got him injured (and also hopelessly “in love”). Now he wilted in a dark stall, pining for his mare, well cared for but alone. In a few short days he’d ventured a lifetime away from the peaceful place that is my house—no visible neighbors, no stall, no mares and their drama, just a bachelor herd of two geldings and an enormous cedar tree under which he naps each day after breakfast. I thought of his horsey lack of concept. He thought I’d left him no doubt; perhaps sold to a new owner. He didn’t know he’d be back with me, and his friends, and his peaceful home in two short weeks. We’d go back to trail rides and, I hope, a lifetime of friendship. I love this horse. I have plans for his life. With me.

Eli looked back at me, a deep well of unique equine emotion visible behind his calm exterior. That may sound dramatic but if you ever meet him you'll know what I mean. I've never seen such eyes on a horse. I entered and began to brush him. He had dried sweat everywhere from pacing and calling and worrying about his mare and, it seemed, the new insecurity that comes with a radical change of scenery. He does not understand. He knows no concept of a future change. I brushed him and brushed him. And also sang the song stuck in my head: Better Then A Hallelujah, by Amy Grant. Soon Eli’s head is hanging by my knee as I brush and stroke his big crested neck (sore, no doubt, from over-arching and showing off). I tell him not to worry. He’s still with me, Baby, and nothings going to change that. I tell him Cowboy misses him and he will be coming home soon. Eli gives me several of his sweet horse hugs, his neck bent around my shoulder. It was all I could do not to go home, jump in the truck, and take my horse home.

Human beings have a concept of future change, but we aren’t all that much more aware then a horse I think. I have such limited vision, such a focus on trivia that frustrates, disappoints and exhausts me. Life is hard. My body is wearing out and dying a bit more each day. My time on earth is short but it demands my focus and attention. I think God longs to reach through the haze between earth and eternity and reassure me that there is a future coming, a much better future. I can rest in knowing the time here is short and inconsequential next to eternity. He will jump on His great white horse someday (That's a tip for you non-horsy types: Brush up on your riding skills) and take me home where I belong. Like Carrie Underwood says in her beautiful new song, This is our temporary home.

PS. Make sure you have a tissue for that last song.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Life is full of expectations. Ever considered how much we operate on what is expected? For instance, I expect to wake up in the morning (always good), be greeted by a husband that still loves me, visit healthy (!) horses awaiting breakfast, ride afore mentioned horses with the expectation they will respond to the training I have invested in them (I’m learning to let this one slide), etc. etc. I race through my small space in life pregnant with expectations; happily, and often ignorantly, placing them on those around me with whom I share relationships. There are expectations on my friends, my children, my pastor. I even have expectations on those I do not know such as fellow Costco shoppers (namely that they will politely allow me to park, not run me over, or flip me the finger…yes, I’ve realized the folly in this particular expectation and have let it go). Expectations frequently slap me upside the head, frustrate me, and poison my relationships with the humans and horses that share my life.

I had low to no expectations of Chance when I got on him recently for the first time in over six months. I hoped he wouldn’t fall on me or do anything weird or foolish, but this horse is straight out of the film 50 First Dates so one can never be sure. What I had done to prepare was lunge him for a month or so to get him back into shape. He was holding his lope pretty well and seemed happy, in his horsy way, to be worked with again.

Lately I’ve realized that year by year I know less and less. Soon I may forget my own name. A life with God and horses is full of mysteries I cannot explain. Last fall I put Chance away convinced, after his fall, that he was damaged permanently in some unknown way—physically, mentally or, most likely, a combination of the two. His Cerebellar Atrophy blood test came back negative, he did not die from EPM or convulse in to seizures. He continues to greet me each morning with a husky nicker. After praying over him in November with my daughter, the only change worth noting were heels that sprouted like seeds from the bottoms of his feet (Uh, Lord, I said healed, not heels). Oh well. God sometimes gives me things I don’t think I need but later discover are vitally important. Though still klutzy, Chance has beautiful feet now. Feet made for walking, says I. And so I jumped on bareback one day, no bridle, and moved him around. He seemed okay, outside of obsessively grinding his teeth in what hints at discomfort. On subsequent rides he vacillated between trying very hard (he has a lovely lope departure and the best stop of our three boys) and emotional outbursts for apparently no reason. Still, I enjoyed myself. I realized later that one reason I could enjoy a klutzy, funky little pinto so much was because I had no expectations of him. He didn’t need to please me or fulfill grand horsemanship goals. I was just along for the ride.

Last month, as my few faithful readers may have noted, blog posting was pathetic. This is in part because I published my first work of fiction, Rodeo Dreams, and was tied up in the excitement of that. Talk about the potential for expectations! Does it suck? Will it hit the NY Times Bestseller list (Okay, I did mention that to God…if He feels so inclined)? Should I sell my soul to promote the thing? After getting jumped up on expectations I was thankfully able to relax again into an attitude of being along for the ride. Why? My expectations rest in God and He’s pointed out specifically what I can expect: He will never leave me or forsake me—He is with me to the end of the age; His care is such that He numbers the hairs on my head and has thoughts for me as the sand of the sea (wow); His gifts are perfect; He takes great delight in me; He directs my steps; He plans to prosper me…it goes on and on. I don’t need to lean on my expectations in this life--or burden everyone else with them-- when I can trust in God’s promises. I can simply enjoy the ride—whether it’s on a funky pinto or the “ride” of publishing for the first time. Good things are in store, that’s all I know for sure (except in the Costco parking lot—oy!)

PS. Check out Jess Simmons, an artist you can expect will produce beautiful portraits of your pets, including the one posted today of Eli and Cowboy. It is called, “Friends,” and makes me happy every time I look at it. Thanks Jess!