Sunday, March 7, 2010


My horse story has been churning and roiling incessantly inside of me for months now, ever since the moment I learned the extent of Scout's injury. Since then, it's been only and always one step forward, two steps back, or that is how it has felt. Just when I think I've decided, when I've resolved myself to the next step, something happens to erase it. The fact of that has created a sense of pressure in me completely unlike others that life brings, something about the imperative that is horses. They cannot be discarded. I don't know how to discard them.

Because the winter skewed oddly this year, the worst of it coming later than usual, it neatly contained Scout's dilemma and kept me from having to face it in the long term. Conveniently, winter is mostly the off-season for horses and riders, especially for those of us who can't afford a big-dollar facility. Nevertheless, even as I accepted that Scout would be in recovery, Dar loomed ever larger, blooming and unused, in the background. I really felt him there, felt the urgency of needing to take him up before he turned into his own thing and left me behind. It hasn't been a good feeling.

The things you say to yourself when confronted with an unexpected turn of events, an unlucky, bad turn of events. Early morning has always been the worst time of day for me, all my life. I linger at the outer edge of sleep, where a relentless, droning chatter loops in my mind, all of it irrational, much of it bruising. If I'm lucky, I sleep it off; if I'm not, I carry it with me into the day.

You have no business having one horse, let alone two. You can't afford either of them.
You just shouldn't have taken Dar.
If you hadn't moved Scout, none of this would have happened.
She won't be sound, even if you did have the guts to ride her.
Dar's probably an asshole, too.
Just walk away.

Usually, I don't talk about my predawn horror thoughts, but lately all the churning has been getting to me. I told H.G. about it yesterday. I fell in love with him for many reasons, but at the time, his wisdom was something I didn't even perceive; it's a fringe benefit. "This is like a major car breakdown," he told me. "A blown head gasket or a stripped transmission. The car was already running rough, and you can't afford to get a new one, so what choice do you have but to suck it up and pay for the repair? And yes, with a credit card."

That's what we did with Scout, because we love her, because that's what we had to do in that moment. She had a broken bone and it had to be removed.

She's been on daily turnout since January 16th, almost two months. This week I began to see her unsoundness. During the first month of her turnout, I didn't scrutinize her. She'd been injured, gone through surgery and then nine weeks of stall rest; I didn't expect her to move normally, especially in the poor footing of snow and ice. A couple of weeks ago, I started to tune in. The surgeon had told me she should be fit for riding after six weeks of turnout. But no. No, she's not. I know Scout, and I can see she's far from normal, I think I can see that she's in pain. And the soundness wouldn't matter anyway, not to me, because it's not me that would ride her. I made that choice long ago, the night I put her pictures up on Dreamhorse. Scout's not the horse that's going to help me gain a foothold against my fear; she's just a horse I love. But soundness will matter if I have to give her up.

On CNN last week, I heard someone say the recession has ended and the economic recovery has begun. Not here, not in our house. Here, the recession has only just begun. For the first time, I've seen that I can't keep both of the horses. And I don't even know how to accept that, let alone what to do about it.

So you go scraping for money. Erin and I went out early this morning, drove 35 miles to a tack sale with stuff we could sell. They had overbooked the facility, though, and we couldn't set up. We drove back to the barn and decided to work with Dar in the snow-covered outdoor arena. It was there, during our session, that I felt myself breathe in a way I haven't for a couple of weeks, or maybe longer. Yes, much longer. I think I inhaled sharply the day Scout's fracture was diagnosed and I didn't release that particular breath until this morning.

Because he learned. Because we finished cutting in his sport-horse mane, because his feet looked great. Because he just isn't herdbound, and stood fairly quietly in the crossties. Because he hadn't forgotten all of his work on the longe line from last fall. Because he didn't buck or pin his ears. Because he resisted once and soon lost that argument. Because later, Keely, now in heat, backed into him and he didn't care. So, I exhaled, realizing one of the horses is a going concern, I can work with one of the horses.

And that's all it was, a simple lift, a brief clearing of my mind. Take it while you can get it. Just moments ago, Erin called to say Dar had climbed aboard provocative Keely once again. Ugh, and oh no. I so hoped he wouldn't be a studdy gelding.


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