Monday, September 30, 2013

Mouthy Monday

Hey guys - Mouthy Monday returns!
This is a great story to get back on track with too.

Blake's Story
They say you get one horse per lifetime, and I just sincerely hope that that isn't true. Because if it is true, then that means I've lost that one, and what's the point in having other horses? Deep down, I don't want to believe that saying, and I think that you can have that same connection (but maybe in a different way) with multiple horses. You have to be able to, otherwise, why even try?

If there is only one horse per lifetime, Blake was mine. Strong, beautiful, 15'2 1100 lb bay quarter horse, HYPP N/H (you can guess how this story ends). He was mine, and I was his. He was my whole world.

Blake and I met the summer of 2003, when we were both newbies to our jobs at the local riding stable in the town where I grew up. I was 15 years old, and he was 5. I, being a suburbia-raised horse-crazy kid with little horse exposure besides horse camp and a few lessons here and there, was enthralled to get the job. Working there had been a dream of mine since forever. I was much younger than the other girls, but I caught on fast. I was willing to do all the undesirable job tasks, from poop-scooping the whole corral to giving 10 pony rides in a row. And when no one wanted to ride the gangly, awkward bay horse who occasionally kick at other horses and sometimes people out of frustration, that job fell to me. Really, no one liked him. We put the ugliest pad and ugliest halter on him (both urine-yellow colored), to save the prettier ones for the horses that were more well-liked.

I specifically recall a memory in which I saw Blake standing tied at one end of the corral, and my boss telling me to take the out the next ride, and when I asked which horse to take, I thought to myself, "please not Blake, please not Blake." And my boss said, "take Blake." And so I did. And after that I was assigned to ride him the next day, and the next day, and so on. And he grew on me. And I rode him when I came in on my days off (I think I spent most of my days off actually at work). And I exercised him through the winter. And I bought him a nice green saddle blanket and matching halter, to spice up his look a little. And he got nicer; he got more pleasant to be around. It's crazy what a little love can do to a horse. He also grew into himself a little more, though that had more to do with actual growing.

     Blake in 2003 with his spiffy matching blanket and halter

When I was sixteen at the end of my second year, I tried to buy Blake from my boss. By that time Blake had grown more and become a reliable trail horse, well-behaved enough to pack around kids and strong enough to carry large adults. He was too valuable to my boss, and I was out of luck. At the end of my 3rd year, when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I tried again, and this time I had saved up money specifically to make my boss a really good offer. On October 29th, 2005, I offered my boss $2,500 to take the big bay off his hands. He accepted, and at the end of the working season, Blake was mine.

After that, Blake no longer had to tolerate the riding stable customers on his back. He was a spoiled, privately owned horse.

When I left for college in the fall of 2006, I kept Blake (and Bailey, my other horse, who I bought shortly after Blake...whole other story, sort of a spur-of-the-moment buy to keep him from the auction) back home so I could come back and use him when I worked on the weekends. My first week of college, I got a phone call- something was wrong with my horse. He was having weird muscle twitches, breathing funny, and sweating. I said call the vet. The vet came, checked him out, and took some blood/hair samples to run some tests. Blake was okay that day, but I got test results back that my horse was HYPP positive, and I learned a thing or two about emergency vet bills.

I tried to learn as much as possible about HYPP- my vet gave me a pamphlet on it, and what to do if he had another attack. But Blake was fine. At the end of that November, I took Blake to college with me, and we together we spent 4 amazing years together. I'd drive up, he'd canter up to the gate and whinny at me, and we'd either go for a ride, hang out in the grassy roundpen and eat grass (him, not me), or we'd play tag in the indoor arena. I called him my soul mate, and every boy I dated knew that he'd had my heart first. And he didn't have another attack.

 Keeping warm in the winter of 2007


Enjoying the grassy roundpen in the summer of 2010

When I graduated college in 2010, I packed up my life (and my horses), and moved across the country for graduate school. Though I had been a horse owner for nearly 5 years by that point, I have to admit that my training had been pretty informal. But I knew about colic, and I tried to keep their diet the same. I didn't know if anything would provoke Blake's HYPP, but I wasn't too worried. 5 years, no episodes. I figured if something needed to be changed, he'd maybe have a small attack like last time, and I'd change things (diet, turnout, whatever) from there. And for a while, my horse was fine.

On Saturday, November 6th, 2010, I woke up to a call from my barn owner. Blake was dead.

I can't even describe how the drive to the stable went. I don't want to, I don't want to remember. There was my soul mate, huge, strong, powerful, and lifeless. I bawled into his neck and held onto my other horse, telling him (telling myself) it would be okay. I don't want to think about how he died. I know more about HYPP now, and I know how horrible it can be. I'll never stop thinking about the "what ifs": what if his diet caused it, what if he'd had more turnout, what if he'd been boarded somewhere else. What if it was my fault.

Two weeks later, I moved Bailey to a new barn so he could be closer to me. I loved Bailey (I still have him and I still love him), but he's not "that one horse." He's a cute, spunky, crotchety old man and I won't ever sell him, but the connection isn't there.

In January of 2011 I decided I needed a rideable horse (Bailey's pushing 27, and for the past few years has been sound on-and-off). I adopted a 10-year-old thoroughbred from a nearby horse rescue, and she's wonderful. She's taught me so much: mostly, that she's a project, and that I have a LOT to learn. Piper perks up when she sees me, enjoys the work we do, and is constantly teaching me things. I found her when I needed her most, and she got me back in the saddle after a painful two-month dry spell. We have a lot of fun, and we're learning together. I've had Piper for a year and a half now; she's not Blake, and though I sort of bought her to replace him, she never will. But maybe Blake doesn't have to be my only "one horse." Maybe if I'm lucky, I'll be allowed to have a second soul mate.


  1. This is what I'd say to Blake's owner. As you go through life, you may find that your interest in horses fades. But it doesn't sound like that is going to be your path. As time goes on, I think you will find that the right horse comes along for the different phases of your life. That's what my path has been. And I am going to go through this again at some point here, my horse is about 30 (still going strong, thanks!) and I am confident that I will find another friend.

  2. I am a firm believer that every one (I include all four legged friends in this statement) comes into our lives for a reason. They all have something important to teach us. If we are lucky (and aware) we might even figure out the lesson they are bringing to us.

    It sounds like you were blessed with a heart connection with your boy Blake. Nothing to say you won't be blessed again one day in the future.

    In the meantime Piper is your newest Teacher and your job is to be a good pupil for her and figure out what lesson she is offering you today. She may well be grooming you for a chance to make a new heart connection with a horse you haven't even met yet.

  3. I lost my once in a lifetime horse two years ago in January. He was 29 and would have been 30 had he lived to June 2011. He was 6 months older than me and was the love of my life for 18 years. I don't know if I'll have another barrel horse like him, but I hope to some day. I do know that I will have another horse something like him, but not another Yogi. If I had another one just like him it would diminish him somehow I think. Best of luck to you with your new horse! I have a big dun gelding and a brown mare that I think are pretty handy and I've raised them from the time they were 3. They are 12 this year and are pretty sharp horses themselves.

  4. I was blessed with a once in a lifetime dog.she got an internal infection and had to put her down. Long story short, I put my appin aussie rescue thinking it would bd awhile before I got a new dog. Libby was put up and amonth later she was mine. Ive had her 4 years and I am still trying to figure her out and what she is supposed to teach me. But she is teaching me patience and not to compare her to my previous dog. She is with me for a reason.

  5. I was blessed with a once in a lifetime dog.she got an internal infection and had to put her down. Long story short, I put my appin aussie rescue thinking it would bd awhile before I got a new dog. Libby was put up and amonth later she was mine. Ive had her 4 years and I am still trying to figure her out and what she is supposed to teach me. But she is teaching me patience and not to compare her to my previous dog. She is with me for a reason.

  6. It is possible to find another soul mate kind of horse. I've had two and it's looking like I've got another two right now that are shaping up that way. It'll be different because each horse is different. It's worth it. I've had eleven (if I count right) over my life and to have four that stick in my heart that strongly is a real blessing!

  7. I've been blessed (or cursed) to have many horses pass through my life over the past 25 years. My first horse was my horsie soulmate; I had him for the last 18 or so years of his life. Out of college, I started to buy/rescue, retrain and re-sell, then gained access to a couple local breeders, training colts to sell on percentage. At this point, I was in another state from my old man and my youngest brother was learning to ride on him, so I felt best leaving him where he was to live out and enjoy his life. I currently have 5; one a rescue I've had his whole life and will have until the day he dies, another (might as well be a rescue) mare who is going to be a nice little riding horse for my stepdaughter, a weanling, a 2 year old, and a yearling. The 2 year old holds the most potential as stepping into the "soulmate" category; there's been something about him since the first photo I ever saw of him. It's one of those learn something from every horse, but once you've had that real connection with one, it's hard to duplicate!

  8. I have 4 living and one deceased, and each has grown into my heart in a different way.

  9. I don't believe in horse soulmates any more than I believe in human ones. While there is certainly such a thing as the wrong horse for someone, 95% of what creates that connection is time. I have a very close bond with my old man - I know what he's going to do before he does it, and he's better for me than for anyone else - but the only reason is because I've taken the time to understand him. A lot of the time, it's the difficult horses that end up being termed someone's soulmate, in part because that bond feels stronger when there's something to overcome, and in part because we all read The Black Stallion as kids. But it's a lot easier to find a good partner than a soulmate, and if you start out looking for the one, odds are you'll find the relationship you were hoping for with the other.

  10. Great story! I have my once in a lifetime horse in my pasture. She's not ridable, but I'm just happy to be able to spend time with her. :)

    On another note, I know this has nothing to do with the post, but can we please get the several spam posts in MindMeld deleted? Thank you!