Yesterday, it was all about wanting to Fix Things for people who had lost everything up in Vermont. The annoyance at not being able to do that lasted into the evening and screwed up my night’s rest.
I consoled myself with the thought that I’d shortly be going out to see Huey the Wonder Horse and getting my trainer to check the fit of my brand-new very beautiful saddle. I went to the barn yesterday morning before taking off for the Beer Fest and discovered, to my amazement, excitement, and sheer glee, that my saddle had arrived. I have been riding in the World’s Least Comfortable Saddle for ages. The saddle Huey’s been wearing is an all-purpose saddle that fits him OK, but is at least a half-inch too small for me. That doesn’t sound like much, but if you consider, for a moment, wearing a pair of shoes that is a half-inch too short for your feet, you’ll start to understand. And, on top of this, the flaps are too short for my leg, and my knees do not rest in the right place. Kind of like that half-inch-too-short pair of shoes also being a half-inch too narrow, and with a high heel. All of which means that I’ve had to make some major adjustments to basic riding skills in order to accomplish what I needed to do.
Fortunately, when I bought Huey one week ago (it feels like longer!) the Saddle Goddess showed up with a trunk-load and helped me find something that would suit better. We’ve decided that Huey’s Second Career is going to be dressage – a change that is is taking to like the proverbial duck. So dressage saddles it is, and thankfully, those are built better for my frame than the all-purpose saddles anyway. I test rode three of them. One was immediately and hideously uncomfortable. The other two were fine, and of those, one had the unqualified and ringing endorsement of both my trainer and the Saddle Goddess. It was still too small, so we ordered up a size or so…which means that before the saddle arrived, I hadn’t actually ridden it in a version that fit.
As I mentioned above, I was completely stoked to discover that the saddle has arrived, and immediately set about assembling it and giving it a test spin. Holy cats, what a difference it made! Things I had been struggling with for months suddenly became as easy to execute as just thinking about them. Huey was moving out like I’ve never seen him go. I felt like we could trot for hours. The only fly in the ointment is that when I had him tied up to untack, he kept biting at the girth – I don’t know if he was confused by the new saddle, or if the girth was pinching him, or if it itched…the possibilities are many, and my trainer wasn’t around to help me sort it out. He did, I noticed, stop this as soon as I untacked him.
So this morning I got up too early and made myself happy with the thought of getting that sorted and of having another amazing ride. And – because we’re having Indian Summer – I had screwed up my courage to finally approach the sticky issue of sheath cleaning. It has to be done, and it has to be done before it gets too cold, and it also has to be done under supervision, because I don’t consider that watching two videos of this on YouTube constitutes “getting experience”. And no way am I giving my new horse a hand-job without an expert in the picture.
I was thus somewhat dismayed when I pulled up to the barn this morning and noticed two things, right off the bat: 1) the owner’s truck and the horse trailer were gone, and it was really too early in the morning to think that a shuttle run was in process, and 2) the owner’s younger daughter – who is not ordinarily seen outside the house at that hour of the morning, was leading my horse to the turnout, and he was wearing his fly mask. This was odd because I always take a lesson at this hour on Monday mornings, and he doesn’t go to the turnout until I’m done with that.
“Hmm” I thought, as I geared up and collected him back out of the paddock and put him into the cross-ties.
Then the owner’s older daughter came around with a long face and told me that Huey’s next-door-neighbor had colicked really badly in the night, woken the household at 2am slamming around in his stall, and that they’d done everything they could and finally decided to take him to the hospital…a two-hour drive away. And that he might need surgery.
Now, at the risk of a massive generalization – but, hey, I’m a Texan and everything including figures of speech is bigger in Texas – at the risk of this generalization, everyone in Texas either has horses or knows people who have horses. So “colic” was a word that was already in my vocabulary, and what I knew about colic is this: it is way more common than anyone likes. it is something that you can prevent to a large degree, but it still just happens. it means you have to walk the horse around and keep it from rolling. it is very dangerous.
And, yes, there was an incredible amount of gear – including chairs – in the ring that spoke of an extended period of walking a horse. And the fact that it was still in the ring spoke of some haste in departure.
Naturally, I had a few thoughts on the subject:
1. Oh my God. That other horse is so sweet, and I patted him just yesterday when I was at the barn and he was fine. I hope he will be OK.
2. Oh my God. I’ve met the owner of the other horse, and she seemed like a really nice person, and I bet she was absolutely worried sick at that moment. I hope she will be OK.
3. Oh my God. That could be Huey.
I tried, really hard, not to go there on Number Three. It didn’t work. I thought that as I groomed him up. I thought that as I took him out for some ground work, since I didn’t want to saddle up again until I could get my gear checked. I thought that as I worked him, and I thought that as I groomed him down and sent him to the turnout.
I thought that some more as I got ready to leave, and went over to his turnout just to make sure he was eating his pile of hay like everything was OK.
I thought it as I went home and met some friends for brunch. I thought it all the way through the grocery store, and on the way home.
And I really thought it as I saw on my Facebook news feed that the horse had gone to surgery, and I did some research about colic surgery, because I remembered hearing that it wasn’t usually successful. That research turned up the information that it is way more successful than it used to be, but that if the colic has gone on too long – and no one says how long is “too” long, but I bet that they’re not envisioning a two-hour drive across the state – the chances of a good outcome are diminished.
And then I thought it some more when two hours later, another update appeared that the horse had died.
Oh my God. That could be Huey. That could be me. He could really be fine when I leave him to his lunch, and I could really get a call in the middle of the night that he’s sick, and I could really have to travel with him across the state, and I could really have to get that bad news…or have to make the call myself. That could be us.
My heart is totally breaking for the horse’s owner. And for my trainer, who has known this horse for years and loved him. And for the teenaged girl who rode him in the show on Saturday. And I am absolutely terrified that it will be my turn next. George Carlin was right, when he made that crack about how when you buy a pet you’ve just purchased a small tragedy.
I have to keep reminding myself that this is the cost of living life fully. It hurts, from time to time. And sometimes you can see the hurt coming, and prepare yourself, but most of the time, it just hits you like a ton of bricks. You can avoid a lot of it, by refusing to get engaged. No one made my buy Huey. Or Buster. Or made me marry Jeff. I chose that – and the package of pain that all of those purchases inevitably represent, and I did it with my eyes open. You aren’t living if you spend your time avoiding the scary stuff.
Still, I would rather not have had this happen on my one-week anniversary as a New Horse Owner. Oh my God. It could have been Huey.