This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Girl And Her Angel

My 23 year old daughter still lives at home. She has a BA in Spanish. In today's economy, that and a buck will get her a cup of coffee at MacDonalds! She currently works for minimum wage at a local day care center and until yesterday had plans to attend SUNY to get her Masters in English As A Second Language. Alas, she applied for late admission and was apparently.......too late. Sigh......So here she is still at home, leaving dirty dishes everywhere, eating my food, partying on the weekends with friends, coming home at all hours, piling laundry in the basement...in short, treating our house like her college dorm and living her life as tho she's still a care-free college student. Just when I despair of her ever growing up and becoming a self-supporting adult, something comes along and smacks me right between the eyes, sets me back on my heels; makes me realize that I'm a whiner and Katie is really a good kid......really, it could be worse. Just today I was putting some clean laundry in her room (occasionally I'll throw some of her stuff in with mine to make a whole load, lest you think I actually do the girl's laundry!!) and noticed some photos spread out on the top of her bed comforter. I can honestly say that I'm not one of those nosy moms who's constantly snooping thru my kids' things (trust me - I DON'T WANNA KNOW!) but those photos made me pause.......and remember. They put a squeeze in my chest, a lump in my throat....I picked the photos up and looked at them with fondness and sadness. They were pictures of a girl and her Angel...........
I have 3 daughters and my 2 oldest were each given riding lessons at a young age. I hoped, of course, that they would share my enthusiasm for horses and riding. And they did - for about 3 weeks and then they found other things to do. When daughter #3 came along, I figured why waste the time and money - obviously none of my girls was going to be a horsewoman so I'd have the hobby all to myself - not bad, really. It was something in which I could selfishly indulge myself!
The summer Katie turned 13, I had been working at AppleCreek for 6 months as general stable help and the owner (Penny) asked me if I'd be interested in helping with her summer day camp. I was delighted! I was a teacher and normally just hung around the house arbitrating my kids' arguments during the summers so this was perfect - kids and horses! My 2 oldest daughters were less than enthusiastic about having to watch their little sister all day but since neither of them were working full-time, it fell to them to do the job. I'd like to say that that worked out well but I tend to deal in reality - within 2 weeks, all 3 girls hated each other and I was tired of coming home at the end of a long day (kids and horses? WHAT was I thinking??!!) and having to listen to 3 girls screaming their side of the story at me. Out of desperation, I asked Katie if she'd like to start going to the farm with me and hanging around with the day camp kids. (Penny had no problem with it - what was one more kid?) She was delighted to get away from her sisters (who are now, I'm happy to say, grown up and on their own and REALLY AWESOME women!!!) and happily tagged along with me the following Monday.
Katie is one of those kids who's naturally out-going and makes friends easily and within 2 days she was part of the gang. Within a week she was doing all the barn chores - feeding, watering, mucking, mixing supplements...whatever needed to be done. Within 2 weeks she was grooming and bathing ponies and helping the little kids get tacked up. She worked her butt off all summer, 5 days at week with no pay other than the fun of being around the other kids and the horses! By August she was still slaving away happily - and had never even sat on a horse's back! I finally asked, "Are you interested in learning to ride?" (Am I a dumb mother, or what?) The rest, as they say, is history. From the moment that kid plunked her butt in the saddle, we all knew we had a rider in the making. Katie is one of those people who sit in the saddle and know instinctively what do to - she has balance, she has feel, she looks gorgeous. Boy, was I jealous! LOL She rode all fall and winter and by spring had "out-grown" the beginner ponies and was assigned to Angel. Angel was a gorgeous bay QH who must have been appendix with quite a bit of thoroughbred him, judging by his build. He and Katie were the proverbial match made in heaven! By summer, they attended their first show together. Angel was an old hand; Katie had never ridden in a show before. They rode away with their division championship and their fate was sealed. They became an inseparable pair. But Angel had some lameness issues that were raising their ugly head more and more as he aged. His ankles were shot - totally arthritic - and his hocks were pretty much gone, too. He was OK for light riding but there were times when he was too lame to ride, even tho he was given daily supplements, had his hocks drained, and was receiving Adequon (did I spell that right?). During those stretches, Katie would patiently take Angel out to hand graze or if the weather was rainy or it was during the winter, she would walk him in the indoor.
Time marched on for the next few years and to our shock and dismay, one summer Penny announced that she was divorcing her husband, retiring, selling the farm and the horses, and moving south. By then, Angel was in almost constant pain, and the very difficult decision was made to put him down rather than try to sell him and risk having him abused by hard riding or an uncaring owner. Katie was devastated and begged me to bring Angel home to our little place down the road. But the bottom line is that I was in no position to care for a chronically lame horse and Katie would soon be off to college. It was hard on both of us but Katie understood. On "the appointed day," I allowed Katie to skip school so that she could go to the barn and spend time with Angel. She gave him his last grooming, his last bath, his last peppermints.
She took him out to graze in the warm sunshine and waited until the vet arrived. We all gathered in the pasture where Angel would be put down and buried - the back hoe and tarp were standing by. The vet explained to Katie exactly what would happen when he put Angel to sleep and asked her if she would rather go and wait in the barn but she took a deep breath, stood up tall, and said, "No. I'll stay with him." She was so brave as she hugged him good-bye one last time and stood beside him as he took his last breath. She stoked his neck when he was gone and then quietly walked away.
The pictures I found on her bed today were taken that day - pictures of Katie grooming Angel, grazing him, walking him to his final resting place.
I realized then that my daughter is really going to be a fine adult. She's strong, she's kind, she's loving (she's also stubborn, head-strong, opinionated.......LOL!!!) - she's just finding her way right now. Besides, I know she'll always have Angel in her heart to help her along the way.
A girl and her Angel...........He is gone from her life but lives on in her heart.
He taught her well.

"Horses and children, I often think, have a lot of the good sense there is in the world." ~Josephine Demott Robinson


  1. Needed a tissue alert on that one. What a wonderful memory, and equally wonderful Daughter AND Mother.