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!"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bret Schneider

Paul showed up on my doorstep one morning and when I opened the door, he said - in typical Paul style - " I'm not at the farm anymore. I'm renting a little barn for me and K.T. off of Putney Road next to the dump. Got a new horse for ya to ride. Meet me at the barn at 4:00." Since that was all he'd come to say, he turned around, got back in his truck and left. I, however, began counting down the hours and minutes. Paul hadn't let me down yet. Every horse he'd put me on had been a wonderful learning experience - challenging sometimes but that man could match a horse and human like no one I've ever known!
I arrived at the appointed hour to find a little chestnut horse with 4 white socks ("feed him to da crows?" NEVER!) and a little white star on his forehead standing in the cross-ties. Paul growled, "Well, there he is. Name's Bret Schneider. Don't stand there gawking. Tack up and let's go." Paul liked to trail ride on K.T. and the 4 of us headed out into the glorious September afternoon. We rode for hours and the only time Bret spooked was when someone fired a gun off in the distance. He jumped, landed with all 4 legs splayed out, looked around, sighed and seemed to say, "Oh. Ooops. Sorry. Let's go on." And we proceeded as though nothing had happened. I was totally in love with this little standardbred. He'd bowed a tendon on the track and was being brought slowly back into work. His owners sent him to Paul for rehab and of course Paul had "just the trainer" for him! When we got back to the barn, Paul said, "You like him?" Naturally, I gushed on and on about how wonderful Bret was til finally Paul said, "Ok. He's yours for a while." Then he outlined what I was to do for him, i.e., daily walks on the trail, working up to trotting, always checking that tendon for heat each time. As he started to walk away, Paul added, "He's never been ridden before, ya know. You're the first person to ride him." I have NO IDEA what the expression on my face was but I know very clearly that I was thinking, "OH, MY GOD! I coulda been killed!" ha ha He continued, "Well, would you have gotten on him if I'da TOLD ya that?" Still speechless, I shook my head. "Course not," he continued. "But this guy, he's had harnesses on him all his life. He's used to stuff on his back. You trusted him. He trusted you. Don't stand there gawkin' (he told me that quite often during our friendship), put him away!"
Bret was at Paul's for about 3 months and during that time we explored every nook and cranny in southern Vermont, I think. He was one of the kindest, most endearing horses it's ever been my privilege to meet. One of our favorite pass times was to lay down together in his stall. I'd go in and groom him and then step away. He'd lie down and curl his legs up and I'd sit down, resting against his rib cage and read a book. The first time Paul caught us doing that, I thought for sure he was going to pitch a fit but instead he actually chuckled and said, "That's the finest compliment a horse can give you." I said, "Whaddya mean?" He said, "If a horse lets you approach him while he's laying down, he's saying 'I trust you' because he's at his most vulnerable as far as being preyed on. He's letting you lay down WITH him. Don't get up on my account."
I rode all that fall and when it was too cold or rainy or icy to ride, I would just go to that little barn and visit Bret, grooming him and reading with him. I didn't really see Paul that much. He tended to be there in the mornings and because I was student teaching, I often didn't get there til 3:30 or so. Just before I went back to college in January, I showed up at the barn to say good-bye only to find the place completely abandoned. Paul, K.T. and Bret were gone - lock, stock and barrel. No note, no phone call, nothing. I was dumb-founded, numb, there are just no words to describe that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I cried all the way home and asked my parents if Paul had perhaps left me a message (no answering machines then, at least not in our house), or had they seen him around town? (I grew up in a little town.) Nothing. It was as tho he'd vanished from the face of the earth. Every time I was home from school, I'd take the car and sneak up to that barn off of Putney Road, hoping against hope that Paul and the horses had returned. Of course they hadn't...........And eventually the old barn collapsed and now there's a big food distribution warehouse sitting on that site. Still, every time I'm in that area, I picture K.T. and Bret romping in the pasture....................
There's a little more to this story. Til next time...................

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