Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Tribute to Lady

(I started this back in 2007 on the day we had to put Lady down but couldn't bring myself to finish it. Perhaps now I'm ready to finish and share it. We'll see!) 

Probably my favorite photo of Lady is this one of her standing at the fence. 

This picture is grand-daughter Annie turning the end pole on Lady probably 6-7 years ago?

Lady is pictured with grand-daughter Laramie Jo to the right. That one was probably taken about 2004 or 2005 I think!

I know it’s a bit odd, but I feel I should do this eulogy for a good friend of mine… a horse.

Her name was Lady…. which was a misnomer. She was a lot of things but not really a Lady. She wasn’t a sweetie, or a pet…none of the personality traits of a Lady. But she was special…. really, really special.

She was a pretty little mare. We called her buckskin but it wasn’t the mouse tan of many buckskins. She was gold… the color of a new coin. And in the spring when she shed-off, she had dapples that looked like coins had been sprinkled over her hide. Her mane and tail were black. Some white socks, some black. And a pretty blaze of white down a pretty dished face with dark points.

Many years ago (1972?) my husband went to the Benkleman horse sale with his drinking buddies in the midst of winter and brought her home. It was cold. The story was that they almost hit a train at Bird City coming home in the middle of the night in heavy fog, the driver and passengers well oiled, the horse in an open trailer.

They said she’d been brought down from Wyoming by a horse trader. She’d been clipped and/or blanketed because she was slick and shiny, too much so for that time of year. She came home without protection and developed a bad case of distemper next day. We put her in the old brooder house with an old blanket or quilt draped over her. My daughters can still remember the horrible gobs of snot coming from her nostrils. She pulled through, a testament to her toughness.

That was some 34 or 35 years ago, if I’m figuring right. No papers but she must have been a two-year-old, or possible three.

Today, at age 36+/-, she went home to God’s pastures.

How did she live so long? In recent years a lot of it had to do with tons of loving care given her by my son-in-law. Not love so much for the horse as for his wife and children who loved the horse. Lady was not much of a man’s horse. Any man who ever trimmed her hooves or even her bridle path had huge respect…. and a ton of special names for her. One that comes to mind was “Sow,” after she bit an experienced horseman’s thumb, never mind that she was twitched at the time. Others I won't mention; you all know what they probably were!

But let me get back to her special qualities. Let’s see. She was never known to buck or rear, although she wasn’t above showing teeth or hooves on occasion. She had some cow, was quick and agile. My daughters and granddaughters all learned to ride on Lady. My niece took her turn with her in the horse-less horse project. Both my grandsons rode her at least once. My oldest grand child Kaylee put the youngest, Coy, on her when we visited this August, turning him loose to ride the old mare alone. I’m not sure Coy was that impressed but it meant a lot to grandma and his mom.

Racing events were her bailiwick with pole bending her specialty. Not too many years back she took a grand daughter to top place at a county fair over some really fancy horses. For many years she would stand outside an arena with eyes closed, obviously napping, but once she was through the gate she was ready to rip.

Any horse person worth their salt would understand why we are all a little teary eyed over her passing. But to get the full picture, you need the rest of the story.

You see, Lady was, more than anything else, a survivor. Something to hang on to when the going got rough. You see, my husband was an alcoholic who ended up making both his own life and that of his family a real hell. When we struggled with him, Lady was there. The girls started to ride..... on Lady and another mare named Franny!

Then when my husband ended his life and put the girls and I into rebuilding our own, Lady was there. We moved to a different location in the same community, and Lady went with us. Other horses came and went, but Lady was the constant.

When the girls moved on to college and marriages, I moved 250 miles east to my old home territory and Lady went with me. She stayed at my Mom's place with free run of the pasture for a few years. I quite frankly thought she had retired forever at that time. Then when my oldest grand children started learning to ride, Lady went to Colorado to live with them. And I got to see her every time I visited. One by one she taught them all to stay balanced and hang on. She became the mount for grandson Brody when he visited his cousins. And for just one time, for Coy! 

Her duties didn't stop with grand children. Their Colorado ranch is home base for a Christian youth ministry based on horses and rodeo. Lady became a mainstay for teaching kids to ride. I'd like to have a dollar for every child who ever sat her saddle.

The grand-daughters all moved on to bigger and faster horses. And they all tried to save the grandma-horse from abuse. Campers had to be told she was too old to ride everyday. But every one still loved her. Her legs stiffened but she survived. The final year her eyes went. Once the boss horse, she now struggled to stay out of the way of the rest of the herd! At the end, she only trusted one other horse to lead her through the gates and around the pastures. If they got separated she was frantic. In the end it became obvious that while she was surviving, it was with fear and misgivings.  As a senior citizen, I was once more learning from her example, accepting a painful but realistic message!

And so it is we came to the end of a long and meaningful life! One that stayed over 30 years to show us how to persevere and survive through just about anything! 

We will miss her! And none of us will ever forget her!


Ranch wife said...

I loved this post. My husband had a horse that we had for many many years. The day we had to have him "taken care of" was a hard hard day. The horse is such a wonderful animal and I just know the Good Lord takes them into consideration.


Brazle's said...

What a great tribute. Enjoyed reading this post!

little apple tally said...

My kids in Colorado are in the religion business. They once had an associate at the ranch who was strongly into Bible based theology. He told the kids that horses do not go to heaven based on the scriptures that say man has dominion over the animals.

My son-in-law, God bless him, told the man he was not to be spreading that belief around a horse-based kids camp where they were trying to help kids learn about the goodness of the Lord.

I personally believe there are difficulties in always exactly understanding the Bible but God will make it all right in Heaven. Translation: Either the horses will be there.... or we'll be so happy we won't care!