October 22, 2008

Mon Mere, 11 years later

It is so nice to have my old girl, Grandmere, with us at the farm. I have boarded her away from home for a few years now, and it is so good to have her back close.

Here's her story, that I wrote in 1999...

"The dreadful realization that I might have made a big mistake hit me the day the farrier came to trim my newly adopted mare. She pinned her ears back and struck at him repeatedly. My heart sank at his parting words. "Some day that horse is really going to hurt someone." What had I been thinking when I brought her home? All I knew about her was that she was 10 years old, most recently used as a broodmare, and had been on the track at some point in her life because of a tattoo in her lip. It was also very obvious that she had been mistreated -- even abused -- and hated people.
Her previous owner had been a racehorse breeder in Florida. When she passed away, a sister inherited the herd. A legal dispute left the animals half-starved and neglected before finally being shipped west. The sister gave almost all of them away to good homes with the condition that they never be exploited or used for profit. No one had adopted this 15.3hh chestnut mare with a foal at her side. When anyone approached them the mare bared her teeth, flattened her ears and swished her tail in warning.
The first time I met the mare, she stood serenely as I came near. She allowed me to stroke her neck, and then the shy foal. I knew then that the three of us were destined for each other. During our first few weeks together, I spent many hours just sitting quietly as they became familiar with my presence. They soon approached me on their own terms.
It was only after the farrier's warning that I realized the danger and enormity of the situation. I doubted my own abilities as a horsewoman, but not once did I doubt the mare's heart. After a few months, her sour, crusty exterior melted away. Beneath it I found an incredibly sensitive horse whose capacity for love I would never have imagined. Of course she tested me, and at first I had to be quite firm with her. But we slowly gained one another's trust, and I always treated her with dignity and respect. One day I walked into her stall while she was lying down. She let me kneel next to her and caress her face. She barely stirred, and I realized the depth of the trust that had grown between us.
That was one-and-a-half years ago. The other day we went for a ride around the neighborhood, and her daughter began to call frantically when we disappeared from sight. She threw me suddenly, and wheeled toward home. But then she stopped. Instead of heading back to her filly, she stood quietly and waited for me to get up and wipe the astonished look off of my face. I swear she was laughing. I wrapped my arms around her head and laughed too, and we went on our way without looking back."

Grandmere and I have come a long way, through the odessy of my life, divorce, having two children, losing and finding myself, growing into a mature woman. Grandmere's daughter died over three years ago. I had vowed to always keep them together, and the loss was hard on her.

She has taught me so much about myself and about horsemanship. I now share her with my dear friend, Barb. I think Grandmere has more to teach us about aging gracefully (she's 21 but you'd never guess it from watching her racing in the field with her new friends) and how to live well. And of course, I'm very excited about including her in my paintings and drawings. She's come full circle back to me, and we continue to look forward as the circle continues.

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