Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treasures

So, this started out as a Hey, not to worry, Hug a Sheep Day is still a go even though the weather is looking cruddy sort of post, but I ended up typing War and Peace.  So, I'll do a more thorough and fun Hug a Sheep Day post tomorrow and let this roll today because it says a few things (well, probably more than a few ;-) that apparently want to be said.  My pictures weren't very inspiring anyway.  
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I met Handy about 25 years ago.  He'd flunked out of a big show barn down south (as a two year old) and they sent him up here to donate him to the college I was attending.  When they found out that because they'd bred him, they could not get a tax right off for his donation, they said he was not worth the freight home (when gas was still cheap) and to "stockyard" him.   

Standing in the stall, high headed and big eyed, he was a beautiful colt.  He had a royal pedigree with a full brother who won a blue ribbon at the World Championship Horse Show.  He was... "a silly SOB who's going to hurt someone."  I knew the trainer, the assistant trainer, good friends of the owner and trainers.  They all said "You don't want to mess with him."  I was young (and cocky).  He was cheap (killer price). I took him home.  Their only other words of advice were "Don't ever take the halter off him.  Even in a stall you'll never catch him again."

I remember the guy I was dating at the time not wanting me to be there by myself when the farrier came to pull his show shoes.  He was late getting there to meet us though and the farrier and I went on without him.  Afterwards I led  him to the round pen, threw a saddle on him, messed with him a little, felt good about him and climbed on.  We walked around a bit and then went out to the open arena.  We walked around a bit more and headed out to the back 40.  We were just riding back down the lane when the boyfriend drove up. I gave the colt a name to grow into - Handy.

He was a big, gangly young horse.  And while he never, ever did anything dangerous or even remotely stupid, he was kind of a hard ride.  He trotted okay, but cantering was a disorganized disaster that frequently resembled a cartoon ride.  It was suggested that maybe if I drove him for while he'd strengthen up.  I ground drove him a time or two, hooked him to a jog cart (you really need to do more prep work than that - be safe!) and never looked back.  Handy had found his job.  

I worked at an office at the Kentucky Horse Park at the time.  They were hosting a big Combined Driving Event and I walked over at lunchtime to see what that was about.  I met the neatest lady from Michigan driving a cute Morgan mare and she let me ask her a million questions and ended up taking me under her wing all weekend and became a trusted mentor.   The following year Handy and I were competing in that event.  Our first driving show.

I didn't have money for a trainer but I'd joined the local driving club and taken a couple lessons.  I'd navigated for Marlene a couple times so wasn't completely in the dark.  Handy, on the other hand, was.  Our first day of competition was "an easy day" though - dressage.  He did everything I asked for and at the end of the day I walked over to check the scores.  Our score was way different then all the others in my class.  What did I do wrong? 

A couple of the judges were standing nearby and finally one (an older east coast judge) asked me if I needed some help.  I explained this was my first event and wasn't sure how to read the board.  "Okay, which number are you?"  I pointed.  "Oh, the big red horse?"  "Yes, ma'am."  "Your score is that low because you are in first place.  That was the nicest training level test I've ever judged."  

As I shakily walked away from the office, several of my friends from the local driving club saw me and came over and started doing this silly bowing down thing saying "We're not worthy.  We're not worthy." ;-) 

Then next day was "Marathon" day - cross country.  Each obstacle is completely different, resembling the big solid jumps the riding eventers compete over.  We go through.  My navigator and I had planned our routes through each one, but Handy had never seen one in real life.  As we approached the first one, he put on the brakes, no, go on, what?!?, trust me, huh?!?, go on, okay, and we finally skittered through.  The second obstacle he barely questioned and by the third he'd figured out that it was all a "game" and fellow competitors and spectators started following us around the course whooping and hollering, cheering us on.  

The final day - cones - was, well, honestly I don't even really remember it.  But at the end of the weekend, Handy had won the training level single horse class, the training level division (singles, pairs, four-in-hand) dressage championship and the training level division overall championship.  I still seldom took his halter off though ;-).

For many years Handy took me as far around the country as I could afford to go.  Most shows, unless I screwed something up, he was at very least reserve show champion.  We went to combined driving events, pleasure shows, pleasure drives, exhibitions, parades.  He did all the work.  He was fearless and smart.  He was kind, honest and safe.  I wrecked my cart in a hazard once and he froze, standing to let us step down and untangle him while two other wrecks the same day sent their drivers to the ER.  I trusted him with my life. 

I loved having people come out to the farm and take a drive.  He'd let everyone take a turn driving him if they wanted. Once we hosted two executives from the US Pony Clubs.  The first lady climbed onto the carriage and when I asked Handy to trot off, he did the slowest, softest, collected trot ever.  It wasn't our normal warm up, but I trusted him completely and went along with it.  At the end of the ride, my passenger admitted being very scared in the beginning, but "What a nice horse.  I had a great time."  The next lady climbed on and Handy marched off like normal, happy to show her the difference between "come left" and "hard left" at top speed.  He knew.  He always knew. 

So, if you've made it to the bottom of this epistle, I think, other than just wanting to explain the earlier blog title and share a couple (out of hundreds) of stories, what I think Handy would probably encourage us to walk away with is don't ever let anyone pigeon hole you, telling you who you are or who you'll never be.  There is a spot for everyone.  Sometimes you have to go out and look for your spot and sometimes it finds you and you just need to raise your hoof and say so. 

And those rare horses, dogs, people...that you can honestly and completely trust your life to?  Treasure them.  And be grateful.  And thank them for their gifts, large and small.  For their encouragement, shared knowledge...and so many kind words when you are hurting and lost.

Thank you.

 

37 comments:

Lori Skoog said...

You are welcome Sara. Thanks for telling us about Handy..talk about a treasure. Hope time is allowing you to recover. He was so lucky to spend those 25 years with you, and you with him.

amyfibre said...

Thank you so much for sharing some wonderful Handy stories. And in doing so, I learned more about your horse background (something I've always wondered about since I come to you from the fleece/roving/sheep ed). I'm so glad you and Handy had each other for so long. I hope the good memories will continue to sustain and comfort you.

Benita said...

Thank you for telling us this story!! I have seen Handy on your blog, read you talking about him, but I had no idea how special he was. I hope you kept his halter. And all his awards and ribbons. That is one horse to be remembered. I wish I could have met him.

From the stockyard to the show yard - he just needed that perfect person to give him a chance. You lucky woman for being that perfect person for him.

threecollie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story about a horse of a lifetime. I am so sorry that you lost such a treasured friend, but I hope you will share more stories of your life with him.

Jenny Glen said...

Glad you wrote this now so I didn't have to ask you about it when I'm there in May. Margaritas get too salty with tears in them.

Marcy said...

This is one of the most moving posts I have ever read. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and the story of Handy with your readers. It is a precious privilege to be able to read this. When my tears stopped I could finally see the video clearly. What a beautiful boy, who clearly loved you too.

I need orange said...

What a special guy! How wonderful that you two had so many adventures together, over so many years.

Thank you for sharing him with us. I know my life has more depth and texture for having met him through your words.

Tombstone Livestock said...

Wow.... I am sure that his time with you was way too short, but 25 years is a quarter of a century. He gave you his best, and now you have the best memories. He will be hard to replace. Take care.

Andee said...

{{{hugs}}}

gowestferalwoman said...

that video - he loved to do what he did - his sneaking peeks at the sides wasnt spookiness, it was "yo, hey, look at meee, check it out" as he trotted out LOL if he could i think he would snap his fingers, do the point and click with his tongue at everyone as he "walked" down his "runway" LOL

Sigh - What a great horse. Not only for his ribbons and trophies, but for that personality :) You wrote well, friend...


and now we know you'll be fine - you have all those wonderful animals and people here who love you!

(((hugs)))

and now I must go and sneak a peek at my boys...and give them a hug...

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a beautiful post for a wonderful old friend..what good memories you have of him..I hope they comfort you during this sorrowful time:)

gtyyup said...

Oh my...you've got me in tears. What a beautiful treasure he is~

janna said...

Wow!

Sue said...

What a treasure indeed! Made me miss my old horse something fierce. He was a green broke 4 year old Quarter/Morgan cross, and I didn't have much real training myself, but we learned a lot together, and he was the smartest, most honest horse I ever knew. Taught him to piaffe and side pass in an afternoon after seeing the Lipizanner show when I was in high school. Thanks for sharing Handy with us.

Mandy Pedigo said...

I'm so sorry about Handy. I'm really glad to have met him through your stories. I lost my treasure of a heart dog last December and I still miss her. Trustworthy, sensible, and she always knew as well.

Gloria19 said...

Thanks for sharing your memories. I love your stories.
Gloria

Shirley said...

What a moving story. You and he were a great team, meant for each other. You are worthy. Handy obviously thought so.

Michelle said...

I've sat behind that fine red rump, and trusted my little boy to him because you did. I can see why now. I've never been given the treasure of 25 years with any animal (hopefully with Lance!); you are indeed a rich woman.

MarmePurl said...

Every life is worth something. To Someone. Many thanks dear one, for letting us go for a ride with Handy down a country road.
I truely treasure to moment I hit the play button.

small farm girl said...

You story about Handy reminds me of my barrel horse Rhett. It was about the same kind of story. Horse no one wanted coming into my life. We taught each other so much, and I trusted him with my life. I had to give him up because we moved down here. I dont know whatever happend to him. I dont know what kind of life he had after me. You were lucky, you know Handy had a wonderful life. Because of you gave him one to the end.
See you Sat.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing some of your memories of Handy. He was indeed a treasure. How blessed you both were to have met each other.

Hugs from MN

Jean

C-ingspots said...

Hi there, first time visitor here. Michelle sent me a link with this story, as she knew I'd appreciate it. You've got me in tears...what a treasure he was!! Thank God you two found each other!! What an amazing life, what an amazing horse!! My heart aches for your loss, but I'm also thankful that he went so very quickly and didn't suffer. That's a blessing, even though I know it doesn't feel like it yet. And, I must say...he had the most adorable swing in his step from the butt view. So happy, and so proud to be taking you down that little lane. He was a happy, happy horse and I wish I could have known him too. RIP big, beautiful Handy Horse. Big hugs to you. I loved your tribute to him...I can feel how much you loved him.

Eleanor P said...

Thank you for telling us something about Handy! I go off to bed with a huge smile on my face and hope to dream of my horse Zachary that I trusted with my life. Love to all who live in your circle of love and light.

Terry said...

What a wonderful tribute to a very special boy.
I too believe that there's a niche for every horse.

Alice said...

" Everything that makes more of you than you have ever been, even in your best hours, is right." Maria Rainer Rilke

I was reminded of this quote after reading your heartfelt tribute to Handy. Each of you became so much better than if you have never met. What an abundance of riches!

Christine said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing that.

cecilia said...

I am so so glad that you were brave enough to write this for us honey, I have no words to help or encourage other than to say.. We Are Not Worthy! What a horse. And what luck that he lived with you.. I guess you could say that you found each other.. c

Anonymous said...

Beautiful!

Deb W said...

I clicked on the tag "Handy," and looked at all the posts about him. I was struck by one on Aug. 22, 2009. You were aware of his age then and thinking he wouldn't be with you much longer.....but you had more than 3 years from that point, and I'm sure it had a lot to do with him being so happy in his 'little bit of heaven' with you to take care of him. I loved all the videos, of him picking horse fights and pulling blankets, and that 5-minute one of working out in the cart. Good stuff.

The Dancing Donkey said...

Yup, that's what it's all about. Thanks for sharing Handy's story. I am glad that you and he had all those years together even though I know they aren't enough. They never are.

Peruby said...

My daughter and I went to the KHP three times (in the past 20 years).

We love it.

I don't think I can say anything that has not already been said, so I will repeat - that is one beautiful story and I thank you so much for sharing it with us.

tonya said...

Just beautiful. Beautiful story, beautiful relationship. He is the kind of horse movies are made of. Thank you for sharing. So sorry for your loss.
Tonya

Bandon, Oregon said...

What an awesome story about an awesome horse... oh my goodness... Thank you so much for sharing it and the video....

My Heartfelts,
Faith

Leslie McNeil of MarveLes Art Studios said...

Thank you writing the story; for listening to the words that wanted to be written. I am blessed to hear {part} of a great love story.

The Odyssey Farm said...

Beautiful memories, Sara, what a grand horse. We remember that first show at KHP like it was yesterday. He was one in a million. Hugs to you,
J & V

Tree Hugger - Suzan said...

Loved the ride!!
Glad you kept his halter!!

Michelle said...

I ordered a new bridle and a new halter just for Lance, and they arrived today. Part of me is excited, and part of me is terrified of the day to come, even though I hope it is decades away, when I will be holding this halter and remembering....

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