Monday, May 04, 2009

I now know a riderless horse. Her name is Redbird. She's a beautiful chestnut QH mare, said to be Foundation. She's probably in her mid-20s by now. Because of her, I regained my pre-Parelli confidence after the fall from Cheerios that first year. Because of her owner, Jenny, I held onto my dream in the face of fear.

And as of 4:00 PM Sunday, May 3rd, Redbird is a Riderless horse.

Because Jenny was killed in a terrible car crash yesterday. It was a horrendous event. According to the news report, she hit a mailbox, a ditch, a pole, a tree, then rolled and landed overturned. It was instantaneous.

Jenny was 47 years old. Our birthdays were a few days apart. She was the first person who gravitated towards me when I joined the herd at the old barn. She was one of the first to welcome me into this brand new world of horses.

She was there for my first trail ride.

She was there for the Poker Run, when it rained. We'd tied our horses' reins to the rail after completing the ride so we could eat barbecued hamburgers before heading back. Cheerios got impatient being tied up, and gave a good yank—breaking the new leather and leaving me with the terrifying quandry (for a neophyte rider) of having to steer my horse all the way back home with only one steering device! (Another rider cobbled it together for me and Jenny and he flanked me to ensure my horse wouldn't run off with me. Ah, those pre-Savvy days...)

Jenny was there for the Big Jump, the day Cheerios carried us unexpectedly over the creek with such grace and dexterity that Jenny and the other rider sat there with their jaws to the floor. Jenny said "I wish I'd had a videocamera for that!"

Jenny was there in the days after Cheerios dumped me, encouraging me to get back on the horse as soon as I felt able. She was the one who saddled him up for me and helped me mount up on my first day back after the fall. She was the one who "rescued" us from "certain death" as he escaped at a slow walk to the mare's pasture (where the gate was open).

Jenny was there for me when the fear was so great I couldn't even lead him to the pasture by myself.

Jenny is the one who offered to temporarily trade horses with me that summer, so I could regain my confidence riding her good old mare while she "straightened out Cheerios" for me (though I know now it was me who needed straightening out). Jenny is the one who trusted me with her beloved mare enough to let me take her out solo on the trails.

Redbird was her whole life—Jenny worried that Red was getting older; she said she didn't know what she'd do if anything ever happened to Red, that she probably wouldn't be able to live without her. She worried about how she'd deal with it when "the inevitable" happened. Losing Red was probably her worst fear.

Jenny was there when so many things happened at the barn.

But something happened to our friendship when I discovered Parelli. I won't blame it all on that—there were more private issues that Jenny endured and personality conflicts that made friendship between us challenging at times. But it did seem the rift opened when I became a Parelli fanatic. Our horsemanship beliefs diverged at that point; after a time, even trail rides were uncomfortable for both of us.

Though we stopped riding together, we were still on friendly terms, and we often chatted when we met up at the barn. There was an incident with the caustic woman who later attacked me for my method of dealing with Shaveya's lameness—the same woman verbally attacked Jenny one day, right after Jenny's Dad died. I stood up to the woman on Jenny's behalf and intervened to stop the attack. It had been uncalled for—it was about nothing important, and nothing that was any of that woman's business anyway. But the day sticks out in my mind—it was probably the last time we bumped into each other at the barn, because I moved my horses not long after that.

Jenny even cared enough to skip her lunch break to appear at my Dad's funeral to give condolences. She'd met him all those times he'd accompanied me to the barn. It was a surprise—we hadn't been talking, I wasn't even aware she'd know—but she came. It meant a lot to me.

That was the last time I saw her. Almost three years ago. Two years, not quite 11 months, to be precise.

Now, I'm going to her funeral sometime this week (if they have one—hasn't been announced yet).

And the only bright spot I can find about this is that her horse outlived her, thus she never had to realize her worst fear.

Godspeed, Jenny. May you find a swift horse in Heaven and ride free.

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