Catching up, part 2…

This is the post I never wanted to write.

I’ve started and deleted it a number of times, because there’s no good way to say that Gypsy – my first mustang, my war mare – is gone. (For those that don’t know her, I wrote about her here.)

She was in her twenties and had been showing signs of what I assumed was mild arthritis, but she came out of the winter in good shape. She started exhibiting severe separation anxiety, but she’d lived her entire life in a herd, so I couldn’t blame her for being upset at suddenly getting left alone.

And then, on Mother’s Day, I found her in obvious distress. Her back was tight, abdomen cramped, steps short and uneven – left stifle obviously swollen. I hoped it was a soft tissue injury that might improve with rest and bute, but her condition deteriorated drastically over the next couple of days. Her resting heart rate, the last day, jumped from her usual 32 bpm to 68 bpm and she quit eating. She was basically breaking down in front of me, and though it broke my heart to do it, I had to say goodbye.

In retrospect, what I took to be mild arthritis in her hocks must have been more serious. She was a range-bred mustang who spent at least 8 years in the wild, so hiding pain was instinctive. I wonder now if this partly explains her separation anxiety, too. We think she took a bad step or slipped in mud and, maybe because her hocks were compromised, her stifle took the brunt of the force and couldn’t compensate. Her age and temperament probably contributed to the rapid progression of damage, though the vet assured me it could have happened to any horse and the prognosis would have been poor no matter what.

All I know is, she’s gone and the hole she’s left in my heart is too big for words.



My big red mare, in her copper-penny spring coat.


Passing the torch…


I’ll always miss her, though.



Catching up, part 1…

So, JP’s summer camp experience didn’t go the way I’d planned.

We got nine inches of rain the week he was here and his dry lot turned to a soul-sucking (or at least shoe-sucking) bog of heavy clay mud. Because of his foot issues, standing around in mud was NOT what he needed. My husband hauled in sand and screenings to at least give him dry bedding in the loafing shed, but an island of dry in a sea of muck wasn’t at all adequate for a big ol’ horse with bad feet. I hauled him back to my trainer’s barn for replacement shoes and had to leave him until the not-so-dry lot finally drained. Only, then we got another four inches, and another two inches… My husband tried cutting ditches around the lot to help with water flow, but when you get over a foot of rain in two weeks, there’s just not much you can do to keep things dry.

And then Gypsy tweaked something in her stifle, and I had to move her to the lot despite the mud. (More on that in the next post).

Unfortunately, JP’s summer camp here on the farm had to end much too soon. (He’s going to his new family this week, I think, and will have loads of fun playing with children – so all’s well that ends well, really). He was such a cool horse and I was looking forward to a couple months with him, but I didn’t have the flood-proof facilities he needed.

While he was here, I had the chance to truly appreciate a QH’s cool unflappability and gentle patience. JP was completely quiet – even with storms rolling overhead, trees shaking, and rain slanting in his face, he was easy to handle. And he was… simple in a sweet hearted way. Straightforward.

But I also realized, once again, that I’m a committed mustang person. Even when I’m tempted to tear my hair out, I really love bonding with challenging, sensitive, reactive horses. Mustangs are just *smart* – they have a self-reliance domestic horses don’t often get to develop, and I love that about them.

I also found it curious that neither Gypsy nor Trinity had ANY interest in befriending JP. Trinity made ugly faces at him over the fence and then adamantly ignored him the rest of the week. Gypsy pretended she never even saw him. I’ve noticed them behave this way with other domestic horses, so I can’t tell if their attitude was coincidental – were they just not in the mood to make friends? uninterested in an older gelding? uninterested in JP just because he’s JP? – or if they really can sense differences between mustangs and domestics.

I’m disappointed the summer camp experiment didn’t last longer (just watch: we won’t get another lick of rain until September… :S) but glad we had the chance to give it a try. It gave me several things to think about…


I keep seeing, in the online circles I frequent, these “Why you should never date a horsewoman” memes. They’re meant to be tongue-in-cheek funny, I know, and I admit it’s easy to laugh at the peculiar quirks we recognize in ourselves.

But I have to say, those cutesy memes really drive me crazy. Hay-caught-in-the-bra crazy. Boot-stuck-in-the-mud crazy. Crazy, okay?

The thing is, they often carry an underlying smug condescension, a good-old-boy’s back-slap humor that says the patronizing indulgence of the patriarchy should be celebrated, that it’s okay to poke fun at what a woman considers important, that it’s okay to make her feel selfish and/or guilty for having a passion that doesn’t involve her man. (Even, oddly enough, when they’re written and shared by women.) Those memes tend to say, “Aren’t men great for putting up with silly women and their horses?

No. No, they’re not. What they are is lucky.

If you fall in love with a horsewoman*, and she happens to love you back, you’ve found a woman who isn’t afraid to get dirty. A woman who knows how to work hard, how to do a job right without expecting anyone to notice. You get a woman who values substance over shallow surfaces, authenticity over appearance.

If you love a horsewoman, you get a woman who can be comfortable in her own skin because her horse sees who she is inside. You get a woman who knows the importance of clear communication and the peace of companionable silence, a woman who knows how to listen and how to speak her mind. A woman who understands how to be vulnerable and when to be brave.

If you love a horsewoman, you love a woman with dreams, goals, and ambitions of her own – a woman who knows how to pursue her passions and who will support you while you chase yours, too. You have a woman who recognizes the importance of patience, but who also knows there are times you just have to grab mane and kick on.

If a woman has a heart wide and deep enough to love a horse, she has a heart with more than enough love for you. Sure, she might spend time at the barn (or in the pasture, or on the trail) that you wish she was spending with you – but when she returns, she’ll be so lit with joy and love and enthusiasm that she’ll light you up, too.

I would argue that horsewomen make the best life partners, because if they can build a partnership of mutual trust and respect with a creature that outweighs them by a thousand pounds, a creature strong enough and quick enough to kill them – well, then, they’re capable of facing everything life has to throw at you standing bravely at your side.

Sure, she may show up with hay in her hair or muck on her boots or random grass stains on her shirts, but there is genuine beauty in doing what you love and being who you’re meant to be.

She may spend more time cleaning stalls than cleaning the floors in your house, but you can figure out how to mop, too. Maybe dishes will wait an extra night for washing or the laundry won’t get folded right away. Maybe dinner won’t be waiting when you walk in the door. But if those are the things that matter to you, then a) what the heck is wrong with you? And b) you can hire a housekeeper or kitchen staff, if you feel that strongly.

Or c) maybe you don’t deserve a horsewoman at all.

But if you’re man enough to catch one, you’re a lucky man, indeed.


  • Note: I freely admit not all women who say they love horses are actually horsewomen. I’m not talking about the fake ones, okay?

Books read in April

  • GEORGE WASHINGTON’S BEAUTIFUL NELLY: The Letters of Eleanor Parke Custis Lewis to Elizabeth Bordley Gibson, 1794-1851 edited by Patricia Brady
  • THE ISLAND OF HORSES by Eilis Dillon
  • [Redacted – personal research]
  • BOOTLEG: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal
  • FLAPPER by Joshua Zeitz
  • THE LOST GIRL OF ASTOR STREET by Stephanie Morrill
  • CAPONE: The Man and the Era by Laurence Bergreen
  • RELAXED AND FORWARD  by Anna Blake
  • A BEAUTIFUL BLUE DEATH by Charles Finch