As promised, the final installment from Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows, (Part 1, Part 2), is finally here! The timeliness of this segment was deliberately set to coincide with our yearly celebration of thankfulness for all that life has to offer on our journey through it. Enjoy!
Where Attention Goes, Energy Flows...Part 3
For two hours Janis Ian sang to us through the trials and tribulations of her musical career. For such a diminutive and unassuming exterior, her vocals still packed a soulful punch at all that she had lived through. She ended the concert early in order to get ahead of Hurricane Irene, who was menacingly stalking the east coast at the moment.
Thoroughly exhausted, I
arrived home from the concert, cared for the horses and poured myself into bed. The events of last night, the morning and the afternoon
seemed as if they had taken place months ago. However, my tender emotions reminded me that the whole surreal ordeal was quite current. I fell asleep quickly, but woke up frequently as the reality of losing Murray
began to seep in and take hold.
The next day dawned with
rain, wind and overall dreariness, a perfect companion for grief. My first task, after caring for the horses, was
to call Michele.
“Hi,” she said in a low voice
after recognizing my number from caller I.D.
For a split second I thought
perhaps she already knew. “What do you
know?” I asked hastily.
“I don’t know anything. Why what don’t I know?”
“I am so sorry to have to
tell you this, but we put Murray
down yesterday afternoon,” I sobbed into the phone.
Next, I blurted out the whole
story as quickly as I could so that her emotions could catch up with mine. The words drilled a hole through Michele's heart. But typical of Michele,
she tried to comfort me through her tears while assuring me that she had no
was in a better place.
For most of the day I remained in the house, having only tended to the necessary care of my animals in the barn. They spent the day in clean stalls
munching hay while waiting for the gale force winds and driving rain outside to
In the kitchen I wrote at the computer while Rod pickled an
overabundance of cucumbers from the garden.
Meanwhile, Vicky having started out for the barn from her house in Otter Lake,
was forced by her emotions and gusts of wind to turn around and go home.
Murray’s loss hit the rest of our barn 'family' hard. A young girl named Haley had been the last
one to ride him on the morning of the day he became ill.
She was concerned that this had been the cause of his demise. I wanted her to know how grateful I was that
she was the last one to ride him so that he had left us on a high note, as the
fabulous teacher we knew him to be.
(Wings for Alex), was going to have to forge a relationship with a new mount for her lessons as a result of losing her favorite horse. Of course Michele had lost her best friend, making us all wonder who could ever fill that void!
And me? I couldn't wait to get
back to school, away from the barn that was choking with sadness. Instead, I needed a new view from the windows
in my classroom, where I could look out and put this event into perspective before
allowing myself to move on. Unlike the
closure that I felt for Windy and Spy, Murray's death
left me profoundly sad. He had been the 'Giving Tree' in Shel Silverstein's beautiful children's story with it's blunt message about selflessness and selfishness. I felt that I had somehow failed the big horse. It was not surprising that Murray’s
obituary on Facebook collected over 30 comments. They provided great comfort by reminding me just how many lives the handsome bay boy had touched.
On Labor Day weekend when Meg
and her girls arrived, they never mentioned the mare to me. Out of respect for losing Murray, Meg left the horse completely out of
our conversation. As September and the
new school year provided a much needed distraction from Murray’s death, I
began to contemplate the acquisition of the mare to fill the vacant stall.
By Columbus Day weekend, Meg
and the girls were on their way back to the Adirondacks
for some much needed therapy at the barn with the horses. This time I initiated the conversation. Meg couldn't talk fast enough, and whatever she said changed everything for a Thoroughbred mare named Makia.
A lengthy discussion between
Deb, (the mare's owner), and me on the phone ensued shortly after Meg’s visit. In that chat, Deb was able to determine that
I was a knowledgeable horseperson who incorporated horses into a
lifestyle. I, in turn, was able to garner
that Deb cared deeply about Makia, (Hawaiian for; where attention goes, energy flows), but together they were not cohesive riding partners. She wanted the horse to have a good home that might provide the attention that could unlock Makia’s potential and allow her exuberant flow of energy to be useful.
On the last Saturday of
October, the north winds drove icy temperatures from Canada
into the Adirondacks after a fairly
comfortable and dry fall. Bundled in
fleece and a wool cap, I spent the day waiting for the newest member of our herd to arrive. Late in the afternoon, the shiny silver
exterior of a Judge Manning horse van pulled up in front of the barn. Makia was here at last!
After a long winter in which
I made Makia’s training and conditioning my priority among the horses, I began
to sense that she had made real progress with her balance, patience and stamina. The mare's initial reaction to being
ridden was to pull against the rider with the strength of a freight
train. In frustration she ground her
teeth and stewed in disappointment while bracing against the reins. The rider had no choice but to pull back and
hold the mare’s head up. No wonder Deb
didn't enjoy riding her, especially if it was not possible to devote daily
training sessions to fix Makia's issues. At this point I didn't want to give up on my 'gift' horse, but I began to wonder if anybody else would ever be able to ride her. She left me exhausted and made me question if I was headed in the right direction with her training.
other piece of the equation required that Makia be given ample opportunity to
spend her racehorse energy without limitations. Therefore, she was ‘chased’ before each
ride. That means she was turned out with
another horse, such as Sandi, (Just A School Horse), or Welby, (All Grown Up), and encouraged to run freely around the ring at top
speed. If she felt the need to buck,
roll or gallop, she was allowed to do so. When her rib cage heaved and her nostrils flared with every breath, I knew that she had spent
most of the energy that got in her way under saddle.
Once tacked up and mounted,
Makia was able to focus on the schooling session because of the incredible work
ethic she had inherited from her Thoroughbred genes. It didn't take me long to realize how serious
Makia was about the world around her.
This is a mare characteristic that I had not experienced since I owned
Promise. Mares are wired to be mom’s and
mothering is a survival skill. Makia had had one foal in her lifetime and that exposure was enough to flip the 'on' switch of her maternal instincts. Mares apply these behaviors to all aspects of their existence and training was no
Because Makia was in need of
conditioning I constantly had to monitor her physical attention span because 'mechanically' she was not able to work for extended sessions. It took me a
long time to read the signals and decide which ones should be heeded and which
ones needed to be challenged more. Sometimes, I rode her through the woods on the mile of snow covered trail that encircles the farm. The groomed footing and crisp air
worked wonders on her attitude…mine too.
Many evenings I was able to work Makia in the outdoor ring. She always performed at her best under the flood light accompanied by music. These rides left me smiling all
evening long and hardly able to wait until the next day when, conditions permitting, we might be able to work
out there again. The indoor ring made
Makia feel a bit claustrophobic and caused her to careen about in the smaller space.
After dismounting I always threw my arms around her neck and hugged her tight.
“You are such a good girl,” I
beamed. A carrot or apple provided more tangible praise.
By February Makia was able to teach a few riding lessons; two of her frequent riders became Meg's girls, Danielle and Emily.
Around the first of May, Michele
was on her way back to the Adirondacks after waiting out the winter months in Florida. She was eagerly looking forward to riding,
but resigned to the fact that this summer she would not come to the barn to see
that certain someone. Instead, she would simply
ride anybody that was available. Still stuck
thinking inside the box, I pictured her spending leisurely rides with
Joshua, a hefty paint gelding, Spirit, a sinewy palomino American Saddlebred gelding,
Lowtchee, a plucky Friesian mare, or Welby, my niece, Amy’s aged
ex-racehorse. What I didn't picture was
Michele making that special connection with any one of them. She loved them and had known them all for
years but, she wasn't necessarily bonded specifically to any of them.
Michele wasn't home 24 hours before she was on her way to the barn. It was good to have her back after a six month absence and she was eager to spend time with horses...any horses. She didn't care who I assigned her to ride that day but, first I had to introduce her to the new addition, Makia. Michele was instantly taken by Makia's gentle social nature.
"Can I ride her?" she asked, casually.
"Of course," I replied unable to think of a single reason why Michele couldn't handle Makia.
As you can imagine, Michele and Makia hit it off from the first ride. Theirs is a different relationship from the one Michele shared with Murray. Where Murray was Michele's baby, Makia is Michele's peer, a sister of sorts who like Michele had one child and views the world from a mother's watchful eye and perspective.
I am humbled by my doubts that Michele could ever find a horse with whom to form a special bond after the loss of Murray.
A wise horsey friend named Jackie once commented, "We never stop loving them and somehow our heart can keep growing as the next horse is loved just as much, (although she), will never replace the one before."
Sums it up for me...for Michele and Makia too. RIP Murray!
|Makia receives a lot of attention from Alex.|
|This mare's affectionate social interactions extend to all of us.|
But most of all Makia and Michele have found each other and , (with respect to Murray), have been able to establish a special bond.
Makia and Michele demonstrated the canter when my class visited the barn last June.