On Giants' Shoulders

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Girl and Her Horse

Abby's horse Eclipse died yesterday. She had been diagnosed with an intestinal obstruction on Thursday, but when the blood test results came back on Saturday, it turned out that she was in kidney failure. Even heroic measures would have been pretty unlikely to change the course of things and Eclipse was actually too weak to be transported to a medical facility anyway. So the hard choice got made.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about Abby and Eclipse the past few days. I've realized that, although I've never spent a great deal of time with Eclipse by myself, that much of my time with Abby during her teens was spent on Eclipse related activities. There were the early morning trips to the stable for Abby to work off part of the board for Eclipse. There were the training sessions in the afternoon that I drove her to. There were riding lessons on Eclipse. There were trips to saddle shops to look at saddles for Eclipse. There were escapades of trying to get Eclipse onto trailers to go from home to a stable, from a stable to home again. There were the trips to the feed store to try to find something to keep the gnats off Eclipse since she was so incredibly allergic to them. There were trips to the fabric store to buy material to make Eclipse a blanket to wear at the stable. There were the trips from home to Shoreham both for riding lessons and for regular riding sessions when Eclipse was staying there. There was the day that Eclipse got bred by the Arab stallion. There were photo opportunities on the front lawn at home. There were the days when I held Eclipse while Hope was getting her feet trimmed or vice versa. There were the trips to bookstores to pick out books on horse training. There were the schemes to try to figure out how to build a round pen (that one never came to fruition).

I'm not a horse person. A lot of the time in a certain sense I was only along for the ride. I drove the car, I tutored in order to pay for riding lessons, I read John Lyon newsletters to better understand the whole process, but ultimately it wasn't my project. I was a facilitator, not an instructor.

Often people ask me how high school works for homeschoolers. They have this idea of parents teaching algebra and French, Shakespeare, and physics and are daunted by it all. Now for the most part Abby learned algebra from a textbook and had the gaps filled in by a wonderful instructor at UVM when she took Pre-calculus math. We tried French (and I did have 18 hours of college French so this wasn't a totally wild thing to do), but never really got as far as either of us probably thought we might. We did do some Shakespeare (I was an English major after all), skipped physics, and she took chemistry at CCV. I honestly think, however, that Abby learned more from Eclipse and because of Eclipse than she did from any of the more conventional school type stuff. She ended up majoring in Animal Sciences with most of her course work centering around equine science. She went to college on a scholarship and graduated magna cum laude, so clearly something worked.

It strikes me now how many of those high school hours were spent on horse related activities. Abby learned to drive largely by driving to and from Shoreham. We often used those drives as a time for me to read to her from one book or other that we were working our way through. I specifically remember reading Peter Kreeft's The Summa of the Summa, but I know there were others as well.

Today is just the sort of fall day that Abby loved being a homeschooler. It was a day like today that she would do schoolwork for awhile and then go hop on Eclipse for a short trail ride or go work on lounging her in her paddock. She would comment on how the other kids were in school while she got to spend time with her horse. She'd then work on algebra or something else late into the evening, but it was a small price to pay for having spent the afternoon with her horse.

Abby's job right now is as a medical fact checker. Her college coursework is now paying off. That college coursework that looked like simply indulging her love of horses for a few more years is helping to pay the bills. She has a job that is allowing her to stay home with her baby while still earning some much needed cash. So the end result of all those years with Eclipse is that a a different dream came true.

There were lots of dreams that never did come true. Abby never did get to take Eclipse to a John Lyon clinic. She never did get to do endurance riding with her. She never was able to do the amount of riding with her she would have liked to because Eclipse spooked too easily for it to be safe for Abby to ride her on the trail by herself and there really wasn't a good place to ride her around here. She never even got to get a registered Morgan baby out of her because the paperwork to register Eclipse herself got messed up. However, she did get a registered half-Arab baby who is now at a wonderful home with a wonderful trainer who keeps Abby updated on her progress regularly. We had hoped that once Eclipse hit the older horse stage that she'd be calmer and Abby would be able to take her out on the trail. Unfortunately, that was another dream that had to die because Eclipse came up permanently lame awhile back and was no longer really rideable at all.

I suspect that Abby is more grateful today for the dreams that did come true. She got to spend hours and hours with her horse. She got to take her to college and ride her nearly every day in a great facility. She had the fun of raising a foal and training her to the point that someone else with a better facility and more time could take over and finish the job. She learned lessons about training that will serve her well someday when she has the time and the place for another horse. For I'm pretty certain that ultimately there will be another horse. It won't be for awhile, and it will never be quite the same, it will be a different horse for a different time in her life. There will never be another horse to grow up with. This was the horse that saw her grow from a 10 year old to a grown woman. This was the horse that heard about the broken heart after broken relationships, the horse she missed while she was in Pittsburgh, the horse that taught her that training has to include firmness as well as gentleness. The best parts of the dream, to have a horse to grow up with were there. And me, well the best part for me was that I got to go along for the ride. I got to watch it happen. I saw the confidence she learned, the maturity she developed, the resourcefulness she exhibited, the patience she showed, even the acceptance of the deaths of dreams. Watching my daughter become a horsewoman required a great deal of courage on my part. I was frightened, but I had to not let her be. Ultimately, taking a chance on her abilities really paid off.

Someday I hope my daughter, the sometime writer, will write her own story of Eclipse. After all I was just the observing bystander. I wasn't the person who felt the horse beneath me, or fell off on occasion. I was frequently the hander of things, often the payer of bills, hopefully the adequate cheerleader, and of course the car service. Ultimately , the story of the girl and her horse will have to be written by the girl.


At 2:14 PM, Blogger Karen E. said...

What a beautiful post, Liz. I'm so sorry about Eclipse, but what beautiful memories Abby will always have.


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