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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Horse Story Behind My Horse Story

Farside's first day
Five years ago, I could barely walk up a flight of stairs, and in April of 2008, I was literally about to get back in the saddle again. In many ways, I was coming home. I had first learned to ride in this mountain community fifty years ago, and this picture was taken the day my friend Sheri Griffith trailered her handsome gray Arab endurance horse Farside from his home in Moab, Utah, to Colorado, where I had just returned.

Riding my first horse Bingo
"Farside just doesn't seem to have his heart in racing like he used to," Sheri told me. "He'll be perfect for you."  And so Farside was about to become mine.  But he was leaving behind his stablemates back in Utah.  Would he miss the younger horses who looked to him for leadership? Rio? And Dakota and Diego? Of course, but I didn't give it much thought the day I watched Sheri lift my heavy old western, hand-tooled saddle onto Farside's back. I was too overcome with my own emotional journey.

Despite the fact that I feared I would never ride again, I had hauled that saddle, with its custom tooling and heavy wooden tree, with me when I left the ranch in Wyoming, when I moved back to Colorado to care for my mother, to Santa Fe after she died, and then when I moved back to Colorado. The saddle symbolized hope. And now, thanks to Sheri, Farside symbolized the future.

Sheri and Farside
In 1982, the year my son was born, Farside's sire Xenophonn won the U.S. National Open Cutting Horse Championship. Three years later, my husband and I moved to Wyoming with our son, and 6-week old daughter.  We loaded up my saddle in the pick-up truck, along with our other tack, and a few months later, we brought the horses from Colorado to Wyoming.  My old mare Romie would be buried there.

Rio and Farside
en route to the Vee Bar
If I were writing a novel about a woman learning how to carve out a new life for herself after physical and emotional upheaval, after leaving her marriage, and the land and the animals she loved, to care for her dying mother, I might include a scene where she overcomes her sorrow and fear and rediscovers a sense of destiny.  I might use something as symbolic as a hand-tooled leather saddle and a horse who would carry her on his elegant gray back into a new and purposeful life.

And so it was that I climbed onto Farside's back that day, settled into the saddle, smiled at Sheri, turned Farside's nose into the breeze, and urged him onward.  
Page and Sheri
Vee Bar Mountain Ride
Then, two years ago, Sheri and I loaded Farside into her trailer next to his buddy Rio, and hauled them both to the Literature & Landscape of theHorse Retreat at the Vee Bar in Wyoming. The two horses were so glad to see each other, they were nearly inseparable - definitely "mothered up" for the entire 5 days!

Had Rio and Farside missed each other? What stories did they hold inside them about the endurance races they have traveled to together? Had  Farside missed Sheri?  Yes.  In the same way she had missed him?  I don't know.  But I do know that he and Sheri helped me to remember how to live a purposeful life, and for that I am eternally grateful.