Part 1//Why having horses is nothing like having dogs

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I’ve been super sick, so i don’t aim to organize this well and my point is liable to get lost here or there. But, as per my usual, I promise to get wherever it is that I am going.

It is hard to describe what love of a horse is to those who do not have/ride their own horses (pats self on back). One of the most common misconceptions is that the relationships equestrians have with their horses are akin to those people have with their pets. Ages ago, when I didn’t know better and made the occasional error of gushing or worrying out loud about Ryllin to non-riders, I found, much to my chagrin, that they tended to relate my feelings to their experiences with their dogs. It became clear to me then that non-horse people really are not able to understand what I am talking about. Horses are nothing like dogs, keeping them is nothing like keeping dogs, loving them is nothing like loving dogs, they offer more, they take more, they make you a million times more crazy. The real distinction between the relationships arises when it comes to horses that are really being used, the more rigorous the riding/sport the more involved and complicated the relationship tends to be. But I’ll espouse on that in Part 2.

The financial investment alone is a hundredfold. Combined with the time investment, which is so significant that for most of us it leaves little to no room for any other hobbies, horse ownership/equestrianism is elevated to the classification of a full on lifestyle. This is also one of the chief reasons many horse people are completely off their rocker. What horses offer their riders is also markedly different from the offerings of dogs, but that portion of the lesson will be delivered in careful detail come Part 2.

For now, and with all that being said, I want to focus strictly on physiological issues which separate horses from everything else pet-like, and how those issues affect the hapless humans endeavoring to manage them. Unlike dogs, horses are dishearteningly fragile. Most people don’t realize that horses can drop dead on a dime. It would seem that these animals had never quite acclimated, evolutionarily speaking, to domestication, and, despite their imposing dimensions, are utterly frail. Their bodies can be potentially riddled with a slew of debilitating conditions, many of which, if gone unnoticed or not properly addressed, easily turn deadly. The two most common sources of horse fatality are their guts and their feet. Horse feet are complex structures, somewhat poorly designed to withstand the rigors of supporting over 1000 lbs, especially when that 1000 pounds is hurling itself over obstacles or performing complex aerial maneuvers. The saying goes “No foot, no horse”, and it is quite literal, a bad foot means at best, a lame horse, and at worst, a dead horse. Lots of care goes into maintaining healthy feet on a horse, from shoeings and trimmings, to supplements, dressings and careful selection of footing. A foot can go bad in a day, dietary issues, bad shoeing, genetic issues, weather issues, ground conditions, stall conditions, etc. all can cause deadly foot disorders and diseases. You might say, what’s the big deal, one foot goes bad, there are three more. Be assured, a horse needs all four of its tiny feet to equally distribute its enormous weight, one foot gone, means the other three will go shortly thereafter, as they cannot take the horse’s weight in perpetuity. And no, horses can’t just lie around while it gets better, like dogs. A horse’s weight and intricate circulation/nervous systems prevent it from being able to lie down for long without dying. I kid you not, a laid up horse will basically crush itself from the inside, its organs will go out one after another under its own weight causing permanent damage to its nervous system and eventual death. So not only can a horse with a compromised foot not be ridden but often, the degeneration of the hoof structures is so severe that it has to be put down. A sport horse, who becomes too lame to be ridden, is a tragedy in itself, as the amount of work, time and feeling that goes into creating an effective riding partnership between horse and rider is massive, but when said horse has to also be put down, the dimension of loss is on another level.

Second most common and sudden horse killer, that all horse people live in constant fear off, is colic. Again, seems innocuous enough right? I mean who hasn’t had a little colic, a bit of constipation here and there, some gas? Well, if you’re a horse, the word colic carries with it weight equal to that of words like cancer or apocalypse. In short, due to the unique anatomy of equine stomachs and intestines, indigestion kills. Kills suddenly and mercilessly. So there is that. It’s definitely nothing like when a dog gets upset stomach and barfs all over your favorite duvet. Not only is a horse physically unable to regurgitate its food btw, i.e. throw up, but as I had mentioned earlier, it can’t even rest it off on its back, since even laying down for too long is deadly to horses.

Another thing to mention is that unlike dogs, horses cannot breathe through their mouths, so when they have a cold, or an allergy, they can easily suffocate and, again, die. For the same reason horses often croak from simple choking.

With these few example, I am trying to illustrate why dog owners have no comprehension of what goes into horse ownership. No one really understands what it’s like to be dealing with a horse health problem, how all consuming and exhausting it can be, except for horse people of course. And this is just one dimension of horse ownership, the highly redacted physiological one. It is also why horse love is nothing like dog love. The more attention and worry something requires, never you mind money, the more significant the place it occupies in our worlds. Just from the perspective of wellness, horses are infinitely more complex and demanding than dogs. After spending years worrying and obsessing about every cough and every limp, the feeling we develop for our equine partners is infinitely deeper and more involved than the fuzzy uncomplicated affections we feel towards our sweet canine companions. It’s just simple math. Involvement and investment is commonly proportionate to attachment and meaning. The harder we work at something, the more we value the product of our labor. In the case of horse ownership and equestrianism, a live, sound horse is the product.

—–>Part 2// Why Horse love is nothing like dog love // The partnership, the sweat, the guts, the glory.

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Part 5: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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Plz find Parts 1234 by clicking on the numbers. 🙂

A few days passed since my exodus and yet I hadn’t heard from him at all. It was the biggest break we had to date in terms of communication. Eventually I called him but he didn’t pick up and didn’t call me back. I called again, nothing. I left a couple of concerned voice mails. Nothing. It was all around confounding. I didn’t know what to think. I’d never been an alarmist but I started to worry for him, as he was now marooned up in that house quite alone, not counting the wine. I texted him a few times too requesting a confirmation of life, still there was no reply. Finally, right when I was ready to drive over to check on him, he shot me back a short text, casually letting me know that he was fine, but busy. This was followed by another period of radio silence. I remember feeling very confused and anxious and finally penning a heartfelt message which questioned the state of our relationship, while reminding him of my friendship and love. He did respond then, denying the validity of my concerns and reassuring me that nothing in fact had changed between us. That exchange I, for some reason, remember in its entirety. He insisted that our friendship, despite evidence to the contrary, had undergone no change at all and that I was still “singularly unique and special” to him. This was, as i had shortly learned, a flat out lie, as he was in fact done with me for good, but putting me out of my misery would have required too great a generosity on his part, it was no 4$ latte or DVD after all. To be clear, the crux of my injury wasn’t that he had a sudden change of heart, demoralizing as this was, the real hurt emanated from his not caring or respecting me enough to simply take my call and tell me something-anything real. If he had, I would undoubtedly still have been hurt, but I would also walk away with as high an opinion of him as ever and a mind to healing.

No measure of wariness towards J could have prepared me for this turn of events. I was, in all honesty, soul-crushed and for a long time thereafter truly, deeply sad. If his disappearance from my world seems innocuous as far as transgressions go, let me assure you it was not; it was acutely, painfully felt. Sure, dropping the proverbial curtain and exiting stage left is every person’s prerogative, but sneaking out under cover of night is not. To this day abandonment ranks on my list of painful experiences as one of the worst and most contemptible. I hate to be dramatic, but I think he could have just as well punched me in the stomach. It felt in every way like a violence and a theft. Had he indicated his intentions to disengage, extended any, and I do mean any, courtesy explanation aimed towards closure, or even just a stock Good Bye, I would have been able to process it differently. It was his silence, evasion and complete lack of basic human regard for me that shocked my system, and although it mostly bruised my heart, it was also a blow to my pride and my self-esteem. (Admittedly, the latter was struck the least)

It boggles my mind even now that this seemingly earnest, tender hearted boy (..or man I guess) with his love of dogs and his rare gift for words could be so inexplicably thoughtless (cruel). Though obviously, I misunderstood completely the degree of his attachment and care for me, what surprised me most was how sorely I misjudged his character. He was in regards to me indecent, an utter failure. At the time I would have bet my arm that underneath the charm and the words, there was a conscientious person of substance and heart. I would have lost that bet (and the arm) as words proved to be ALL he was.

Before now I never talked about any of this, because, in part, I was ashamed of having let myself fall into it as I did. After all I was and always will be the only one responsible for my own feelings, the fact that I got hurt was, as they say, on me. Victim girl or Foolish girl were not monikers I cared to take up and “vulnerable” is perhaps a word I detest most and in general, god forbid it be spoken in reference to me. Pride and unresolved confusion further conflated into a kind of secretiveness. On some level too, I think I hoped that the story still had a chance of finding a better conclusion, so I kept it tucked away in a cognitive limbo. That’s the trouble with hope, enduring as it is, it doesn’t fall within the purview of good judgment or reason.

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A few years later, with hope finally abandoned, I wrote J an email outlining how I felt. It was a way of self-generating the closure he couldn’t give me. I wanted it to be finite, so I asked that he not respond, even if by some chance he felt inclined to do so. I don’t remember what exactly was in it, I imagine it was some version of all this, and I don’t know that he read it, but if he did, he heeded my request obliging me with his continued silence.

The overall experience marked me indelibly, but it did not change or callus me. In all fairness the universe did make ample karmic recompense to me shortly thereafter, turning Lonely girl into a decidedly Lucky girl (so lucky). I am still genuinely concerned for J’s happiness and still only wish him the best. I think I’ll never stop rooting for him, and that is something I don’t dislike about myself. The most significant thing I carried out from it all, besides a purple heart bruise, was a lesson in accountability. From that point forward I was always painstakingly careful not to lead anyone on whom I did not intend to keep.

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Part 1: On lonely girls and broken hearts

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This is not a story about romance or young love, although in a way it is a story about a kind of love at a time when I was young. Recently I read a blog by Erin. J. Bernard, where she described a past romantic dalliance of unique nature, and a brand of rejection usually reserved for the weirder, lonelier segment of humanity; writers, artists and misfits. I found myself reminiscing about a person and a time in my own life which to my mind mimicked her experience. It was not a lasting or, in the grand scheme of things, a terribly significant event, but it was singular and it left an indelible mark on me. Like all of life’s harder lessons it was necessary and dutifully learned.

As I take inventory of my past, I find that, as usual, memory is at best a precarious mechanism, disorganized and not at all trustworthy. I wish I was the journaling type then, as to have at my disposal some authentic reference material, but no such luck. Trying to commit to an honest account of a time long gone is admittedly a bit more difficult, than I originally anticipated. If science is correct in its assertion that all cells in the body, including brain cells, renew themselves completely every 7 years, then I can say that none of what I was then remains in what I am now. Except of course for these scattered memories, but don’t get me wrong,  they are nothing to scoff at. Memories are, to my heathen mind, one and the same as soul. And so, for lack of journals, I guess I will have to prod at my soul.

I was always that weird, introspective kid clutching a book. From the very get go I knew that I understood things differently from others. When I was little I tried to explain certain truths to other five year olds, like the rate of seconds as they tick on the clock, they laughed at me, absolutely rejecting my completely correct take on time. This was just one occasion amongst many to come when I was completely right about something only to be rejected and ridiculed by the ignorant majority or by the uppish adults. I am not and never was by any means a saint, but I knew I was different, in some ways I knew I was better. I understand how it sounds, it’s quite wrong to say and vexing to hear, but I am not afflicted with false modesty. I never experienced jealousy or envy, if someone was more beautiful than me, received more praise, had nicer things, better toys, I was happy for them. To my mother’s relief I did not covet, so she never had to explain to me why I couldn’t have something that was had by someone else. I didn’t lord my advantages, whatever they might have been, over others; I couldn’t understand the pleasure of being boastful or the point of being popular. I couldn’t understand why winning mattered, how putting someone down or leaving someone out could be fun. It baffled me that while I lived comfortably so many others in the world suffered. When I was 8 I wrote a letter to God, who had not yet at this time disproved himself to me. I asked that he take some of my food and clothes to the children in Ethiopia, and packed it all up nicely into a suitcase. My mom was not amused. In short, I wasn’t motivated by the same things that motivated my peers.

The only reason I wasn’t ostracized or actively mocked for my obvious deviation from the norm, was that I was attractive and hailed from marginal privilege. The latter seemed to eclipse all of my more divergent qualifications. It was very clear to me from a very young age that the lottery of good genetics and favorable economic circumstances was responsible for my good standing in the world. Who I was on the inside didn’t much factor in.

I had a hard time connecting with people and subsequently a very hard time making friends. I wasn’t much different from that really weird girl with greasy hair and bad skin, who made everyone uncomfortable. She sat in the back of class, got made fun of, ate lunch alone and was left out of everything. I knew I was more like her than anyone else, yet I was treated differently, I was welcome at most tables, into most groups and at all sleepovers. I was offered regard and consideration, merely because my packaging was more advantageous. I became aware of this unjust truth first when I was 10, and although it undoubtedly made my life easier, it also mostly made me sad. As it followed I didn’t value that acceptance and didn’t try to maintain it. I became a unique kind of outcast. I didn’t fit in with the cool kids, even though I was welcome, because in reality we had nothing in common, but I didn’t fit in the with the weird kids either, because I was externally too well adjusted to share in their experience of the world. 

I am offering this lengthy prologue to explain the precise kind of loneliness with which I was afflicted for the majority of my life. It wasn’t that I couldn’t find friends, as in bodies to surround myself with, I just couldn’t find any I wanted to be surrounded by. In high school I spent most lunch periods in the home room, in the company of a book and Miss Ellis, the English teacher. I went to the movies mostly alone but sometimes with my grandmother, who was in fact one of the greatest friends I ever had. I carried out no connections at all from any of my school years. If I went to a high school reunion I wouldn’t know anyone, and I doubt anyone would know me, except maybe for a handful of boys who were, reportedly, sweet on me. I cultivated a few random friendships during college years, these friendships were seldom and short lived, mostly because of me, but not always. Unfortunately, if I was very drawn to someone, then most likely there had to have been something wrong with them, more wrong than there was with me. And I don’t mean something obvious or nefarious, like a hidden tail where there ought not be one or a penchant for squirrel dissection. No. I am talking about subtle inadequacies mostly related to the function or rather dysfunction of their proverbial hearts. Out of those few I can think of only a couple that mattered. One such that mattered is the subject of this narrative, if ever I can stop talking about my lonesome childhood and get to it.

….To Be Continued in Part 2

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