a horse of her own

About two days after Leslie died, one of Leslie’s former students told me that they were looking for homes for the horses. I thought “looking for homes” was a polite way of saying “selling,” so I just nodded along, but then she said, “Would your family be interested in one of the horses?” I said I’d check with my husband.

So I did. His response was immediate: DUH, YES.

I called back and said that yes, we would take a horse. I didn’t tell my daughter, though. What with all the chaos and confusion, I worried that wires were getting crossed. As the dust settled, maybe Leslie’s relatives would discover they needed to sell the horses, or that Leslie had specific plans.

But then at work a couple days later, one of Leslie’s good friends mentioned to my daughter about the horse she’d be getting. Right away she called me, through the roof. “They want me to take Velvet!” she squealed.

“Yes, honey. We already said yes.”

“So am I going to be allowed to have her?”

Shocked by my measured acceptance, she asked the can-I-have-her question about three different ways. And then she flew into a tizzy. There was so much to do! Every time I sat down at my computer, there were at least a half dozen horse-related pages open, such as the schedule for deworming, how to measure a horse’s hooves, and searches for half pads, saddle pads, grazing muzzles, and polo wraps.

Days passed. Boarders claimed their horses and buyers came to inspect others. My anxiety rose. It would be a double grief if my daughter lost first Leslie and then the promised horse.

But then my daughter called from work to report that she had talked with Leslie’s sister and she was, indeed, going to get Velvet. After that, things started moving forward. She came home with Velvet’s papers. She paid for Velvet’s last farrier visit at the farm (she had him remove Velvet’s shoes to save money), and she paid for the final vet visit. We made a run to the local saddle store (who knew we had a local saddle store?) for necessary supplies: feed, polo wraps, lead rope, and halter. And then last Thursday afternoon at three o’clock, our neighbor’s trailer pulled to a stop in front of our house and Velvet backed out onto the road.

Velvet had never seen sheep before, so at first she was terrified. She alternated between trying to make a break for it and planting her feet and staring them down, her head up, blowing air.

Scared that the first halter might break, my daughter put on a second one.

Eventually Velvet calmed and allowed herself to be coaxed into the field.

Velvet is a great jumper (other stats: she’s a bay roan and 14 years old, the same age as my daughter), so my daughter is using logs to make a jumping course in the second field. She doesn’t have a saddle yet, so she’s riding bareback for now.

astride Leslie’s horse, wearing Leslie’s boots: carrying on

This past weekend, my husband tried to ride Velvet. It didn’t go so well, the kids reported (I had been at a conference in NYC). Without the stirrups, he could hardly stay on. Defeated, he dismounted. My daughter promptly leaped atop Velvet and galloped off across the field. “She makes it look so easy,” he grumbled (happily) to me later.

Last night the sheep were out grazing in the yard when my daughter got back from riding in the neighbors’ ring. (The neighbors have given her access to their adjoining field and riding ring whenever she wants.) “Just stay on Velvet and drive them in,” my husband hollered.

What a hoot it was, pure, happy chaos.

I sat on the deck steps and snapped pictures of my daughter’s mini ranch: the sprinting (pregnant!) sheep, the excited dogs, and in the middle of it all, my daughter, on her very own horse.

Can you believe it?!

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (2.9.15), eight, dear Mom, and corn and wild rice soup with smoked sausage.


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