Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Thoughts on Small Thing

At the weekend, I heard Small Thing whinny. It was about 4 a.m. and it woke me up. Except it wasn't him whinnying because he went away.

I always described him as the most fun you could have on horseback.
  • He made me laugh. Every. Single. Day.
  • I loved how small he was, because he was so easy to be around. He came in a manageable package and was the perfect size for me.
  • He hated to be fussed with - like a small school boy, if you tried to tidy his hair or brush his face, he'd duck out of the way. That didn't stop me giving him his daily hug, though.
  • His thought processes were subtly different to the big horses. He'd make choices about where to go and what to do that they never would - mostly because he could. It kept me on my toes. And it made me laugh.
  • He was always the most vocal one out there - in the mornings if you weren't going out to feed straight away, then you'd better be quiet around the house, because he'd be whinnying the second he heard any signs of stirring. 
  • He had a deep-throated frog whicker and a high-pitched whinny, and he was always very chatty and would talk as you came up. Any time you took him out in the trailer on his own, he'd whinny at you any time you stopped and in peered through the window. He did it that last day when I stopped to check on him going through the canyon.
  • He could drop and roll and jump up again and look gumby-like doing it - there was nothing lumbering about him. 
  • He was light on his feet and could jump like a cat from a standstill. Clever on his feet, he was never clattery - he would take quick little steps in rough terrain.
  • He almost never panicked when he got stuck - he'd jam his feet in spaces then have to figure out how to get them out - not panicking, just mildly irritated that he'd gotten stuck.
  • He hated going through overgrown yellow star thistle on the trail when it spiked him in the legs.
  • He was good-natured (although could pin his ears and act crabby at feeding time), and although he never kicked me, I never quite trusted his rear end. It's not that he'd kick maliciously, more that he'd kick out reactively before he even knew he'd done it. 
  • He was very herd-oriented - if we were out with others and got too far ahead, he'd stop and wait for them, looking back, waiting for them to catch up - even if it was just pft on a mtn bike. 
Losing Small Thing was more than just losing a horse. He wasn't just a horse, he was something different - something so fun and so uplifting - and most of all he was mine - he was the product of a specific path that I took on my own, with no support group. He wasn't a horse who would ever be passed on to anyone else and I figured I'd have him for the next 30 years at least.

From 15 months on, I was there every step of the way. I watched on anxiously when he was gelded, I watched him grow up (with anxiety as he got closer to needing saddle training), sent him to summer school for basic saddle education, and then went through his continuing education step-by-step. Every ride was an adventure and every excursion was fun.

I'm mourning not just what was, but what could have been in the future.

This was to be his year - as soon as 20 Mule Team 100 was over with, he was going to be on-deck and at the forefront of my energies. I was so excited about what we were going to achieve this year. I had no idea if the goal I'd set for us (Tahoe Rim Ride 50 mile) was even achievable and was more nervous about it because of that than anything I've done in a long time. But I was excited to try and see where we ended up.

I was thrilled by everything we'd achieved in the past and how every time I'd set him up to succeed, he'd amazed me as to how well he'd performed. Virtually every time we went out, I'd come home proud of how he'd done.

In losing him, I lost the goal, the direction — I don't even know what to call it — the hope? that began back in 2005 in wanting a welsh pony of my own and everything that goes with that.

And now that's all gone and I'm not sure I'm ever going to get it back.

By a series of events, I ended up with too many horses, so he got put on the back-burner too many times. In reality, I only have time for three - and I still have four. There'll be no new ponies for me for a long time yet. At age 55-60, will I be willing to start again from scratch?

In a superstitious way, I almost feel like I caused it by considering letting go of my "insurance horses" (either Hopi or Uno). You have to keep them so that you never need them. I thought about passing them on to someone else and the obvious happened.

Looking at him lying there, still warm and still so recently "just there", I looked at his feet and somehow wanted to take them home. They were his feet that I cared for, that I shaped and worried about, and worked on to try and improve. And now they were stuck on a shell that wasn't coming home with me.

And I feel like I let him down - I took him there to fix him, and instead I left him there.