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Birthdays in heaven

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imageI wish Tazzy could see how much he is missed. My phone and timeline has been inundated with birthday posts. The funny thing? It’s not even my birthday; it’s his. I thought about him the other day, and didn’t cry. A few minutes later, I burst into tears, because I convinced myself that “not crying” was the first step to forgetting him. 7 months after his death, his birthday is being talked about. People are smiling at his pictures. “Not crying” simply means healing. It doesn’t mean moving on.

My team is amazing. We’ve all had a rough few months. My friend suffered the inconprehensible loss of her a young horse and that shook us all to the core. You’re not supposed to have 2 dead horses in a matter of months. She didn’t have to go. Losing Yellow should’ve been enough. We decided to throw ourselves a real life pity party – complete with food and wine. We were going to allow ourselves to “whine” and party like it was 1999.

And we did. We ate, and laughed. We decided that life wasn’t fair, and jammed out to the Backstreet boys and old Usher love songs. We didn’t solve any problems, or figure out why bad things happen to good people. We just spent a few hours with humans who got it. Those who know its never just a horse, and rather than offer sympathetic advice, they hug you and let you have your feelings. It was the best form of therapy and healing we could’ve ever imagined.

Tazzy – I hope birthdays in heaven are filled with twizzlers. We all miss you, bud.

Thankful. Right?

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I’m bummed. I know ‘Tis the season, and I’m supposed to be smitten with all that I have and surrounded by all that I love. But I’m not. and I’m not sorry. I’m pissed that this is the first holiday season that I won’t find myself sneaking off to the barn to feed some carrots and bury my cold hand underneath a warm mane. It bothers me that the “horsey” gifts from my family won’t say, “To: Tania and Tazzy, Love: Santa.” No quick bareback rides through the snow. No icicles on whiskers, and no bodyclipping sagas. My first christmas in over 10 years, without my favorite part of me.

But to have such a deep wound means that I loved deeply. Unselfishly. Every decision I’ve ever made had his welfare at the forefront. College decisions were made based on how far the drive to the barn would be. A semester abroad was quickly brushed off when the idea of not seeing him for 4 months brought me to tears. To quote the great Winnie the Pooh, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye, so hard.”

So this season, I’m more thankful than ever before. You don’t quite know what you have, until you lose it. I’m thankful for the nonjudgemental best friend. The one who loved me even when the carrot stash ran out. The one who could be insanely cute, and ridiculously temperamental at the same time. I’m thankful for getting to see him grow, and growing with him. I’m not thankful for the ribbons, I’m thankful for the experiences. For showing up to HITS with my best friend, and being exceptionally proud of the little yellow horse laying down his best trip ever.

I’m thankful that in our long run together, he never made me lose sleep worrying. He was always level-headed, albeit stubborn. He gingerly carried small children and listened carefully as they played made-up horsey games. He threw a displeased buck when my trainer asked that he bend, but was the perfect gentleman when she rode while “in foal.” He was brave enough to lead the herd during our trail rides, and cool enough be the caboose when needed.

Sometimes, I rode him daily, spending ages at the barn, memorizing every nook and cranney on his body. He had a little pink spot on his nose, two black birthmarks on his right side, and the smallest forelock known to mankind. Other times, when boys or school or life got in the way, an hour spent at the barn was a luxury. Sometimes, a quick pat on the wither and kiss on the nose as I dropped off a board check was all that I could manage. He never judged. Never refused to talk to me because he was temporarily put on the back burner. He was patient and kind.

He wasn’t a sick horse, a colicky horse, or a lame one. I should’ve known that his first real illness in our time together, would claim his life. I ran across a video taken 3 weeks after he fell ill. He looked great. We all thought he would make it. I’m most thankful that he held on for 2 months so that I could spend every day with him before letting him go. I think he knew that he was dying. I’m thankful that he waited until I knew too.

Not the end.

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image This is not the end. Ok. Hear me out. I’m not crazy. It’s the end of #teamtazzy and being known as the girl with the yellow horse. It’s the end of eyelid kisses and ridiculously tight knees. But it is NOT the end of my love for horses and riding. After my initial first ride back since tazzy’s death, I spent over 2 months without visiting the barn. I kept busy, and didn’t think about it much. Taz was my reason for riding. Without him, I wasn’t interested.

After some convincing from my trainer, I had a lesson last week. To say it was disastrous would be an understatement. Despite flatting reasonably well, the lesson horse was having a bad day, resulting in some acrobatics on my behalf. Twice. My pride took the biggest hit. I was asked to get on a friend’s horse and I completely chickened out. I beat myself up all week. I’ve never been afraid to ride before, not to the point of refusing to get on. I was on my own pity train. That is, until I realized that despite the unplanned dismount, I still really enjoyed my lesson. I felt more “me” than I had in months.

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I ended up returning to the barn, that same week. My scheduled lesson was with the horse I chickened out from riding. It was the most laidback, “fun” lesson I’ve had. No expectations, no pressure. I trotted, cantered and did some crossrails. I enjoyed myself. I didn’t cry. And Fiona was the perfect babysitter.

My best friend is not here anymore. But that doesn’t mean that I have to let my passion fade away. I adored Tazzy. But I still love riding. I will continue to find ways to commemorate him. For starters, I’m going to continue to ride. Because although I won’t ever get to stand at the ingate WITH my blonde best friend again, I will certainly stand there FOR him.

We’ve gone in the show ring hundreds of times together. And every time, right as we walked in, I’d scratch his withers and whisper, “Just you and me, Bud.”

Funny, how that still applies.

Dead. Died. Deceased.

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2.5 months since I last kissed a blonde eyelid. 5 months since I last saw the world from between 2 yellow ears. It still physically hurts. I still well up with tears when I see his pictures. His tail still sits in my bedroom, waiting for the day I trust the post office to safely deliver and return the last piece of him. I don’t want the jewelry place to wash his tail before they make my keepsake. It smells like him. I don’t want to forget what he smelled like. Is that a weird request to make?

As much as I’ve tried taking up other hobbies – mountain biking, kayaking, running, and as much as I’ve thrown myself into work, school work, graduate work, there’s a void in me that can only be filled by a long grooming session and some time in the saddle. I miss riding. I miss the smell of the barn. I miss the people. the atmosphere. I even miss the showing. Part of me doesn’t want to “cheat” on tazzy, with another horse. A bigger part of me knows he wouldn’t mind.

AQHA sent back his registration paperwork today. It was marked “Dead 7/8/15.” A lifetime of teaching children to ride, safely carrying riders over jumps, chasing cows, wearing pink, and rainbow, and sparkly bellboots. A lifetime of eyelid kisses, and whisker clipping, silly nicknames, and midday naps. A lifetime of spooking at boob jumps, and having perfect knees and forward ears, and being a much loved solid citizen – all summed up, so eloquently, in 4 letters, – Dead.

Life really is unfair.

Permanent.

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Almost 6 weeks without my buddy. I’ve come to accept it – everyone has to go sometime, and as much as I fought, and he fought, it was his time. This doesn’t make it suck any less. I miss him; physically miss him. My chest hurts when I realize this is never going to go away. The rest of my (hopefully long) life will be spent without him. 

I went to the barn for the first time since July 8. Tears streamed down my face when I saw his stall, smelled the cooler that shielded his body after he died, and rode a horse that wasn’t yellow. My yellow. 

It felt good to ride. Almost too good. I feel guilty for enjoying it as much as I did. Like I was cheating on the only one who is supposed to make me happy. Tazzy complemented me well. We made each other look good. This becomes clear when I ride other horses, and have to work much harder to look half decent.

   The thing that scares me most, is that one day, I may forget him. I’m in my 20’s…Will I remember him when I’m old and grey? Will my future children hear stories of the time he made an Autistic child belly laugh by nuzzling his blonde hair? Or the time we accidentally trespassed into a shooting range and he made the executive decision to gallop the hell out of there? And when he ate my turkey sandwich and I wrestled to get it back, reminding him that he is supposed to be an herbivore.

I chose to get a permanent reminder inked onto my body. I chose a horse with no legs, because in the end, his failed him. So now my leg became his – it’s the least I can do for someone who carried me safely for so many years.

2 weeks.

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It’s been the longest two weeks of my life. I miss my Yellow. I know I said I would leave this blog alone, but I need some place to vent. I try not to talk about him because it makes people uncomfortable when they don’t know what to say. They don’t need to say anything at all, really. It’s not like anything can make me feel better, and I’m really not expecting it to. 

But I can speak of him without crying. I can recall funny stories, and good moments and smile sometimes. There are other times where, for seemingly no reason at all, I find myself sitting in the quiet car with tears streaming down my face. I haven’t had the guts to go to the barn and clean up his things. His tail sits in my bedroom, waiting for me to trust the post office to deliver it, to be made into a memory.

Every picture I see makes me well up with tears. I can’t help but stare at his hooves and wonder if something was already wrong. Maybe I missed something. Maybe I jumped too high, rode too fast, didn’t pick his hooves enough. I regret all the cold days of winter when I decided it was too miserable to ride, and preferred to spend my days indoors. If someone would’ve told me it would end like this, I would’ve been at the barn through the coldest of days. 

I miss him. I miss the freedoms he afforded me. The hours spent grooming. I miss riding him. Knowing that he would take care of me over every jump, even if I made a mistake. I miss getting on him, after a hiatus from riding, and it was like we hadn’t  skipped a beat. I miss being at the ingate, heart thumping from nerves, and thinking there is nobody else I’d rather be there with, than him.

He’s my background on my computer’s desktop. Someone saw his picture today and asked me, “oh do you ride? Is that your horse?” I didn’t know what to say. “He was, but he died” would surely make them uncomfortable. It sounds so definitive. So over. 

I settled for, “he’s my baby.” Because as long as I’m living, my baby he’ll be.

Curtain closes

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  He’s gone. After seeing him have a horrible couple of days, I couldn’t hold on anymore. He was suffering. I had to give him the gift of a dignified ending. The vet came out to do X-rays, and he was clearly showing signs of infection. He was dead lame. His fever had returned. He was losing his lust. 

It was supposed to rain all night. But the sky was clear. It was peaceful and private and a cherished final moment shared between him and me. The seconds between the final injection and his buckling knees seemed to last forever. I told him it was OK to go. And just like that, he buckled and fought and then went peacefully. 

And my life is changed forever. My best friend is gone, and I’m left to pick up the pieces. So many tributes have been posted on social media by those who knew and loved him. A short stirrup babysitter, a summer camp favorite, a pony-sledding yellow, a HITS champion, and a bareback fun ride extraordinaire. My favorite pictures are the ones of him being silly. Carrying 4 careless little girls on his back over a jump. Galloping carefree on our annual alaire trailride. Making his begging face that I will miss so much. Being hooked up to a sled during the biggest snowstorm of the year. 

We won many ribbons. I showed up to some of the biggest shows in the region on a little yellow quarter horse. I was proud to show my little halter horse in the Hunters. But he wasn’t my show horse. I never referred to him as that. Instead, he was my best friend, my confidante, the only one I trusted completely. I don’t know how to build from here. I don’t know how to heal. 

My friends and family have been amazing.  My house is filled with yellow flowers, my phone with encouraging messages, and my life with meaningful relationships. I feel like a failure for not having the founder success story that I promised him. I’ve spent the last few days crying. I will keep this blog up, in his memory. Maybe posting a picture and a memory when nostalgia hits. Or maybe not doing anything at all. Some times, people are lucky enough to find their once-in-a-lifetime horse. What do you do when you find him at just 16, and lose him over a decade later?

Tazzy was sent to be cremated. His ashes will be returned to me with all but his feet. Prior to his removal from the property, His hooves were donated to science – so that maybe one day, our dream of fixing founder, can be realized. My sweet, soulful boy did not die in vain. His memory will live  on in every yellow flower, every ray of sunshine, every bag of twizzlers. 

…oh and he crossed over the rainbow bridge wearing the first halter my 16 year old self purchased for him – in all of it’s faded pink studded glory. Funny, I used to love the color pink. Now, I’m more of a “yellow” kind of girl. 

A confession.

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 8 weeks ago, I made the decision to put down my best friend. I felt like a failure, like I had done something wrong, like I was letting him down. Today, I’m thrilled that his stall plate is mounted. I was too nervous to order one for fear that I’d lose him before the plate came in. And that having it delivered after the fact, would be more than I could handle. People often tell me that I have done a wonderful job with him – that I’m a great horse owner. I feel the need to set the record straight. I’m not this magnificent, eternally optimistic, human being. I didn’t have unbelievable faith that everything will be OK. Hell, I still don’t know if everything will be OK. Want to know a secret? I’m selfish. Extremely and unbelievably selfish. I couldn’t bear to lose that animal. For the last 10+ years, he has been my rock. The being I turn to when nothing is right in my world. I run to him when I need a reprieve from the real world. I couldn’t lose my sanity. I wasn’t ready to live a life that didn’t revolve around him.

There ya have it folks. 8 weeks down the road and he is recovering, slowly but surely – on his own accord. The only thing I have done is selfishly decide that I’m not ready to lose this horse. And so I haven’t. I have to give the credit to those who deserve it: Rachel, Paula, Bob, Ali, Lauren, and the countless people in and out of his stall all day making sure he is comfortable, loved and happy. These people have lost sleep to medicate him, held him up when he couldn’t stand on his own, and take him for his daily walks to be turned out. They’ve adopted a cranky yellow horse and I can’t thank them enough.

I visit and spend time with him every day. There are days that I really wish I could hop on his back and go out on the trails.I long to throw caution to the wind and enjoy a good gallop with my best friend. But then I see him gingerly walk, and am quickly brought back to reality. Life as I have known it, has forever changed. I’m just lucky that he is a bigger fighter then I ever imagined. His heart is as golden as his coat, and I am humbled by his tenacity.

Oh and in case you were wondering… those mother F*&$king bedsores are still an issue. And duck tape does not hold for longer than a few minutes.  

Must. Love. Kids.

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We’re going on 2 full weeks of making strides towards recovery, without any major set-backs! He is continuing to be turned out every day for a couple of hours a day. I really attribute this factor to all the progress we’ve been making recently. Although he comes out of the stall, very sore and stiff on most days, he typically works out of it as he walks up to the turnout ring. His stride opens up quite a bit on the sand, and the rubber mats, but the gravel definitely hurts, despite his fancy shoes. He’s made it abundantly clear that he will walk only in the direction he wants to go, otherwise he will plant his feet. I now carry a crop when I walk him in order to “encourage” him to keep walking. His attitude and opinion on where he’d like to go is hysterical. He really is becoming a spoiled yellow horse.

We are still battling bedsores. Both of his hind legs are practically bald, and have some gnarly sores on them. Although they seem to be slowly healing, and sometimes don’t look as angry as they have, I always worry about subsequent infections, proud flesh, or subsequent scar tissue arising from them. I did some research, and learned that putting gauze and duct tape over the sore, will give it time to heal without the continuous rubbing from laying down. The duct tape should be allowed to fall out on it’s own in order to spare him the rest of his hair. So, Tazzy will soon be covered in duct tape, for the sake of experimentation and our feeble attempt at fixing his sores.

On a more positive note: WE HAVE HOOF GROWTH! There is a distinct indentation/line about 1 inch below his coronary band that differentiates the old hoof from the new growth. I’ve never been so happy to see fast growing hooves! Although, he’s still a cripple, I know the first step towards soundness and health is growing new feet. Both his hind feet (unshod) and his front feet (super shod!) are showing signs of new healthy growth.  I am hoping that this new growth will help stabilize his bone and make him more comfortable.

Being the “Positive Polly’s” that we are, the yellow horse also proved to me how amazing he really is. Although he appreciates all of the people who stop by to visit and care for him, there is a certain population that he is particularly proud of. He has had many “little” visitors in and out of his stall since he fell ill. The patience and affection that he shows to these little people is heartwarming. He carefully. and respectfully will take treats from their tiny fingers, he’ll allow his head to be hugged, and doesn’t bat an eyelash at flailing arms and legs. My 2 year old niece squealed and attached herself to his leg, and he stood stock still, without a hit of annoyance at the tiny human. He normally does not like to be kissed or fussed over, but with her, he showed affection and allowed her all of the kisses and hugs that he wanted. He made her day when he gently nuzzled her ear – I haven’t stopped hearing about how “Tah-zy” is the best horse in the whole wide world. (If she’s looking for an argument, she won’t be getting one. I wholeheartedly agree!) I am so lucky to love and be able to share such a wonderfully kind being. Despite the pain he may be in, or how annoyed he may be, he always tries to put on a good face. Although I take pride in knowing that I have exposed him to as much of the world as possible – it really is just his personality. He has always taken things in stride. He has always been a laidback, “chill” kind of dude. And he has always loved children. Although his body is starting to age, (he’s 18!) he’s always been an old soul. I hope that he can one day teach my niece, and maybe my own future children to ride.

….I’m planning for the future?!?! Day by day, week by week, he continues to defy the odds. #teamyellow

 

Sunny days

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I’m writing this blog post as I sit on a grassy patch enjoying the sunshine. I currently have the best view in the entire world. Here, let me show you:

  We have been turning him out for an hour or two every day since Sunday. He is really enjoying the mental and physical break from the stall. The turn out forces him to move around a bit, which eases the stiffness and improves the circulation of blood to his feet. It also makes him happy. So happy that he spends a few minutes each day calling out to all of the other horses; you know, just in case they didn’t know he was still alive and kicking.

We’ve also been attempting to cut down on the pain medication he receives. We only give him banamine when we feel he needs it, as opposed to twice a day everyday. I’d like him to still have a digestive tract when this nightmare is all said and done with.

Another problem has surfaced since this debacle began. Yellow. Horse. Attitude. He’s becoming quite comfortable with being treated like a king. He has a slew of people in and out of his stall all day, fluffing his bedding, tending to his bedsores, fly spraying him, and giving him love and treats. In Tazzy’s world, he now calls the shots. He’s now taken to playing a game of, “let’s plant my feet and pull people in the direction I would like to go” when being walked outside. It’s hilarious. Wonderful, really. Except when you’re not expecting your crippled horse to yank you in the direction of the barn, thus slamming you into the corner of the building and causing a mild concussion. (The concussion was just added for the woe-is-me factor. Otherwise, you’ll all remain firmly planted on the “Taz does no wrong” side of the fence.)

So this is a celebratory blog post. No teary eyes. Just a bruised elbow from my collision with the barn. A three day celebration of sunny days, both literally and figuratively. A positive outlook on how far we’ve come, makes for an optimistic view of the long road still ahead of us. He may no longer bring home blue ribbons, but he still has the heart (and attitude) of a champion.