Saturday, August 1st marked the one-year anniversary of losing my heart-horse, Sugar. Despite the support of family, friends and my HJU family, I could feel anxiety creeping in as we inexorably moved toward that particular square on the calendar. I’m not sure when the heightened apprehension started. Probably in May or June. It was just tension at that point, but by July I was on emotional roller coaster. I’d be fine, then I’d be on the verge of tears. I’d wake up in tears, or feel them start up as I tried to fall asleep.
The ever-present sense of impending doom that I’d felt in the months after the accident returned. If the family rode bikes, I was sure a car would hit one of us. When I traveled for business I was positive the plane was going to fall out of the sky. Every trip down the highway felt like it would be the last; that we’d end up in a heap of twisted metal. (That probably wasn’t helped by the fact that my son had gotten his driver’s permit and I was typically the one who was with him when he practiced. In hindsight, perhaps I should have delegated that duty to his father. That would have meant less practice for the Boy, but might have prevented the permanent crescent shaped dents in my passenger side door panel.)
Fear of imminent catastrophe aside, in general I was improving. I didn’t go to pieces every time the horse I was riding tripped. I was jumping courses, not 2 or 3 fences at a time. While I didn’t know if I’d ever get my mojo back, I was beginning to think it was at least a possibility. A woman I think a great deal of told me that when she lost her heart-horse it took about a year for her to really feel better. It wasn’t that she stopped missing her boy, as I understood it was more that things stopped hurting so badly and it felt okay to move forward towards a new normal. At least that’s what I took her words to mean. I could relate. Although I still miss Sug terribly, I’m finally starting to feel that I’m ready to begin the next phase of my equestrian life.
I’ve begun seriously looking for another horse. For a long time I’d kind of half-heartedly kept an eye out for something, but now I’m searching in earnest. I’m sending links to horses I’m interested in to my trainer, and reaching out to people online when I see something appealing. At one point I had it in my head that I needed to find my next partner by the anniversary date, but thankfully I realized that putting a deadline on finding a horse was like trying to put a deadline on finding your life-partner. Just doesn’t work that way. I’m looking, and that’s progress.
My trainer has been a rock throughout this whole process. He’s found two lovely, safe, and forgiving horses for me to borrow until I find the right horse. I’ve worried that he’ll get sick of looking for me, but I really shouldn’t have. He’s almost more picky about finding the right fit than I am. We’ve found a couple that have looked right “on paper” but were not a match for one reason or another. He won’t allow me to settle when I see something that could maybe work; he’s adamant that we look until we find the right partner. For example, he found one that I tried and felt very comfortable on, even though he was more of a hunter ride than I can normally pull off. However, when we asked if the horse was good on trails or on hunter paces the answer was an emphatic “NO.” That was a big issue, as that’s a good part of what I like to do.
I wavered, thinking that he was a very nice horse and I was comfortable on him and enjoyed riding him, so maybe I should make an offer. My trainer set me straight, saying that we could not compromise, that finding a horse that could horse show, trail ride, go on hunter paces, and forgive my ammy blunders was possible and we would search as long as necessary to find it. “Your horses are your children,” he said. “This is really important for you. We look until we find the right one.” I’m so thankful for him, not just because he’s found great horses for me to continue riding, but for his patience and understanding while we look for the right horse and try to rebuild my confidence.
I think what kept me sane in the days before the anniversary was that my kids and I were away at a horse show. Finding the money in the budget for an away show does not often happen, so if we can do one it’s a big deal. Being away with our barn and spending entire days with the horses was therapeutic for me. Watching Sophie and Noah compete, as well as supporting the other riders who showed, kept me busy and my mind away from sad memories. When I did have a sad moment, I’d go spend some time loving on the kids’ horses until the heartache passed.
The kids did well at the show. Soph rode Tiki, and they were Champion in two divisions. She won the first championship on Saturday, the anniversary, which felt right, almost as if Sug was helping from above. She won her second the next day. Noah rode my borrowed horse, RJ, who he’d only ridden 5 times before showing him. He got a 4th and an 8th on Sunday. He won an over fences class with 48 entries on Sunday. I was so proud of his accomplishments on a horse he barely knew.
Sure, the weekend had its sad moments. The last time I’d been to that show was with Sug, so that tugged at my heart. Memories of the accident and the aftermath would suddenly surface, and I’d have to concentrate to push them away. Watching the kids, seeing their happiness and pride in their horses and accomplishments, helped to push sadness aside. If I’m honest, I also felt Sug’s presence so strongly all weekend. Feeling she was there in spirit helped me so much, and I think it helped Noah and Sophie as well. Sug had always taken such good care of “her” kids, and I could feel that she was continuing to watch over them.
So there you have it. This is where I am. Moving forward, slowly but surely. Missing my girl, but comforted in the knowledge that she is still with me, even if it’s only in spirit. Feeling that I will find the right horse, and knowing that while my new friend won’t be Sug, that will be okay. She took care of me while she was here, and I truly feel that she takes care of me still, just in a different way. And when I find my new friend, I feel Sug will help me to know it, and she’ll let me know it’s okay to go forward.