I know we all keep horses for different reasons. Some of you show, some ride locally, some just appreciate having them nearby. There's no wrong answer to horsekeeping as long as they are cared for. When we bought Ginger all those years ago, we really didn't have a plan as to what we were going to do with the horse - just ride, I guess. But I credit my friend, Tammy Musil, for introducing me to horse trail riding and camping way back when and there has been no looking back.
|John, Case & McCain 2008|
The early years were spent hauling four horses and two kids and all that takes for a successful weekend. Don't get me wrong; those were the good ol' days. But kids grow older, have different interests and before long its no longer a treat for them to go camping and there are 101 other things they would rather be doing and horses aren't one of them.
|Family vacation to South Dakota 2008|
Although Case will occasionally ride with us, I guess the last time McCain and Case both joined us was in 2009 when we went to Big Canyon. But my interest never waned. It became harder to find time to get away with the kids' other activities, but it made me appreciate the time I could even more.
|Playing games on Ginger at CGW 2009|
This was the ninth year I was invited to Kathy's Cowgirl Weekend (CGW) – a four day riding event with just women and a must attend ride for me.In the dead of the winter, Kathy and I started thinking of a way we could extend it beyond those four days. Heck, its my 50th birthday year - what a great present - to spend a week on the road with our horses. Early on we planned our route, but flooding along I-29 made us change our destinations, but not the vacation. Several of the others who spend CGW with us decided to join our pilgrimage.
Just when you think everything is going to work out, life throws a curve ball and we lost Ginger three days before we were to leave. As I mentioned, I planned to take both Ginger and Windy. It wasn't as big deal not to have two horses on the trip as it was an emotional blow.
I’ve blogged about our rides this past week and shared pictures from each of our stops along the way. What pictures can’t capture is the feeling of complete “vacation” I got from this trip. Not only was I away from work, I only had to worry about feeding myself and my horse. I could go to bed when I wanted to and get up when I wanted to. And my best equine companion was either outside my camper door or under my saddle. I rode four new places and each one was completely unlike the previous stop. And without judgment or embarrassment, I was able to grieve the loss of Ginger when my heart started aching. I could talk openly to friends who understand my loss.
Those moments didn’t come often. They would sneak up on me when I least expected it; like when I saw a blemish on Jules’ horse, Tiki, and remembered Ginger’s smiley face blemish. Or sharing a hug from Gail, whose loss of her Mollie a year ago is still fresh. Then the tears would start. But is was okay; to express my hurt without abashment was their gift to me. But besides those moments of pain, for the most part, my vacation was filled with beautiful countryside, fabulous weather, good friends and moments that we laughed until we cried because what we were laughing about was just plain funny. (Thanks, Joni).
I knew coming home and not seeing Ginger in the pasture was going to be hard and it was. But thankfully, the "survivors" didn't rush to the gate to see if Ginger would unload as they usually do when Ginger travels. They treated our arrival as they do any other time Windy would come home -- they answered her whinny, but didn't stop grazing. I don’t remember if I mentioned this here or not, but when I found Ginger that morning, the herd had already separated from her. Perhaps they had already said goodbye.
I’m okay now. I won’t deny that as I type this there isn’t a lump in my throat or that I still won’t cry when I look through pictures or when someone mentions her name. But what was to be my “vacation” turned into a period of mourning that I needed as much as I needed that vacation. I am so blessed to have had that time to not be a wife, a mother or an employee, but a horsewomen who suffered an incredible loss and could let the healing begin.