Yesterday I washed Gailey's boots, saddle pads, and polo wraps. I carried them out to my little barn and opened the tack room door. I gazed around the small room, looking for a place to store them because Gailey won't be needing them anymore, neither will I. At least not for the foreseeable future.
I thought I was okay with it. I really did, but a dull pain filled me as I looked at all the tack, different items I'd used over that past thirteen years of owning Gailey, and past twenty-eight years of having a riding horse in my life. An emptiness consumed me, the kind of which I hadn't felt since my divorce.
A week ago the vet checked Gailey yet again because of her on-going lameness. His pronouncement didn't suprise me. Her suspensories have finally "given out" and while she appears comfortable and still leaps and bucks in the paddock, she's not rideable. And won't be. Ever.
If I took her home, he said I could probably take her on short, leisurely trail rides at a walk. For now, she remains at the barn to see if she can have a baby. If she takes, she'll stay there through next year. If not, she'll come home. The vet didn't feel the pregnancy would be a big issue for her legs, just put in extra long bar shoes behind.
At first, I was relieved. Finally, I had my answer. Not having a horse to ride every day freed me up to work on my writing, finish several more books, and publish them. I devised a schedule for the various books I wanted to complete, believing in a year I might be able to earn enough money for an nice horse. The first book in my Seattle Lumberjacks Football Series, Fourth and Goal was released a week ago, my first Jami Davenport release in two years. I drowned myself in promo for the book and writing the sequel.
And I was okay with it, really I was. After all, I'd still be riding once a week in lessons, only on someone else's horse.
I brought home my equipment from the boarding stable--stuff I wouldn't be needing--and began the process of cleaning it and putting it away.
Yesterday as I washed and stored Gailey's boots, it hit me. No longer would I be putting these boots on her legs. I felt this enormous loss similar to when I divorced, this empty hole only a horse can fill. An entire after-work routine which I'd followed the past twenty-plus years was gone. No longer would I be going to the barn to saddle up my mare, put on her boots, ride around the arena talking to the other boarders, practicing dressage movements, while dodging other riders. Oh, I could still go to the barn, but it wasn't the same. I don't fit in. I'm not one of them. I don't have the same experiences as the other boarders do. I'm not readying myself for the next show.
Sure, I still have a horse. I can still visit her, let her graze at the end of the lead rope, brush her, and breathe in the wonderful, unique smell of horses. I just can't go through the routine of preparing to ride, riding, and cooling out. Not with my own horse.
To me it's a grieving process, and I'll survive because someday there will be another horse. I've had doubts I'd replace Gailey. Yet as I placed her boots in a plastic container and stored them in my tack room, I knew I would replace her eventually. Not having a horse to ride was not an option.
For now, I'll have to be content to ride school horses and visit my own horse after work.