by Laura Crum
Here is where I must play catch up and add in all that has been left out. Because I have told the story of the seven wonderful forever horses that came to me, but left out many other parts of my life with horses.
My first forever horse, Burt, was turned out for many years in a friend’s pasture, fifteen minutes from my home. He was joined by a motley collection of horses, two that I took because they were sweet old rope horses that deserved to be retired (ET and Gray Dog), along with Wally’s great old heel horse, Pistol, who was retired due to arthritic changes, plus another horse of Wally’s that I had trained who crippled up due to EPM in the prime of life (Rebby), and the last colt I ever trained (Danny), who tore up his stifle joint in a freak collision with a pickup truck. Danny would have been euthanised by his current owner, but I took him back and rehabbed him and eventually he was sound enough to be a pasture pet. I had Gunner turned out there for awhile, too. So at one point we had six or seven of these pasture pets.
But life moves on. Pistol grew too sore to be comfortable even on painkillers, so we had to euthanise him when he was 25. And eventually Burt died of a massive stroke at 35 years of age. ET and Rebby were both very hard keepers, and as they got into their thirties and late twenties respectively, it became impossible to keep them at a good weight in the pasture, even with tons of supplemental feed. And Wally and I were both getting overloaded trying to take adequate care of all the horses we were responsible for. A couple of years ago we made the difficult decision to euthanise Rebby and ET and bring Gunner home. The pasture owner kept Danny and Gray Dog for her pets, and they are still doing well there.
Wally is eighty this year and, like me, has decided he no longer wants to ride young horses. He gave his young horse, Smoky, to a good home that had already taken a previous horse from him, Lester. And Smoky and Lester are happy, useful riding horses to this day with owners who love them. Wally’s gray gelding, Twister, has been living with me since he bought the horse as a six year old. (Twister has definitely "whited out" as he aged.)
Twister turns 17 this year and he is the last horse Wally has left, and will probably be the last horse Wally owns. I have made a commitment to keep and care for Twister until he dies. I owe it to the horse and to Wally. Twister and Wally accompanied my son and me with Henry and Sunny, on many, many expeditions. So Twister has a forever home with me.
My gold, silver and copper horses.
Today I have five forever horses living with me on my small horse property (five horses is the maximum number I can have here). My own Gunner, Plumber and Sunny, my son’s Henry and Wally’s Twister. Flanigan and Toby the pony are buried here, and Burt is buried in the pasture where he lived for his last ten years and where he died.
Gunner is 33 and still doing well.
Plumber is 24, retired, and sound, perky and happy.
Henry is 25 and my son rides him a couple of days a week, mostly at the walk and trot. Henry is still perfectly sound and shows no sign of weakening.
Sunny is going strong. I think he may be nearly twenty years old. He has no papers and when I bought him he was said to be 10, but the vet said he had “funny” teeth, and could have been as old as 15. So who knows? But he is sound and strong and I ride him a couple of times a week on average.
Wally is recovering from knee surgery currently, so Twister, whose usual job is team roping horse, is getting a little downtime. Twister is sound and strong and doing well at 17 years, and Wally is already back to riding again and will be roping soon. Here's a recent photo (taken on 4th of July) of Twister and Wally along with my son and Henry on Wally's first ride post knee surgery (exactly one month after the operation).
As I’ve known for awhile, if I keep taking good care of these forever horses (which I plan to do) there is a chance that in five years or so, I’ll have five older horses that are not ridable for anything more than puttering around—and no place to put a younger riding horse. And that’s OK. Its Ok because I love these horses and am deeply grateful for all the hours of happy riding time that every single one of them has given. I don’t in the least begrudge becoming their caregiver as they get older. Yes, I like to ride, but I have achieved all the goals I set myself in my life with horses and my mind and heart are both full to the brim with everything that horses, and these horses in particular, have brought to me. If there is more riding to come, that’s great. And if there is not I take complete joy in spending time with my horses and connecting through them with all the wonderful things we have done together. Time past is as present as time present when I am with my horses.
I will add that it is important to me that every single one of these horses are good horses who have been great riding horses. None of them EVER purposefully dumped or harmed a human (to my knowledge). And yes, this matters to me. It is not my calling to babysit a herd of rescue horses who never had a partnership with humans, and would be happy to kick your block off or dump you on your head. It’s my pleasure and privilege to reward some fine horses who are richly deserving of a happy, peaceful retirement after their long, steady years of good service. And who are now, as they always were, a true pleasure to be around. I will feed them three times a day, and brush them and doctor them as needed, and ride them lightly if it seems right, and turn them out to graze and live happily with them in my garden.
As with my horses, so with my novels. I set out initially to write an even dozen, and that goal has been accomplished. People have asked me if I will write more, and the truthful answer is that I don’t know. The novels cover twenty years in the life of horse vet Gail McCarthy—she is 31 in the first story (Cutter) and 50 in the last installment (Barnstorming) and it took twenty years of my life to write the books. Gail goes through many of the life changes that I have gone through in the course of the series. My husband said, upon reading this series of posts, “You need more anecdotes.” Well, the anecdotes are all in the novels. The names have been changed to protect the innocent—and the guilty—but most of the things I describe in the stories, really happened in some form or other. I wove the events of my life into my books. (Oh, and just by chance, this series of posts about my life with horses is also twelve episodes in total--serendipity.)
And yes, its possible that I could write more about Gail, but its also possible that I won’t. And either way is fine with me. As I said about my horses, I’ve achieved the goals I set myself and I am happy and at peace with where I am now.
There are those who ask, what’s next? Well, I don’t know, and I am OK with not knowing. I may have many more adventures ahead of me, or I may live a peaceful, fairly solitary and hermitish life from now on. Right now my focus is on raising my young son. My life is good and I love every minute of it. I spend as much time as I can with my husband and child and our critters and garden. I try to enjoy the present moment fully. I don’t ask for more. And I am very grateful for all that I have. I will always love my horses, and if luck favors me, I will always live with them.
I know that there are some who will consider this a sort of “do nothing” life. There are those who think one must have goals and be working hard to achieve these goals for life to have meaning (both with horses and in general). There are those who think one must be busy to be happy. I am not in this group. I feel I have been plenty busy and productive in my life, and I have achieved pretty much every goal on my “bucket list.” It’s my intuition that moving on to a more contemplative stage at this point in my life is a good thing, not a bad thing. If you want to read more thoughts on this subject, I wove them into the last book in my series, Barnstorming. This book somewhat tells how I view my own future, as well as how I see Gail’s future.
Finally, I am deeply grateful for all my readers. And so, I’d like to offer a gift. For the next five days, Cutter, the first book in the series, and always one of the most popular titles, will be FREE as a Kindle edition. (Starting today, July 7th, and going through Thurs, July 11th.) Hoofprints, the second book, is currently on sale for 99 cents. So right now, for less than a dollar, you can read the first two books in the series. The remaining ten books are available for just $2.99 each as Kindle editions. The order is Cutter, Hoofprints, Roughstock, Roped, Slickrock, Breakaway, Hayburner, Forged, Moonblind, Chasing Cans, Going Gone, and Barnstorming. Click on the titles to find the Kindle editions. And for those who have read some of these books, I would be eternally grateful (really) if you would post reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. These reviews mean a great deal to authors nowadays. A huge thank you to those who have already done so. And I very much hope that you enjoy my stories. Cheers--Laura