A new beginning. A new rhythm. As the seasons roll on there is always a new beginning and a new unfolding. Changes we expect and those that slip up on us, catching us unaware. After six years of homeschooling – later mornings, relaxed breakfasts, snuggling on couches, following my own routines — things have switched up.
For the first time in years, there is space. Space within my days. Room to do more than breathe, room to stretch my arms and stretch my mind into places long abandoned.
I was eager and willing to embrace homeschool during the years we did it. I don’t regret one second of that time, even though it wasn’t always easy. I am so grateful to have spent those years side by side with my daughter, learning who she is and growing close to her.
But the rhythm of days has changed, and even though I have been preparing for this all summer there is both a joy and an ache.
The joy comes from seeing my daughter move along a path that feels right to her and to us as her parents, watching her find her way in a new community, seeing her stretch and explore, witnessing an unfurling into the young woman she is becoming.
I miss her daily presence, the light of her face throughout my days. Yet I embrace the ache. It reminds me of the gifts we’ve shared, the interwoven hours, the privilege I’ve had of sometimes escorting, more often trailing behind, her as she transitioned from one stage to the next.
The ache is a small wildflower in the field of my heart. I imagine I will carry it with me through all my days. When I feel the absence of my girl, I will bend down to inspect the exquisite petals, delight in the flower’s bright colors and its insistence to grow.
At the same time I have been blessed with the time and space to grow myself as I watch my girl flit like a butterfly towards her future. Years ago my mother told me she was always learning even through her later years, maybe especially at that time.
My mother walks beside me today and as I link arms with the ghost of who my daughter was and who she might become. She places an arm around my shoulders, whispers words of assurance and love as we step forward into this new day.
Our horses were treated to something extra special this afternoon. The sister of a friend of ours is a horse masseuse. She came to the barn and worked on Misty, Foxie and April. As usual, I was so involved in watching the horse’s reactions that I forgot to pull out my phone and take photos until she started working on the second horse. But here are a couple of photos of Foxie and April feeling pretty blissful.
Two paints in one ring! A few day ago Sydney and Lauren-Kate had their first opportunity to ride together in a few weeks. It was a lovely sight!
We’ve enjoyed having Smokey at the barn so much! Pound for pound, he has the biggest personality of all the horses. And he loves his mares! Last night when the horses heard that Smokey was leaving today, they all gathered together over the fence for a horse huddle. They were either coming up with an escape plan or saying goodbye.
Smokey and April enjoyed eating their hay together one last time. Smokey was happy to have a break from his muzzle.
Sydney cleaned up Smokey in preparation for his trip home.
Smokey gives a big yawn….
We’re all going to miss Smokey. Even Sunny was looking sad that her friend was leaving.
Sydney combed out Smokey’s tail and started braiding.
Waa la — a fish tail! Wait…I thought Smokey was a pony.
My friend Lynn brought her big truck over to help us move Smokey. We hooked it up to my dusty trailer and pumped up the tires. We loaded Smokey, and he looked so small in the trailer. In fact, on the ride over to his old home, he turned himself around and ended up on the other side of the trailer. When we unloaded Smokey, we didn’t even have to lower the butt bar. He just walked right under it.
Smokey recognized his old home right away. We are so grateful to MeLanie for letting us use him!
Smokey let out a long whinny to say hello to his old friends, then happily started eating hay.
Bye, Smokey! We love you!! Hope to see you next spring!
We’ve been moving horses around this week, trying out different combinations to see how they get along. Initially, while we still have Smokey, the easiest and most natural combination was to pair up Foxie and Misty in one paddock and pair up Smokey and April in another. All four horses were quite happy with this arrangement. Then we tried April with Foxie, who is the alpha mare. Since we’ve been riding the two of them together, they seemed quite content and peaceful together. Next, we tried April with Misty. In the beginning, Misty made it clear that she was in charge, putting her ears back. But after a few minutes, both horses settled down and grazed contentedly together.
The next day, we decided to try the three mares together to see what would happen. I put them in the big pasture so they’d have plenty of room. I didn’t want April to get cornered. Misty again pinned her ears at April and kept her away from Foxie. But the horses seemed to settle down — Misty and Foxie in close proximity and April just a short distance away. And, finally, we let Smokey join the herd. He trotted on over to his mares, thrilled to be with them again. Interestingly, he started out very close to Foxie and Misty. He was so happy to be with them that he rolled. Once again, all four horses settled into companionable grazing.
It’s been almost four months since we first brought horses back to the barn. While I’ve spent most of my life riding, training and taking care of horses, it’s been an exhilarating and fun experience sharing these amazing animals with my daughter. Sydney has always been an animal lover at heart, so falling in love and caring for horses came naturally to her. She listened and watched as I showed her how to do barn chores and was eager to take responsibility for them.
I started Sydney off with riding lessons on the lunge line, and she progressed quickly to lessons in the ring. (She had spent a week riding in Wyoming two years ago.) About a month ago, Foxie showed signs of needing additional training, so I realized we would need another horse for Sydney to ride during this time. My friend Jo knew about April and put us in contact with her owner. April sounded like she might be the right horse for us. But April was stabled outside of Charleston, SC. It just so happened that our family had a beach trip planned, and on the way home we were able to stop in, meet April and take a short ride. (It was 100 degrees, so we kept the ride VERY short!)
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sixteen-year-old girl who showed us April was the daughter of my old friend Deirdra. A week and a half later, Deirdra trailered April up to our place. This week, for the first time since Wyoming, Sydney and I have been able to ride together. It has been such a treat!
We’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this sweet mare all the way from near Charleston, South Carolina. Today April made the trip. She got off the trailer and immediately seemed at home.
This is the big rig she arrived in. Thanks so much to Deirdra Lunny for transporting her safely to us!
Foxie and Misty ran right over to say hello to the new horse. April was more interested in grass than socializing.
We started April out in the paddock behind the barn so the other horses could see her and get used to her presence.
Then we put April in the middle paddock and turned Smokey out beside her. He was thrilled to have a new mare on the property and trotted right over to welcome her. April wasn’t overly interested in him at first.
But Smokey finally got April’s attention. Even though Smokey is only three feet tall, he’s still “the big man” around the farm.
The biggest surprise of the day for me was when Deirdra got out of her truck, I realized she was an old friend from the horse world. We knew each other before we had children. Now, both of our daughters ride. It was fun catching up with her. Small world!