Posted tagged ‘thanksgiving. responsible horse ownership’

The Waste Land

September 12, 2020

2020 has become a cliché. In January, the year was full of potential and then, Covid.

It feels wrong for me to complain. I have a home, work, family, friends….my pony. Massachusetts has remained low risk for months. I got to go camping twice. What does it matter that events were canceled?  My frustration is a first world problem of privilege for which I feel guilt.

Culture is constant catharsis. The pandemic exposed inequalities that must be addressed, that must be resolved. As I reflect on my life, I am aware of the advantages I was born to- advantages I did not recognize before 2020 and the virus.  

Then spoke the thunder


Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract

-T.S. Elliot, The Waste Land.

I wonder, what have I given?

2019 Prospective

December 30, 2018

End of December is the time for retrospectives of the year. A lot of the bloggers I follow have posted theirs already. One stated that blogs are old school and announced she is moving to other venues, pod casts, on line classrooms, for a fee. The free blog will remain, but I wonder for how long. Everyone must make a living. I get that.

Rather than looking back, I am looking toward 2019. Disclaimer-despite my fondness for Tarot, I am not clairvoyant. Expectations may or may not be realized. There will be hardships. There will be moments of joy. My hope is joy will out weight hardships.

And what are my expectations?

I expect to laugh and cry with those I love. I expect to continue preparing for retirement. I expect to ride Jigs down new trails. I expect to attend horse events, lessons, cow sorting, versatility, maybe a show if I get brave. I expect to win a few ribbons. Maybe.

Missing are my wished-for things: economic stability, a truck, Jigs at home with me, a finished book of poetry, 40 years in the making.


On January first, I will take down the ribbons Jigs won in 2018 and put away the memories of our successes, near successes, and yes, failures.

The space above his stall will be empty- a proverbial blank slate- a space for realized possibilities that will become 2019.

Happy New Year’s!


Driving Lessons

August 24, 2014

A year ago tomorrow, Dad died. It feels as if it was yesterday.  Zac was playing in his first Football game.  I was going to watch a half then catch some of  Caleb’s game. I never made it.

I got the call that he had been unresponsive at the nursing home and was being rushed to the ER. I left my daughter and her family to meet my mother at the hospital.  He was gone before I got there.

It was unreal.

Yesterday I went to the Marshfield Fair to compete in the annual versatility. The course was hard and riders were taking the full six minutes only to get the time disqualification. Jigs and I did okay in our first two rounds but not perfect.  It was a long day; I scratched our third round and went home.  There had been only one perfect round when I left.  I have no idea who won and I don’t care. Jigs did okay, that was enough.  Our score was 85 and we finished well under the time limit.

We returned to the barn late afternoon.  As I was backing my car out, I misjudged and cut to wide, nicking the corner of my friend’s stock trailer. The steel trailer was scratched, but okay;  my seven month old car, not so okay. There’s damage to the rear panels that will require body work.

I felt horrible- upset I hit my friend’s trailer, upset my new car was damaged.  All the while, Dad was in my mind.

The boys had their first games of the year at the same time today. I decided not to go to any of them. Instead, Jigs and I went on a trail ride. It’s what I do when my mind is unsettled. It was a lovely late August day, grapes and drying leaves.


After the ride I visited Dad at Saint Luke’s Cemetery.  There were flowers and the usual Patriot’s flag. A day short of a year and I am still in shock.

As I was leaving, a long buried memory surfaced. I was 15 ½ and preparing for the driving test.  Dad took me to the cemetery to practice turning and backing up. He got out of the car, grabbed a beer from the six pack he had brought, threw me the keys, and walked up the hill. “You drive by yourself. These corners are pretty tight.  I’ll watch from up here. Don’t hit anything,” he said over his shoulder.

I suspect he’s still watching me. He must have had a good laugh at my poor turning yesterday.

Miss you Joe.


Ghost Horse

March 22, 2014

Back to the clinic today- I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t nervous.  In fact, I had taken to wearing my bracelet made of Pepper’s tail in last few days.  I also had a few conversations with him about Jigs’ yahoo antics.

After the last clinic, we took Jigs and Angel to an indoor and let them loose.  Jigs bounced around bucking and farting until he decided it was too much work.

“Can I come in?”

I stepped into him and pushed him out again.


Nope get going.

“But I’m tired….”

The conversation continued until we were both panting.

This morning, when the trailer pulled into the driveway, Jigs and Angel stopped eating. Both had the  Oh-Oh, something is up look.

Jigs took off for the back pasture at a gallop bucking and farting.


He blew by me again.

I stood there mumbling, “Nope, not walking back there through the snow and mud.  I’ll wait.”   Sighing deeply I thought about Pepper.  He had pastured in this field. I fumbled with his bracelet. There is a lot I could write about that, but another time.

After a few more high speed circuits, the game was over.  Jigs decided it was too much work and returned to his hay.  I was able to halter him.

The clinic was fun. Jigs enjoyed refusing obstacles and then doing them without hesitation once he realized I WAS NOT kidding.

Several times, I was asked if I was going to canter but I politely said I wasn’t ready. “April.” The truth is, we could have. Jigs was well behaved and soft. More importantly, he was listening to me, unlike the last time. But it is early in the season and we are both out of shape. We trotted a good hour.

We used the trophy saddle and he seemed more comfortable in it.  So was I.  It places me in a more balanced position.  My legs are not as far forward as they are in the Tucker.

I have decided the Tucker is going up for sale.

After the horses were untacked, we took them into the barn to drink.  Loose on the lead, Jigs slipped into a random stall.  “Come on Jigs,” I said as I led him back to the aisle.

“Did you see the name on the stall he went in?” my friend asked.

“No? What is it?”

“Pepper,” she said.

I smiled to myself, not entirely surprised.


Joseph Oliver Paul Nov. 2, 1935 – Aug. 25, 2013

September 1, 2013

“An aged man is but a paltry thing, A tattered coat upon a stick, unless Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing For every tatter in its mortal dress,” – William Butler Yeats

For the last 21 years, my father couldn’t sing. But in a way, his life was his song, a gift he gave to us.


Joseph Oliver Paul

Joseph O Paul

Joe Paul

Joe…  loathed his middle name.  The mischievous daughter in me particularly enjoyed writing out checks to Joseph O Paul because I knew he hated it when the bank teller asked, “What does the O stand for?”

He was my father but like ever one else, I just called him Joe.

My father was not a rich man. He didn’t leave behind a big bank account or a successful dynasty, but, he did leave behind many people who love him.

Joe worked hard most of his life, he had to, his own father died when he was 13. They were building a stone wall together when his father collapsed and died. As the oldest, he became the man of the family, taking on part time jobs to help support his mother, younger brother, and baby sister.  Summers picking strawberries and tending chickens on his cousin’s farm were not easy but it was for his family.

A few years ago my mother was clearing out some papers and found an acceptance letter from Brown University. He never told my mother he had been accepted at Brown. When she asked him why he said, “couldn’t afford it- didn’t matter.” He had to move on.

Joe’s life was touched by tragedy more than once.

On Thanksgiving night, 1957, his 17 year old brother was killed in a car accident. He happened upon the scene with his uncle. What he saw was devastating, but he pulled himself together, went home, and helped his mother through the nightmare. The shirt Johnny gave him for his birthday that year remains unopened to this day resting in his dresser draw.

Tragic events like this might have broken a lesser man. But not Joe.

It taught him how to help others through their difficult times.  Whether it was a terminal illness or unexpected death, he was there. He knew what need to be done and did it.

Joe himself survived a cancer that left him unable to speak without a mechanical aid.  I don’t remember the sound of my father’s natural voice but I do remember how people stared at him in restaurants when he spoke with the speech aid. It never bothered him; in fact, many times he turned and patiently explained to them, “This is what happens if you smoke.”

He volunteered at schools, telling his story to youngsters, hoping to dissuade them from smoking. He believed if he stopped just one kid from smoking, it was worth it.

Joe’s granddaughters idolized him. And he spoiled them, driving the long way home from day care to give them enough time to finish the extra-treats he snuck them. My mother and I never knew.  He loved them unconditionally. He was their “Grandpa Joe.”

Joe made sure I had what I needed too. More than once he hurried to my house to repair a broken pipe late at night or bring me a second set of keys when I locked myself out of my car. (Twice in the same month, it’s a talent, what can I say?)

Christmas mornings at 5 Bowman Lane were magical. Joe loved that day. Friends dropped in and out to share greetings and a drink. We’ve missed that the past few years.

A good neighbor, he was quick to offer a hand with a project or a job that needed doing, whether it was pouring concrete or bringing in a field of hay. He was friendly too, making sure to wave every time you drove by.  Although he learned the hard way you should put the rock down before waving or suffer a broken foot.

Joe was generous with his time. For as long I can remember, he spent every Thanksgiving preparing dinner for local elderly at the Knights of Columbus hall.  As painful as Thanksgiving was for him personally, he spent it helping others.

That was just who Joe Paul was, for his heart was immense and he willingly shared it with us, never asking anything in return.

I am grateful to have known him and privileged to call him my father.

I love you Dad. You are missed.

Heat Wave

July 22, 2013

The heat has finally broken!  Last night was the first real night that I could sleep.

There’s no air conditioning in the house where I’m staying. My mother, who just turned 80, says she doesn’t need it. I offered to buy her one of the portable types.  (Windows are too small for a window model). She refused. They are now sold out.

So the last 7 plus days have been unbearable.  Neither of us slept well and we both were cranky.

I took Friday as a vacation day but it was 99 F. Riding was out.

Jigs was wet with sweat. He wasn’t eating his hay. He seemed to enjoy being hosed down. So not Jigs.

Saturday we rode at Tyrone Farm.  Ride out at 8 was early enough to do the 6 miles and be back before the full heat. It wasn’t too bad. Of course, it wasn’t as hot as Friday.

Tyrone Farm in CT is gorgeous- something out of a story book or a magazine. They served us brunch on a garden patio surrounded by flowers and hummingbirds.  I will definitely ride there again.

Yesterday we explored the Warren Brook trails.  The bugs were not too bad and it was a nice 9 mile jaunt.  Now that the heat has broken, I plan on getting back to a regular schedule of trails.  Two rides next weekend- weather permitting.

View from the trails

View from the trails


January 16, 2013

As Zach and I got out of the car we heard a huge whinny.  “What’s that?” he asked.  One of the other borders coming out of the barn answered laughing, “Guess he’s excited you’re here.”

Jigs? It wasn’t a welcome whinny and Jigs is not normally vocal.  Was that Jigs?

He was in his stall pacing even though he had hay. He screamed again.

“What’s up with Jigs,” I asked eying him for other signs of distress.

“He had an interesting day.”


“He got turned out with a few of the mares.”

Oh-Oh, I thought, remembering a camping incident and some ‘horse foreplay’ at 5 AM that involved me yelling, “Jigs get down,” and waking half the camp ground.

“On purpose?” I asked.

“Thought we could change up the herd but Jigs decided they were his mares wouldn’t let anyone else near them.”

That happened the last time he was in a mixed herd.

By now Jigs was on the cross-ties and, pardon the pun, jigging in place. He screamed again.

“Cut it out Jigs,” I said pulling the cinch tighter. He snorted and swished his tail.

“Zach, want to ride?” I asked looking at him sidewards.

“Ahhh, no,” he said stepping away quickly. “I’ll just watch you tonight.”

Jig whinnied again. No response from the mares.

Jigs in Stall

Birthday Gift

January 13, 2013

on my birthday

I got a great birthday present today from Jigs- 3 clean rounds! And we improved our time each run.

The theme for the Versatility was birthday party- fun on my birthday!

The past few months have been hard and sad, but Jigs has been there at the barn with his red face making me laugh. He keeps me whole.

Red PonyI remember when Jigs first came home. His big personality was a bit much for me in the beginning. I found it hard to groom him, pick his hooves. He hated the cross ties and would dance around like a jumping bean. I wonder at myself for not sending him back before the end of the trial period.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

Now he hands me his hoof before I ask. He tolerates grooming and cross ties.

He still is a joker. It’s not unusual for him to walk through the barn aisle taking down anything hanging on the doors. Last week he pulled the aisle mat out of the barn.

We have become a partnership. I may not be a good rider, but he knows what I am asking and tries to comply. He can tell when I am off balance and adjusts. He takes care of me.

I cut my hair a during Christmas break. When I returned to work, someone who doesn’t know me very well asked me what my “S.O.” thought about it.

“My what?” I honestly didn’t know what a S.O. was.

“Significant Other,” he explained.

I thought about it a moment. I’m not married, I don’t have a boyfriend and haven’t for at least 10 years. “Ah,” I exclaimed the light dawning. “He didn’t notice because he was too busy mugging me for treats.”

He looked at me confused.

“My horse,” I explained.

“Oh,” he said backing away from me.

But the truth is it is about partnership. That’s what Jigs and I have.

That and a pocket full of treats!



November 8, 2012

Something wonderful happened last Sunday.  It is four days later and I am still in shock. It hasn’t sunk in yet.

Jigs and I were HIGH POINT CHAMPION of the North Brookfield Sportsmans Club Eastern Regional Trail ride.  WE WON A NEW SADDLE.

And I didn’t even want to go. (Big thanks to the gals of Bear Foot for convincing me.)

Jigs was perfect. He accepted every obstacle gracefully.  He was a joy to ride.

I am so proud of him.

Fear = What if?

September 13, 2012

Jigs and I have been working on cantering.

My fear started years ago- in my thirties when, Mary, a crazy 17 hand appy-thoroughbred cross dumped me at the canter. And dump me she did.  I did a double summersault flip in the air before landing on my hip. It was not broken but badly bruised. 20 plus years later, my hip still aches when it is humid or if I don’t exercise.

Before that, I really didn’t fear falling. Yes, I fell. Fell from Princess. Fell from Freedom. But I was never a daredevil; it just seemed like part of the riding thing.  You ride; you will eventually fall.  Part of the deal.

It took me months to get the courage to canter Pepper. He had so many other problems, I didn’t worry about it. I figured it would happen. Then he spooked, bolted and bucked.  Off I went and my ankle broke.

I didn’t canter for months after that, but we eventually figured it out. My last (and best) riding memory of Pepper is cantering down snow covered rail road tracks. I can still smell the crisp snow and feel the cold on my cheeks. He was gone a week later.

Jigs was different. About six months into our relationship we were cantering on the trail and he spooked. I slid down his side in slow motion. I remember him looking at me as if to say, why are you on the ground?  The folks behind me thought it was hysterical. It was, and I was, fine.

But it was months before Jigs would canter with me. Even though I asked.

It was as if he knew I wasn’t ready. I probably wasn’t.

We got though it, but my cuing was bad. He’d canter, not canter, when I asked.  But then, was I really asking? Signals mixed with fear are not proper cues.

And if I held the reins too tight, Jigs wasn’t above a crow hop to let me know. Still isn’t.

I needed lessons “improve my seat”- to get through my fear.

Last year we learned to canter small circles in an indoor area. But I still had to run him into it. And it was too fast. No control.

This year we have learned to canter from a walk. It’s been fun. My confidence got better. Our canter improved. He’s starting to slow down.

Then tonight someone moved a barrel behind us, he spooked and bucked. I didn’t go off; I didn’t panic. (Although there was air between my butt and the seat.)  I made sure we cantered afterward. He was tired when we finished, head low, but clearly tuned into me.

But now the doubt has returned.

What if I am too old to do this right?

What if his saddle is pinching him? And it wasn’t the noise that spooked him?

What if it happens again?  What if?

The old fear has surfaced.

Breathe deeply.

We can start again tomorrow.