While 2020 was a year of loss, it had lots of bright spots too.
It’s always going to be the year we lost Grandad. He was a huge presence in all of our lives – and always will be. So often I say something and realize I don’t even actually know where the saying came from or what it really means, but Grandad used to say it so I do too. I was at a corner in town and didn’t know which way to turn, so I asked Mom, “right or left at Oak street?” and then not 5 minutes later said, “Home, James, and don’t spare the horses!” Which I always thought was a funny thing for Grandad to say because he would’ve always chosen to “spare the horses” if he could. 😉
It was also the year we took horses to visit Grandad at the Bethany on several occasions. We couldn’t go in to see him for much of the year, but window visits with the horses were a lot of fun for us, and we really enjoyed visiting many of the residents through their windows and sharing our horses with them.
Baby Sparkle was born on Grandad’s birthday, and she’s been a very bright spot! Her antics have kept us amused every day, and sharing her on social media has been fun too, since we weren’t able to have our usual open house and let people come meet her in real life.
The other loss of 2020 has been my barn cat, Bill. While I know many would say he was “just a barn cat” and predation is always a risk, Bill was such a huge part of my day to day activities that it’s been very tough adjusting to his loss. Bill helped me with chores, making me laugh and keeping me company for hours every day, and that’s a big presence to suddenly be gone, let alone in such a tragic and traumatic way. I miss him, every day.
2020 is also the year I finally did something I’ve been talking about for YEARS and drove a four horse hitch! I’m so lucky to have these great old horses that my Grandad trained, and my very knowledgeable family who is willing to jump in and help with such a big undertaking. It’s been SO fun – two highlights were hooking them on my brother’s birthday for him to drive (as a distraction from a surprise his family was planning for him) with Grandma and Carrie and Mom; and decorating them for Christmas photos and having an amazing early December drive. The horses we are driving range in age from 19 to 28, and they absolutely love it. I read that part of the fun of driving four is that the horses love working as a herd so they’re extra engaged and joyful, and I think that’s part of what has made it just so much fun. I can’t wait to do more driving next year, and start working some younger horses into the mix so that we can do some outings with them in the future – currently the backbone of the hitch is Knight Rider, who will be 29 next year, and while we’ll continue driving him – because he LOVES it! – I don’t want to put the added stress of travel on him. A big 2021 goal will be to drive Knight Rider WITH some younger horses, so they can learn to be like him!
Online Horse Agility competitions have been a big part of my year, and completely scratched my competitive itch with the cancellation of all of our local shows. Competition without having to clip, or bath, or pack the trailer, or travel … it was perfect, and challenging, and rewarding! I can’t recommend the International Horse Agility Club enough! Little Duke was my primary horse I entered every month from the time we started in April, and the two of us have had such fun. April was his very first entry, at Starter Level, and by the end of the year he’d moved up through First and Medium to Advanced level, and finished the year 17th on the worldwide leaderboard. It has me keen to stay consistent in our entries and see what we can accomplish in 2021!
Baby Wish (okay, she’s two this year, but she’ll always be my baby!) also loved playing agility. She is a natural, and especially loves to enter the liberty competitions. Bentley did some as well, as well as Sparkle entering her first Young Horse competition at just 6 months old!
Bentley kind of lost interest in agility obstacles when I started him driving – he loves pulling the cart so much that he has trouble getting interested in other things anymore! He’s the first one I’ve trained to drive using positive reinforcement, which has been a learning curve for me, but he absolutely loves it so it’s been so worthwhile. As I do most things with Bentley at liberty, I just hold up the harness and he lines up in front of me to put it on. He puts his head through the breastcollar, and puts himself between the shafts when I hold the cart up for him. While he’s still very green, he loves when I get in and we drive “properly” and even will back up to try to stay between the shafts when our drive is done and I’m unhooking the cart. I look forward to more driving with Bentley in the spring!
Five more horses came to live here with us this year, all from people who love them very much but were no longer able to look after them. Four of them are senior horses, and I’m grateful to be able to offer them the same care as the other old folks here. I love making sure these special old horses have the retirement that they deserve, and I wish I had the resources and space to take in every old horse that I see needing a home. For now, I’m happy to be able to look after my own and these special ones who have joined us. We now have 11 horses over the age of 20 … 12 after January 1st when everyone ages up again!
While the events we usually attend were cancelled, we made our own fun here, notably with a 30th birthday party for Image in June, and a virtual Stampede Parade in July!
It was an unusual year for sure – the first of my memory without attending any horse shows! – but there was lots of horsey fun to be had at home!