Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jake 1972-2009

My horse, Jake, died recently. He was 37. Some of my friends know that I have had horses, many don't. At one point I had 3, but the one I want to talk about today is Jake. I met Jake when I was 19, and he was 17, and I shared my life with him for 12 years. He was given to the Olsen family, a few miles down the road from me. The Olsens had a horse farm, and one day, Jake was led to their house and handed over to them. He was thin, starving in fact, and looked like hell. All of his ribs showed, his coat was dull and rubbed raw over the bones that jutted out. He had not been cared for in awhile, and the person handing him over fully acknowledged that and asked the Olsens if they'd take him. They did, but in the meantime they had 8 horses in the barn...7 that they owned, and 1 boarder. They didn't need horse number 9. Because I had been dating their son, Ken, and was around all the time, they told me that Jake could be mine if I was willing to care for him. Well, seriously, what 19 year old horse crazy girl would turn that down? And so it began. Jakes first few days were bad. When someone has been hungry as long as he had, their bodies generally do bad things when you start to feed them again. It's like taking folks out of concentration camps and giving them food- they get sick. And so, Jake got very sick. For a few days we thought maybe he'd die, but no. He hung in there, and the Olsens and I spent a few nights taking turns walking him out so that he wouldn't die from colic. (When horses have stomach or digestion problems, they can die from colic because they can't vomit. Horses are big and strong, but really quite delicate creatures, too.) Once we determined that he'd live, and he started to put weight back on, I began to get to know him. It was tricky at first. Besides riding with the Olsens and some lessons as a kid, I really didn't know much about horses. Jake was a bit difficult to ride. I can recall many, many rides that first year that I'd come back to the farm angry or crying, and feeling like I should just give up. I couldn't figure out how to communicate with Jake, and he was a tough bugger when he wanted to be. As the years progressed, I did learn what worked for us, but it was always a bit nerve-wracking to put someone else on him. In retrospect, he was not what I'd call a beginners horse. He wasn't anything fancy or trained, really, but he had his likes and dislikes, and unless you knew how to read him you were probably in for a bad ride. It took years for me to understand him really well.

I rode bareback. At first, I tried all kinds of tack- english, western, hybrid. Different kinds of bits, etc. I finally settled on bareback with a particular bit that had 2 breaks and a long shank. That worked best. But once we figured it all out, that was ALL I needed. I was always much more comfortable (and a better rider as a result) when I had no saddle. It's easier (I think) to read your horse that way, and easier to hold on. And sometimes, you're gonna fall, no matter what. You just learn how to fall...well.

This is Ken on one of his horses, Ebenezer, running with Jake. Note that KEN didn't even need a bridle to ride his horse. I have never seen anyone ride like that boy did.

Learning how to get ON to a horse with no saddle was a trick. I would whine and say that I could just get a leg up from someone, or use a stone wall. Ken and his parents insisted that I learn how to get onto Jake with no help. No wall. No fence. No rock. NOTHING. "Imagine that you are riding alone, in a place with no walls, or rocks, or people. And you fall off. How will you get back on?" they asked. And so I practiced in private, until I got it figured out. It was embarassing! Imagine hurling yourself against a horse, jumping as hard and as high as you can to get not only UP, but OVER. Inevitably, I would fall short. Then, one day, I jumped high enough to make it up- and had so much momentum behind me that I promptly fell right over Jake's OTHER side. :) Oh, the look he gave me!

The Olsens had said that I needed to help out at the barn, and so I did. Every morning I'd be there at 5am, feeding all 9 horses, cleaning stalls, turning them out, and setting up for the next feed. They taught me about riding, tack, feed, anything I needed to know. And we rode constantly, thru all seasons, day or night. Eventually, Ken and I broke up, the Olsens moved away, and I moved Jake to other stables in town. But I was always the one to take care of him every day. Some people may think of horses and ONLY think of riding. I loved everything about horses...the riding, the cleaning, the medical care, baling hay, picking up grain and shavings. The way horses smell is divine. The way they sound, the way the communicate, it's like this day not a moment goes by that I don't miss Jake and wish I still had horses. I miss them and I miss the routine that surrounds them.

Life went on, I got married in 1999, moved to a farm in Sterling. Jake came of course, and my horse was on the same farm that I lived at! Wow! I could wake up in the morning, look out my window and see Jake looking right back at me. That is my Heaven.I insisted on feeding Jake dinner on my wedding day, in my wedding dress. (Jim and I got married in the barn, on the farm, surrounded by family, friends, horses, chickens, cats, and dogs.)Eventually I bought 2 other horses, Andy and Rosie, because I wanted my step daughters and niece to go riding with me, and having 3 horses sounded like a good idea at the time. It got a little complicated, and I won't go into it, but suffice to say a few years later I moved away, got a divorce, and Jake was the only horse I could keep with me. I am sure you can guess that horses are very expensive pets. They are luxury animals, and all my life I have struggled just to pay bills, really. Within a half year of moving, I was in such dire straits that having even Jake was becoming an obstacle to survival, both monetarily and psychologically. In a strange twist of fate, I ended up giving him back to the woman that had given him to the Olsens. Her life (in shambles at that time) was now straightened out. MY life (once normal) was now in shambles. She took him, and kept him until he needed to be put down within the last few weeks. Once I gave him up, I was never able to see him again. Not because they said I couldn't, but because I simply felt so awful about the whole thing that to see him would have been to hard on me. I had pledged to keep him until the end of his days, and now I was not following thru on that pledge. (Of course, I had also gotten married- BIG pledge- and was now getting...divorced. Talk about guilt.) I was a MESS. I cannot emphasize that enough. I am fairly certain that I was barely functional from 2001 until a few years later. I got a call from a friend the other day, telling me about Jake. He was 37 years old, and his arthritis was so bad they didn't want him to suffer thru another winter, so they opted to have him put down. Better that he be put down by choice, and after much thought, than experience some painful accident or condition, and suffer that way.

Jake, Rosie, and Andy. An interesting group of horses. Such distinct personalities and preferences. It was amazing to watch them all each day, and get to know them.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

My House

1,300 square feet. Attic storage (walk in), full basement with washer/dryer/sink. 3 bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen, 1 bathroom. 1/10th of an acre, with woods behind house. On street parking. Oil heat, natural gas for stove and hot water. House built in 1926, original kitchen cabinets and soapstone sink. Built in bookshelves, beautiful detail work for wood trim and door ways. Hardwood floors throughout.

Dining room with built in book shelves and crown molding.My office upstairs...this room is intended as a bedroom. Low ceilings (hence "bungalow" style). Probably 12x16. The door you see in the corner lead to the attic storage can walk right in. Several people have said that space would make a good second bathroom. It's a good idea. I don't have the $$ to do it, but someone will!Living room, with dogs of course.Kitchen, soapstone sink and original wood/glass cabinets.Bedroom on the first floor. Technically I think it is a "den" because it has no closet, but I use it as my bedroom. It is adjacent to the bathroom, which is a nice setup I think. Kitchen, different view. In addition to the shelving that I have, there is a built in pantry area (in the walkway next to the kitchen) that is huge. They built it over the basement stairs, a good use of what would otherwise simply be dead space. Another view of the living room, looking towards the front door.

The spare bedroom on the second floor.

Garden beds in the back yard. If someone didn't want them, it's easy enough to take the frames apart and spread the dirt for the yard instead... Looking at the house from the street. I don't have a driveway, but there's plenty of space in front of the house and the road is only driven by people who live in the neighborhood. It is a very low traffic area. On the topic of parking, though, it is possible to cut into the front hill to make a parking space or a driveway, I think. I have not gotten any quotes about it, but it seems to me that this is feasible. The second floor landing, hallway looking into the spare bedroom. The door to my office would be to the left of this view.

Back yard again. Woods behind house (I am pretty sure it's unbuildable), nice stone wall, garden beds, flower gardens with perennials, and I also have a great compost pile in the far corner.

My office, looking from my desk towards the second floor landing.

A view from the flat part of the roof, into the woods behind the house. You can just barely see the garden beds in the back yard for reference.

The view from 10 Briarcliff, looking towards Beaconsfield Road.

The second floor "nook" as seen from the very top of the stairs.

My bedroom, the door you see leads into the bathroom.

From the living room area towards the stairs to the second floor.

From the living room towards the dining room and kitchen.

I have changed the backyard some since I shot this, but I loved the way it felt so I included it.