Thursday, April 29, 2010

Letting Go and Moving On

Preface: Daughter three, little R, is the nicest, warmest, most optimistic ray of sun in human form that I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She is a blessing, a gift, and a fantastic addition to the Bent Barrow family. She gives the best hugs in the world and may well be the finest thing to come along since sliced bread. I wouldn't trade her for a million riding lessons.

That said, I must be honest: the news of my third pregnancy was not met with joyful welcome. It came at a time when we were feeling cash-strapped, hemmed in, and harried, and came despite our several reliable forms of birth control. (A too-familiar feeling—this was accident number three for little miss Fertile Vessel and I was sick of the surprises! IUDs, the pill, barriers, blah blah blah—I've tried them all and I report zero success.) We were restless. Our apartment was shrinking in around us, and I was psychologically trapped in a pattern of self-doubt. I'd given up a free ride to a good law school for my prior unplanned pregnancy, and my career options felt as though they'd narrowed to a) housewife or b) horseback-riding housewife. I was unwilling to sacrifice option b, and saw this news as a death knell for my horse time.

While Mat and I juggled family, work, and home, Tanner continued to prove himself a challenge under saddle. He had come a long way, but he was still a complicated mount for an intermediate rider. I did have one heartening experience, if you can call it that: nearly three years after his purchase, I called his former owners about a never-delivered bill of sale. Over the phone, they gave me another story on the "potential husband horse." "You still have him!?" they gaped. "And you RIDE him!?" I had been, it seemed, his last stop before the slaughterhouse. The story came out: he'd been brought out of Canada with the goal of reselling him with a load of bucking stock. He was the bronc who "wouldn't buck, and wouldn't break," they told me. Unable to settle with the trauma of being cowboyed and unwilling to fight like a rodeo horse, he was dropped down, rung by rung, into my unwitting lap.

With my riding opportunities threatened by my toddler D's ever dwindling nap schedule and my future clouded by the unwelcome news of baby number three, I grasped at dreams like lifelines. To own a house would make me happy, I thought. To have done things differently would make me happy. To have not gotten pregnant. To have gone to law school. To be able to afford dressage lessons. To fix Tanner. To have it easy.

To Mat's credit, he worked his butt off as a husband, a father, a breadwinner and a counselor when I was in the throws of my quarter-life crisis. He listened to my ranting, and latched on to the one obtainable thing in my list—owning a house. We both wanted it, and we both thought that it would make everything better. No more flushing money down the toilet. Imagining the investment power, equity mounting in the Eden of our own home, we saw a home purchase as a financial as well as an emotional solution. Welcoming another child would be MUCH more rewarding in the comfort and security of our own little kingdom.

We bought Bent Barrow Farm just a few months later, before the great economic crash of the Bush era and after a great bit of hoop-jumping that deserves a chapter of its own. Building equity? Perhaps not, these days. Welcoming a child? We did, and it taught me more than I can say. She's wonderful. Everything is better, myself included. I'm fixed.

I parted with Tanner when R was just two months old, in what I like to think of as a grown-up moment of maturity. He was driving me batty, I was failing to progress with him, and my husband and I were barely speaking on the subject of my hay-guzzling, hard-keeping walking veterinary emergency. After a colic-scare and a couple of late night vet calls,I had an awakening. It was in my power, I realized, to let go of Tanner. To put my marriage and my children first. To admit that I was not in the financial or practical position to maintain a horse with chronic health and behavior issues, and to admit that he could use a human caregiver who WAS in that position.

Tanner is now safely established with a loving and grateful owner. Selling him turned out to be five times as easy and a hundred times as rewarding as I expected—with full disclosure of his issues, including reactivity to sounds, seasonal head-shaking, melanomas, and resistance to the bit, I found him a job as a vaulting horse with an experienced trainer. He can perform in the predictable setting of the lunging circle without the confusing addition of rein communication. His mouth-fear issues, which may have stemmed from a mysterious scarring injury that left his lips lacerated and sensitive, were no longer called up in his daily work. His sensitivity to auditory stimulus decreased when he identified the predictable safety of his new work environment. I accepted partial payment for him, donating a portion of his asking price to the non-profit to which he now belongs, and they accepted the many risks and potential benefits of owning a kind draft-cross with some special needs. He's proven himself beyond their wildest expectations, placing with his team of young vaulters in his first trip to the American Vaulting Associations Nationals and performing with tremendous reliability in a lesson program. He's had extensive diagnostics and helpful treatments for his seasonal health issues, and has become fitter, saner, and more relaxed.

He's thriving, and so am I.


  1. Such good news! Hearing that Tanner is now doing well is a day brightener :-)

  2. What a good looking horse, lovely story.

  3. I know this is an old blog, but I was just reading another of yours and saw this picture in the "You might also like..." section. The arena in that picture looks an awful lot like the arena in my hometown. There are always TONS of vaulting competitions there, but I've never bothered to go. Looks like Tanner could have been just a hop and a skip away from me!

  4. That arena was in Chilliwack, B.C. It's funny you brought up this old post today—I was just thinking of writing about Tanner again. He was a gold medalist at this year's Canadian National Vaulting Championships! He's on loan to a team in Alberta right now and still doing really well.


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