When I moved from Minnesota to Arizona, I was questioning how much longer I would keep my horse and be riding. Most of my riding friends up north were younger than me, and I was thinking I was getting a bit long in the tooth for this sport, and with my arthritic joints complaining, I was thinking it might be time to hang up the spurs.
Then I met Bets. She is a typical New England no-nonsense tall, slim woman in her 80's who keeps her horse at the same ranch as I keep Bart. She invited me to join her on a trail ride, and from there, we have enjoyed riding the trails at least once a week. She belongs to Las Damas (and is the oldest member who still rides!) and has had me as her guest on the monthly and 5-day ride. When I mentioned that I may retire from riding, she scoffed that if she was still in her 60's, she wouldn't even consider quitting riding!
I have enjoyed riding with her and learning the trails, birds, and vegetation that she knows so well. She used to show saddlebred horses, and is an excellent rider and I enjoy her sharing her knowledge of horses and life with me as we ride the beautiful country in Arizona.
She has been riding a beautiful red dun mare that was called Madison when she bought her 10 years ago. Although she is an awesome trail horse, she doesn't have the kindest attitude....often pinning her ears, snapping her teeth, and sometimes taking a nip off Bets as she saddles this cranky mare. Someone commented that she was "a real Sweet Pea" when she displayed her naughty attitude...and that was the name Bets gave her . This mare with the beautiful, smooth body and gorgeous huge eye continued with her ear pinning and teeth snapping even with all of Bets loving care, but Bets loved here and understood her, and would laugh and shake her head when the mare would do her thing.
About 5 years ago Sweet Pea pulled a suspensorary ligament, and had to be on pasture rest for a summer. Since then Bets has had special shoes and pads applied, x-rays and ultrasounds done, supplements fed, and Sweet Pea has been sound most of the time. But last week as we were riding on Turtle Mountain, Sweet Pea suddenly buckled on all four legs and almost went down. She recovered but left Bets over the neck. As the ride progressed, the mare's limp became more pronounced, until Bets decided to get off and walk her in.
She gave her some Bute when we go back, but Sweet Pea remained sore on the foot. It was a difficult decision, but she decided that she had done all that she could do for the mare, and made the decision to have her put down. This morning she trailered Sweet Pea to her vet, and said her good-byes.
I had thought that I would be losing my riding partner, and that she would decide to quit riding as she reached her mid-80's. But Wednesday she is going out to look at a new horse! She said "Of course I'm getting another horse. What else would I do?"
I have so much admiration for this woman. As I feel the aches and pains after a ride, I can imagine how she must feel. What an extraordinary spirit! She is such an inspiration to so many of us who wonder how many more riding years we have in us.
Happy Trails, Sweet Pea.....run free!