dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, December 13, 2015


On December 14 it will be one year since Steele died. I have been writing this post in fits and starts because it's still just so damn hard. When you live to your 50s experiencing sad and terrible things is not a surprise.-that is the cost of life. There are people who have experienced far worse things than me. I  know that. But do you know what? It's not a competition. I  was really messed up by Steele's death. I couldn't even appreciate how messed up I was until a few months had passed.

I don't believe that 'everything happens for a reason' but I do believe that I have choices. I read a post on grieving that really resonated with me. It said something along the lines of 'you don't 'get over' a devastating loss. You just learn to carry it.' I have been learning to carry his death. As part of that I've learned a whole lot more about myself. The sun continues to rise and life carries on. That just happens. But I had to choose how I was going to spend those days.

the day he came to live with us

I bought Steele when he was 16 months old. I was so excited about it that I decided to start a blog about it. It was a fun way to keep a record of our progress together. I had a few followers through blogger and on FB. The day he had to be put down- a day that started so wonderfully and ended in pain and fear I was so full of pain that I didn't know how to cope. I took all that pain and poured it into my blog. That post went 'viral'. It was had over 10,000 views. The post was shared all over FB so many times that I couldn't keep track. Its was overwhelming.

It also brought out the 'trolls'. People who wrote some very horrible things to me. I didn't really understand what was happening  at first but once I did I put on the moderating feature. Without an audience they disappeared.

But even more than the trolls I was also incredibly moved by how many people reached out to me with kindness. Rosie did a painting and sent to me. It was stunning.She was someone that I had sold a saddle to years ago and knew from an internet BB.
it hangs in my dining room and  I see it everyday
I received cards in the mail, emails, fb messages and phone calls. I want to apologize to anyone that I didn't acknowledge and thank for their expression of sympathy. I tried to, but I really was not operating on my best I probably missed some. I am sorry for that. I lost all tolerance for drama or pettiness. I simply withdraw from it now where before I might have wanted to address it. I don't have the energy for it.

I learned a lot about grief and grieving in this. I know that he 'just a horse' and there are probably some people who think that I was/am overreacting. But here's what I learned- grief doesn't discriminate and doesn't operate on different time lines depending on 'what' you're grieving. I loved that horse with my whole heart and it was broken when he died. What I found extremely touching was that people who had also experienced heartbreaking loss reached out me with kindness, not judgement or pointing out that their loss was so much greater than mine. One woman who had lost her daughter simply reached out and let me know that she understood my pain without judgement. It was a hand reaching out in the dark to another person. Ed was amazing through this whole thing. He was grieving as well and I'm sure that he often felt helpless with me. Some days I would just curl up on the couch on him and he wouldn't move, even though I'm sure he was stiff or had 'things to do'.  I still remember that he offered to sell the property if I couldn't stay and that he told me to 'go to Spain' when I couldn't find similar bloodlines to Steele for sale.

What I also learned this year is that anxiety is a beast that lies in wait for events to free it from whatever cage I had it in. I know that I often appear calm and relaxed but the truth is that I worry about things far more than most people realize. With the horrible chain of events that happened I had trouble sleeping and I couldn't drive by where it all happened. I gradually got through that but to this day I hate leaving the horses outside when we're both away. I actually force myself to stay at work and as I drive home it's all I can do to not speed. I'm convinced that I will come home and find them gone, dead, injured whatever. I know it's stupid but the beast inside does not care and it whispers to me all the time.

What happened was traumatic and horrible. And it hasn't let go of me yet. There was an incident about a week ago that really threw me for a loop:
The weather has been very similar to last years which is also I think making things a bit more 'real'. Cynthia and I had finished riding and turned the horses out while we had a coffee inside. When she went to leave I went out with her and all I saw was Irish running frantically up and down the fence line screaming. I couldn't see Carmen. This was exactly what I saw almost a year ago when I went outside. Instantly I was back to a year ago and I was overwhelmed with panic. I screamed 'where's the mare' and ran to the field. To be honest I couldn't even think of her name in the moment. My heart was in my throat and I could barely breathe. I saw her grazing calmly in the field while Irish was running up and down the line (turns out a horse and rider had just gone down the road and he always gets silly over that).
'are you all right?' Cynthia asked. The answer was no. I wasn't. I couldn't deal with the crash of emotions - it was like a tidal wave and I was actually shaking. I managed to get myself under control and said goodbye. But I was still not okay and couldn't stop the feelings. It was surreal, I knew it wasn't a year ago but it also felt like I was. I was two places at once. I went into the barn and began to sweep. The rhythm of that settled me down and I could return to the house and finish my chores. It took a long time to feel normal again. Based on internet reserch- that was a flashback triggered by similar events and time. Since then I have recurring nightmares of broken fences and the horses being loose. I should probably do something about that but it would probably require talking about what happened and I don't talk about it. Not since I wrote it out, have I spoken about the events. People tell me how sorry they are and I thank them. I then say "I don't talk about it". I don't want to get into it because I just can't.

he always amused me

but I loved that face

Which brings me to Carmen.

She actually is related to Steele distantly. I believe that I was meant to own this horse. I also believe that we both needed each other. Sitting on her made my heart sing for the first time since Steele died- he also made my heart sing. I don't think I would have found her without the help of my friend Karen. She even travelled down with me to help me look at the horses. Time I'm sure that she didn't have.

If you ask me if I want Steele back my answer is 'yes'.
If you ask me do I want Carmen, my answer is 'yes'.
And no, I don't see the contradiction in that. I have Carmen because of Steele and while I know I have her a result of his death I bought her not because he died but because he lived. And I can't explain it any more than that.

He was a great horse and we had a lot of fun together. I will never forget him.

Add caption
I can't forget that Irish grieved too. He still hangs out down by the grave

I used to watch him in the field and marvel and how I came to own such a beautiful creature.

I do not think that I will write about Steele's death again but I will speak of his life from time to time.

One last thing that I learned about grief- it doesn't stop you from being happy. I would describe myself as happy. Not all the time (that would be weird) but I am happy. Happiness does not depend on an absence of pain or on the actions of others- it is entirely up to me and I choose it.


  1. I can't leave the page without commenting but the words don't do it justice. Your journey over the past year was a difficult one, but you've made it through the first year. I can't say anything else but " here's a hug"

    1. thank you for the hug, Heather, I really appreciate it.

  2. Writing about your experience with grief will be helping lots of people that you aren't even aware of. I like the sentiment that you don't get over a loss, you just learn to carry it. I hadn't thought about grief in that way before, but I totally relate to it.

  3. Thank you for sharing these emotions and thoughts with us. It always upsets me when people try to tell others how to feel. They say things like "At least you have..." followed by whatever. A friend of mine doesn't like complaining to me about her parents ever since my dad died in 2010 because she's afraid I'll criticize her for speaking badly about her dad since I no longer have mine. I've told her several times that I wouldn't do that because she has every right to complain about him and telling someone "At least you have..." isn't being a very supportive friend. It also leads people to think their feelings aren't valid. That they have no right to feel a certain way.

    I understand the contradiction about still wanting Steele, but also wanting Carmen. In 2005 I lost two cats in a dog attack. It still hurts to think of, but...anyway, after I lost them, I welcomed two more into my life. They weren't replacing the two I'd lost but rather filling an empty part in my heart and while I wish I still had the first two, I wouldn't want to give up the two that followed. In January I had to put down one of those second two and eventually adopted another. I wouldn't have had any of the others if it hadn't lost the first pair, but I would still love to have them back...

  4. He was such a beautiful boy. He was lucky to be yours during his time on earth. I like to think of my boy Blue as a guardian angel that watches over me and my other horses (however weird/cheesy that sounds it makes me feel better). Sending big hugs to you <3

  5. You did a good job explaining grief, in general, and your feelings about Steele in particular. Loss is incredibly hard but when you overlay it with horrible violence, it crosses over into trauma. You've been through hell and you are coping with it in a very healthy way.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'm glad you're doing better. They never truly leave you; I still miss my horse 10+ years later. But time makes it easier.

  7. I couldn't say it any better than Annette did above.

    I'm enjoying following along as you and Carmen get to know each other.

  8. I remember the day you called me and said “I am so intrigued by that colt.”

    I remember the day I walked him off my trailer and handed you the lead rope - I was letting go and you were beaming.

    I remember hearing the news of his loss and I shared in your grief.

    I remember when you came to visit shortly afterward and how every time your emotions got the better of you, my little Spanish Galgo would crawl in your lap to try and make you feel better.

    I remember the questions – am I ready to start looking for a new partner and will you help me?

    I remember seeing lots of photos and videos and offering as much objective insight as possible. And I remember when I saw Carmen and thought, wow, that mare is special.

    I remember your relief when I called you and told you I could go with you to Virginia (and Ed’s relief when I met you at the airport to calm your anxieties!).

    I remember when they asked what happened to your other horse and you looked at me helplessly and said “you have to tell them”.

    I remember when you asked me before mounting the first time “Can I do this?” and I said “Yes, you can. One breath at a time.”

    I remember when you first sat on Carmen. You felt something special and I saw it in your face. The stress left your body and the two of you just tried to figure one another out. It was the first time I saw you smile in months.

    I remember when you asked me “so what do you think of all of them?” I answered “only one of them made your heart and face light up.” And you named her immediately and we both knew.

    Life is a journey with difficult parts and amazing parts. It has been my absolute privilege to share parts of our journey together. And I look forward to many more “parts”. I will be thinking of Steele tomorrow too.

  9. I have been following your blogs for the past year and as a horse owner have been where you are and am still as I just lost my beloved rocket on nov 22end she was the last of 3 horses that we had for over 20 years, my husbands gelding died last dec and my wonderful mare soda left us 10 years ago,at the age of 19, rocket was 26 and had slowed down but I never thought she would go so fast,if there are any good things in death she did not suffer, i LOVED HER VERY MUCH,Iknow how you feel because now every day when I go to work I worry about the rest of them, you have suffered a Hugh loss in your life and it will never totally go away but we can have some relief knowing they are not in pain and that if god wills it we will see them again, I am not a big church goer but I know they have souls or life forces and I know that they care as much as we do so we will see them again, in the mean time we have to remember how funny they were how beautiful, how kind or difficult they were and know that they are at peace.after nearly 10 years I still cry on Christmas eve for my beloved soda but life goes on and we have to go on with it, there will be other horses, dogs cats, but each one holds a place in our hearts that no one can fill no matter how much we try to change it, they never really leave, not until we die and I am sure they are there to greet us.you have been through trama and heart brake but now you have a new life to nuture and love and trust that steele will be there for you to help you with carmen, with all my love and good wishes alicia

    1. I am so sorry for your loss. It's so very hard when they go

  10. you wrote:
    "And no, I don't see the contradiction in that."

    Me either; I can empathize entirely with this point.

  11. Beautiful post about grief. Last year, today, we lost my father-in-law suddenly and unexpectedly, too. A lot happens in a year, and yet it also feels like yesterday. You're right about saying by the time you're 50 you've had some losses.

    Our heart horses are who we are. They're enmeshed with our identity. I didn't realize you'd raised Steele from such a young age. That's even a harder loss and a deeper bond.

    I had to sell my first horse that I'd raised and trained from a weanling and I still haven't got over it. Last week I was emailing around trying to find information out about him.

    All this is to say, my heart goes out to you today. I agree it is the type of thing you never get over, which is a tribute to the love you had and the special spirit he was, but it's wonderful that the heart is capable of holding and giving more and that Carmen can fit in there, too.

  12. My gelding was shot by a stupid hunter out in the pasture. He survived and is fine, but I know what you mean about something that shocks you and makes you feel like you're having a heart attack. We are still very skittish during hunting season.

    I know Steele was a special horse to you. If it was me , I would never really get over it. The only thing I can do is offer you my deepest sympathy.

    1. That would have been horrifying. I'm sorry that you went through that. Thank you for you kind words

  13. I still carry the grief of losing my heart horse almost 25 years ago and my mother two years after that. There have been many other losses since and they are all still very much a part of me. It is not something you ever get over, but learn to live with. Steele will be with you forever. Fortunately, Carmen will be as well. I hope you have many years of happiness with her, you two have become a lovely partnership.

  14. we don't speak of them because we have not moved on; we speak of them because they made us who we are today

  15. Teresa, I love, and agree with, Kristin's comment! This is such a beautiful and touching post. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  16. What a beautifully written post. I really have no words, just add me to the list of people who have gone through a terrible loss and understand. Thinking of you and your lovely boy.

  17. I am one of your "new" followers from your viral post. It was devastating to read and I waffled back and forth on whether or not to even comment, but then I remembered how much support I felt when I put Estes down and strangers grieved with me.

    Though I didn't "know" Steele before, I am thankful that you were willing to share your story with the world and that I've been able to follow you since. I feel we're following similar paths after the loss of our equine partners, which gives me hope that all will be okay (for both of us).

    1. Thank you for that. I was so very touched by the responses of strangers

  18. Reading this I felt that I got to know you on a much deeper level than before. I did not know about Steele and I am so sorry. I think it is OK to look for joy and to want to be happy again after a great loss. I'm working on it myself, and when sadness overwhelms me, as it often does, I let it in and I cry. Then I look at my dogs and smile and life goes on and I go along with it. You have Carmen now and it will be a good journey together for the two of you.

    1. Thank you Inger- I appreciate your encouragement with all that you are going through


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