It's been 45 days since Caprice died and I won't lie; it's been tough. I've always had the gift of choosing when to let my animals cross the bridge and the utter shock of losing her so suddenly is so much harder than I ever imagined it would be. I think of myself as a pretty stoic and practical person, but still burst into tears when I walk past her empty stall or see another horse in her paddock. I knew we wouldn't be together forever. but she seemed invincible, even at age 23. She lived a wonderful life and was happy, healthy and adored every single day from the moment she arrived in Canada right up to her last day on earth. But it still hurts.
I've learned a lot in the past few weeks, most importantly that people really are kind. For that I'm truly thankful. The support from my barn family, friends, and complete strangers is really touching. I've received so many messages from others who have gone through the same thing. Horses always break our hearts, but it seems we can't live without them.
I've learned a lot riding-wise too, with the chance to ride several different horses in lessons with several different coaches. For that I'm grateful as well. One of my barn-mates generously offered me the ride on her handsome Canadian gelding in a weekly lesson with our trainer and that's been fun. He is completely different than Caprice in just about every way. And at Nancy Maclachlan and Alan Young's lovely MacDay Farm, I was lucky to ride another friend's older schoolmaster a couple of times under Nancy's skilled and watchful eye. He is very much like Caprice in many ways, and yet still totally different in others.
The biggest test of my skills (and maybe the most fun) was the incredible opportunity to take two lessons from Esther Mortimer at M2 Dressage on her Grand Prix schoolmaster. I have always dreamed of doing tempi changes and passage and yes, it feels just as amazing as I imagined! And on this horse, at least, those movements seem ridiculously easy, yet I struggled with simple tasks like cantering a 20-metre circle. On a horse where every weight shift, a too-grippy leg, or an inadvertent poke with the spur means something, you really learn to be as quiet and effective as possible.
Walking into strange barns and riding unfamiliar horses with new-to-me trainers has been a test of my anxiety but also a confidence booster. Stepping so far outside my comfort zone showed just how much Caprice (and Meredith!) taught me in just a year. For that I'm incredibly grateful too.
Everyone who welcomed me into their barns and onto their horses was so kind and so patient. The chance to see how other programs operate, figure out new horses, try difficult movements and exercises, or just hear fundamental skills explained in a slightly different way has been a gift - a silver lining in the dark cloud of the past 45 days. It's been like going on vacation and seeing incredible sights, tasting new foods, and experiencing different cultures. You love it, and you learn from it, but at the end of the day you still look forward to going home.
More than anything, this experience has taught me that my barn feels like home to me. I will be back there sooner, rather than later, with a horse to love and call my own again.
About the author
I'm a middle-aged, overweight, rusty re-rider who refuses to let any of that get in the way of my passion for dressage.