… it isn’t easy. In fact, this probably ranks as one of the toughest emotional decisions I’ve had to make.
I like to think of myself as a responsible horsewoman. When I signed up to own a horse, I considered what I thought of as the worst-case scenarios. Final retirement. Having to put a horse down. Of course we never want to actually be put in those situations, but you need to have plans for them, and so I had plans.
But I didn’t have plans for a horse who, at barely 9 years old, wasn’t ready for retirement, but also wasn’t able to continue a career as a sporthorse. When the surgery came up, I thought dressage was my plan B (as opposed to eventing), and I easily came to terms with that. But when plan B fell through, well, I had to think about things that I had never considered in my dizziest day dreams.
The reality of the situation is that I could afford to turn Foster out to pasture and retire him point-blank. But anyone who has met this horse knows that, at this stage in his life, and as bright and interested and just engaged as he is with people, he wouldn’t be happy with that. And I wouldn’t be happy with that either.
However. Stating the obvious, I could also keep Foster and commit myself to learning to love trail riding and set aside any competitive ambitions I may have had. But just as Foster wouldn’t be happy in retirement, I wouldn’t be happy with not improving and working as I have for much of my life. And right now, I simply cannot afford two horses. But the physical act of riding, of pushing towards goals, is what keeps me sane, keeps me healthy, and therefore probably also keeps my marriage intact, and I can’t ignore those things either.
So, we are of course at an impasse.
I continue to believe that this Fosterparent scenario could be the best solution for everyone involved. But it’s introduced its own emotionally perplexing conundrums- mainly, how do I help another person to feel like they are the caretaker, and eventually owner, of my horse? What is the balance of being involved enough to set them up for success, but also being distant enough to allow them their own bonding time?
I still miss Foster so much, and I try not to envision him in his stall mugging for treats by smiling at everyone, or nickering to me in the paddock. It’s enough, and I am so fortunate, to be able to ride Darcy and keep active and engaged in equestrian sport.
Learning to let go- just another aspect of horsemanship, I suppose.