Thankful: A Fosterpants Update

Has anyone been wondering what their favorite spotted pony has been up to recently?


If you were curious, mostly he’s been getting fat and fluffy. Both good things going into winter, but a little bizarre to see through my theres-always-a-show-around-the-corner eyes. He’s been enjoying the life of a trail horse, exploring the woods and paths of the Civil War era plantation on which he lives.

Or, lived.

Unfortunately last week, Foster’s mom contacted me to let me know that her work schedule had gone in an unpredicted way, and she was no longer able to give him the attention he deserves. Life and horses don’t always mix, and sometimes you have to give up something very special to you in order to take care of higher priorities. I was gutted to hear this news, and knew it wasn’t an easy decision for her to come to.


Fortunately I have a friend who knew someone looking for a horse, with the hopes of trail riding, some natural horsemanship, and maybe walk-trot dressage tests or the occasional western show. So I got her information, and passed it along to Foster’s mom.


What she later told me is that when the woman hopped aboard Foster, her heart both broke and soared. I knew exactly what she meant, because that’s just how I felt when I saw her ride Foster the first time. It seems yet another match made in heaven, and on Sunday I loaded Foster up a second time to take him to his new home. He walked straight on like it was the most normal thing in the world, walked off the trailer an hour later and casually looked around his new home.

I made sure all seemed settled and then drove off once again with an empty trailer. Foster’s new mom sent me the cutest text saying how she rode him later that afternoon and just how much she loves him.


There’s so much to be thankful for, even when life doesn’t go the way we thought it would. I’m thankful to Foster’s previous mom for loving him as she did. I’m thankful to his new mom for falling in love with him. I’m thankful to Foster for being so special, and so easily loved. His family seems to have grown by another person, and I’m grateful for all of them.

In search of…

Thank you for all of your comments and well wishes yesterday, they were very appreciated. The paperwork went through, and just like that, I am no longer Fosterpants’ primary caregiver. Luckily his new mom is absolutely wonderful and wants me to have as much access to him as I want, and I’ll probably be hopping on him once a week or so for the next little while. More details and an attempt to sum up the journey coming.

In the meantime, let me regale you with my horsey ISO ad, since I’m officially in horse hunting territory.

“Adult amateur seeks fancypants unicorn in ultimate champagne on a beer budget scenario. Prefer gelding, at least 15.3 hands tall and between the ages of 3 and 9. Must have great brain, preferably canine-like personality and cuddly tendencies. A forgiving nature, for those amateur moments, is an absolute requirement. Need not be able to memorize showjumping tracks, but being able to count jumps would be helpful to this occasionally ditzy eventing DQ.

Fine, fine, I'll share it again.

Never gets old.

Suspension and athleticism important. And by suspension, I mean that of a Porsche or Audi, not a Model T. Prospective owner seeks to be competitive in the dressage court and in the eventing irons, that is, if she can remember her courses. Proven jumping ability preferred, but willing to survive train a green but willing jumper as well.


Horse will receive almost daily attention from prospective owner, be taught ridiculous tricks like smiling and bowing, and in general be spoiled rotten. As such, the horse must in turn tolerate copious amounts of picture taking, both as the subject of his new owner’s photography experiments, but also on a routine basis for the purpose of bombarding the blogosphere and social media channels with their presence.


Besides being sound of mind, horse must be sound of body. While this amateur owner has become efficient at wrapping, icing, hand walking, and bonding with vets, she would like to turn her attention to other hobbies. Like riding. Lemons need not apply, and you better believe there will be a pre-purchase exam.


In return for meeting these lengthy and lofty requirements, any future horse will be held on a pedestal above all others, if not in the judges’ eyes than in his owner’s. He will receive the best of care at a top-notch facility, have his legs and feeding regimen obsessed over at length, and be stuffed full of cookies at every horse show. Oh, let’s be serious- he’ll be stuffed full of cookies every day. And with all hope, he will be a lifelong partner.”


Is today the end of an era?

Today’s the day that the Foster Parent and I make a decision- is she going to be Foster’s new mom? I still hope so.

It’s bittersweet to want this to work out. But I’ve been able to see Foster a few times since dropping him off two months ago, and though it’s taken some getting used to seeing the changes that come with a horse going from stall board to living outdoors 24/7 (i.e, scratches, nicks, wooly coat), he seems happy.

Foster Field

One half of Foster’s field (aka horsey heaven)

It’s also been reaffirming that when I hop on him, not much has changed lameness-wise. He still has a slight hop when trotting right, and I can tell he’s much happier walking, although it’s Foster, so what else is new. The only thing better than walking is standing.

His stone wall run-in. Pretty nice digs!

His stone wall run-in. Pretty nice digs!

Obviously I didn’t expect 2 months of turnout and light riding to cure him, but it was interesting to see that even with the most minimal of work, he’s still not going to be a competitive sporthorse. No, its much kinder to him to live life as a spoiled trail horse.

The painted pony makes an appearance.

The painted pony makes an appearance.

We’ll see what this day brings. But either way, Foster is well loved and forever a treasure.

Letting Go

… 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.

PC: High Time Photography

PC: High Time Photography

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.

October 2014 @ CHP

October 2014 @ CHP

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?

First day in NC

First day in NC

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.