Patterns can be comforting routines. You fall into them like a comfortable bed, with a few sharp pokey bits that you know to avoid. Lately, I go to the barn, love on a mare, take her for a walk to help rebuild strength, give her a hug, and turn her back out to her paddock. Which mare am I talking about? Kasane or Isis?
Tuesday I took Kasane for her walk with another boarder riding in the ring. Amy and Juno, her lovely gray Thoroughbred mare, have shared quite a few riding lessons with Isis and I, and a few with me on Kasane. Amy and I chatted while she cooled Juno down and I walked Kasane for 20 minutes. We talked about Isis a little, laughed about her antics. I half expected to see Isis walking next to me.And then it struck me: the steps for Kasane’s recovery are very similar to what I did with Isis in September and October. Walking in hand over gradually increasing times and up and down hills. Rejoicing in seeing her improving.
The past two months have felt like a flashback. Different horse, same routine. Kasane has been in Isis’ paddock at night. I’ve been grooming her in Isis’ old stall. Habits and patterns: I come to the barn, bring Kasane in from the paddock and put her in the first stall where Isis used to be. I did that with Isis for years. And now the bay mare poking her cute head over the stall door is adored and loved too. But some times she isn’t the mare I expect to see there. I still expect to hear Isis call me when I get to the barn.
I had been feeling down whenever I came back from the barn. I couldn’t figure it out. Kasane looked great. She’s been improving and has been full of herself. Silly girl has been bouncy and feeling good (and eventually remembers that just because she’s being lead on a trail doesn’t mean she can get away with things). I had every reason to be pleased and happy. Except we’re six weeks into Kasane’s diagnosis and recovery. That’s right where we were when Isis passed.
Kasane isn’t Isis. I know that. Kasane is recovering beautifully. With Isis, we were always vigilant of the next thing that would impact her (because there was always the next thing, poor girl). This pattern of settling in to grooming and leading and documenting progress…and hearing the shadow of my old girl’s nicker. Isis passed October 11th, which seems a long time and no time at all. I don’t see Isis struggling to stand and falling sideways into the fence every time I think about her and close my eyes. Some days it feels like she is just off at another farm.
When I was last riding Kasane before her stifle injury, I was really missing Isis’ training level. So I rode Kasane as if she were Isis: sat back and rode like she was a rear-wheel drive, with light pick-up-the-front-and-turn steering. Kasane grokked what I was asking immediately. We rode lightly and rounded, not consistently but glimpses of what will be there as she learns more. Maybe that makes Isis Kasane’s spiritual god-mother-rider. Or something.
A dear friend of mine commented that Isis’ passing for me was the same as someone else losing their child. I understand that Isis is gone, but fully letting her go takes a while. I process, grieve, run away from it. Start again when the carefully tucked away feelings resurface. And it hurts. Oh my god does it hurt.
I see the ghost of my mare when we walk
the dark bay with a star beside me
overlaid with a glimpse of a copper bay with a blaze
We walk past the scary puddle
where both mares had skittered and shied at muddy water
The dark bay skips aside, dances, slips:
Desert-breds do not step in water.
She nips at my jacket — treatses?
Playful glint in her eyes
a mirror of the copper bay’s mischief
A hoofstep in the water, disrupting the reflection