Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Possum's Story

It was the beginning of the summer 5 years ago now. I was working at a trail riding place in NH which shall remain nameless. We had just gotten 3 horses from a dealer in VT and I was there to help unload them. One was a skinny and shy belgian that spooked at the slightest sound. The other was an older pony who was a rack of bones with a distant look in his eye and may scars over his bay body. The last one off trailer was a skinny long legged appy with massive rain rot and a look of distrust. The appy came roaring off the trailer and almost took the 200plus lb man off his feet. I knew from the minute the appy stepped off the trailer there was something about him that was intriguing. We had less then a week to work with them to make them trail worthy. We hooked them to the line and fed them some hay and water. As soon as we scooped the hay under the appy he reared up, bared his teeth and tried to come down on us. The trail owner said that he would call him Possum because it seemed to fit. Possum hated people with a passion. He was starved and probably beat. I later learned that the place in VT where he came from had about a 2 acre lot with a bunch of horses and when the grass was gone they were shit out of luck. So needless to say Possum didn't do to well on the trail line, he would only stand small kids and that was about it. He was also incredibly foot sore barefoot to almost bloody stumps. The trail boss said that if we couldn't use him then he would have to go back to the dealer. I decided that I would use him as my guide horse so he didn't have to go back to that awful place in VT. Possum knew nothing under saddle. You could sit on him alright but stopping, turning and use of leg was all foreign to him. I would lead the rides on a long rein and explain to the people I took that he liked to walk in the grass but it was really because his feet hurt and I knew it felt better for him. I was also the only one who would feed him at night and in the morning because he was so aggressive. He would bite, rear, and kick with both barrels, it took some finesse but he managed to get all his food. I also made it my my mission to put sun lotion on his now bare and burnt rump from all the rain rot. It took quick feet and a sharp eye and knowing exactly where to stand. Things went well for a while until it was bath time. It was a requirement every morning that all the horses got hosed from dirt the night before to look presentable. It was a wash rack outside hooked in the ground with two very large 12ft poles with boards between them. Possum did not like the bath and ripped the whole rack out of the ground and started to take off with it. It was quite a scene and a display of sheer power on his part, nothing that I ever care to revisit. But after time he got to trust me a little. He knew he was getting regular meals and the work was easy despite how sore his feet were. He was quickly gaining weight and filling out nicely. He was aged to be 8yrs old. Towards the end of the summer I had to go back to being a senior in college in MA. I took pictures of the VT horses and tried to ask any and all of my horse friends to buy them so they wouldn't have to go back.

I was 2 days back at school and I get a call from the trail owner saying that Possum had bit his 15yo daughter in the shoulder when she was feeding him and she had to go to the hospital for 36 stitches, basically taking a piece of her shoulder out. He was furious. He told me right there on the phone that he clubbed Possum on the head with a wooden club and he tilted his head just right and got him above the eye. Possum passed out cold for about 20 seconds and when he woke up the inside of his eye was on the outside. He told me he didn't know if the eye could be saved and he didn't care. He said that he talked to the owner in VT and they had decided to ship him for meat in Canada. The truck was scheduled to get him next week. I was beside myself. I saw so much potential and life in this horse my heart broke. I called the guy in VT and asked him how much he wanted for the horse. I was broke, in college a state away and barely had enough gas money to get me by. The guy said that he wouldn' t let the horse go for less than $1,400. My mouth dropped and told him he wouldn't get anywhere close for that for meat. He said straight up that he didn't care and thought the horse was better off dead anyways. The guy told me that Possum was dangerous and that I couldn't handle him. I called the trail boss and begged him to tell the dealer that I could handle the horse. Eventually the dealer broke down but still stood firm on his price. I didn't have that kind of money. I felt deflated and defeated. Later that week I had a dentist appt and through cotton in my mouth I told them of the three horses from VT. Through stroke of fate and the stars and planets being aligned they offered to each loan me $700 to buy Possum. I was thrilled although you couldn't tell by my drooping lip from the Novocaine. I immediately called the guy in VT told him that I would send him a check and wanted a bill of sale. The trail owner because offered to trailer Possum for free over an hr away to a friends house because I think he felt bad for us. Now your probably wondering about Possum's eye. Well I had an old school vet out that had me put sugar in a straw and blow it in his eye twice a day and keep a fly mask on to protect. His eye within 2 weeks was perfectly normal again. So I paid my friend to take care of Possum for the cost of hay and grain and came up every weekend from school to help her with chores and ride. My goal with Possum was to have him learn to be a horse again and be healthy. He first got shoes on all 4 feet, a good worming and shots and coggins. St first we went for long walks on the lead, ground work and manners and I would even put a lawn chair out in the pasture and read a book for hours just being with him. He slowly started to come around as I slowly started to accumulate tack for him. We used to go for trail rides to a local field and work on some of our flat work. First trot circles, with transitions and then canter. We worked on balance, rhythm and occasionally popped over a log or two for fun. The thing that really bonded us together was galloping. Every stretch of flat dirt or grass we would fly like the wind. he faster the better he thought. We used to fly so fast that the breath would leave me. His legs were like churning pistons and his breathing was deep and rhythmical. We were free when we were galloping, like one being gliding over the hills and roads with no destination. I remember riding the through the woods so far that I would get lost and give him his head and he would always find the way home. We were fast becoming friends. He was stubborn and pig headed and so was I. We used to have our arguments but usually came to an agreement. After a year at my friends I moved him to a draft barn who breeds shires where I was doing chores in exchange for his board. I remember one winter day I wanted to play around bareback. He had his winter blanket on and the paddocks were set up in a big circle. I asked him to leave his friends and he started to rear. I asked him again and up and up he went and then started to go over. I quickly pushed myself off him as he fell and struggled to get up. I was furious and said to him "I bet that hurt and you won't do that again". I hopped back on gave him a squeeze and up and over he went again. Right away I grabbed his lead rope, stripped off my jacket and his blanket and told him that now he was going to work. I ran him as fast as I could on the lead until we were both lathered and breathing heavy. And don't you know to this day his front feet have never left the ground unless it was to jump. That little bugger thought he could one up me, but I was too clever for him. We quickly settled into a routine. We moved to a wonderful boarding facility where he is at now. We started small open shows not doing so hot and then we started to improve. He also loved to jump. I was on the IHSA team in college doing hunter jumpers so knew a bit about it. He started to get stronger and fitter and his form improved through lots of trotting fences and gymnastics. His confirmation isn't bad but he is downhill and a little straight behind. He rides like a dump truck and sitting trot on him jars your teeth. We learned together and improved every year. He is now 13. I have paid of the first $700 dollars to the hygienest and when I went to make pay,ents to the dentist he just shook his head and said that I had done well by this horse and he didn't need any money. There are still good and caring people out in this world that care about the value of life. Possum is happy, healthy and is loving life. We attend many local hunter jumper shows and do quite well. He is doing really well with flying changes right now and is learning that you can take your time on a hunter course. He almost attacks the jumps with the same ferocity that he attacked that girl at the trail riding place in NH. He pins his ears and bares his teeth. Everyone jokes at the barn that it's just more aerodynamic. I know it's just because he loves it. I can honestly say now that my horse will do anything for me. I make him jump in and out of the arena, we hunter pace, trail ride and even competed in our first jumper show last fall at 3'3", he loved that! He always comes to the gate when I drive up. I let him have his free time around the farm grazing and I know he is grateful. Possum would jump through a hoop of fire if I asked him to. He knows that I will take care of him and in turn he can trust me. The only residual effects from his past of abuse is attacking his food, round pen panels and someone jumping up and down near him. Round pen panels we found out the hard way when he got out the fence one day and the barn owner put him in a makeshift stall of panels. His eyes rolled in the back of his head, he got a look of the devil in his eyes and he body slammed them so hard that he bent the pins and was able to run away. The jumping up and down thing I believe is from physical abuse. I tell all the kids not to jump in from of him or taunt him in the fields like running around him because he will attack. I call it PTSD for horses. But other than that he is great and he's mine. He will be one of the main characters of this blog so I thought his story should be told right.

On a side note tonight. I did end up having counseling tonight which was helpful. It helped me to get all this junk with the BF out and get myself back on track. She also suggested that I join an ALANON group to help deal with the things he struggles with and with living with an alcohol abuser for so long. I'm seriously thinking of going. It was good to vent to a person who doesn't judge and is removed from the situation. Tomorrow is Thursday. I hate Thursdays it's not quite Friday and it's not the middle of the week. No word or text from the EX BF, didn't really expect it. I don't know how we can be friends or what he wants from a friendship with me. My counselor posed that question tonight and I was clueless. Why does, and we'll just call him G instead of the ex because that has such a negative connotation, what does he really want from a friendship with me? Can I handle a friendship with him? I don't know the answers to those questions. I'm going to go with how I feel for now and take it as it comes. I miss him terribly but realize that he and I are on different levels right now. I'm trying to get help for my struggles and he's not really sure or aware of his own issues. It's not my place to tell him to get help or how. But I want to be a good friend in supporting him and helping him to realize how things are looking from the outside. Going to bed now, have a busy day tomorrow. Tell me what you think so I have something to read tomorrow.


KathyP said...

Wow! What a dildo that dude at the trailriding place was/is! That is one hell of a story! I'm so happy for Possum (and you!) that he hooked up with you, despite the road on his journey being paved with pricks. I had no idea...I always thought he was a show horse right from the get go!

Just damn.

Anonymous said...

I love your possum story. A meant to be one saving the other.

the G...
well, my mom once told me - "if you focus on your inner self, everthing else in our life will fall into the right place."
Another wise woman I worked with told me once, "Everything has a way of working itself out".

I can't tell you how these two woman have helped me re-focus and my life falls into place. The right place, a place I didn't think was right, but it is.

Stay strong and true to you and let the peices re-align themselves.
I know your heart has focus on Possum, but when you can't be with him what about meditation? Might be worth a try??

good luck. I'm rooting for you.

ORSunshine said...

Possum is lucky to have you.