Sunday, February 7, 2010

"LOVE is how you stay alive, even after you are gone"

This was the sticker slogan on my take-out coffee cup today. It struck me as fitting, since my ex-barn owner died yesterday. She fought it like a tiger for 2 years but lymphoma won the last round.

We were not close after I moved my horse, but prior to that we rode together and once even traveled together with our horses to the Black Hills for a week of gaited horse camping. We also camped on a memorable Memorial Day weekend when it snowed. that was the night my horse got loose and wandered all around our campsite looking for tasty blades of grass. When I asked if the commotion woke her up she said, "I never really sleep".

She was a true character, like many horse people. She addressed all horses as "Son", even mares, even her own mare. "Ho, Son!"

But when she used a pronoun of a horse it was always "She". This produced some odd conversations.

"I've been watching your horse in the pasture. She's eating too much and getting fat!'

" horse is a gelding!"

"I know, and she is too fat!"

Whenever she had to call a boarder about anything, the first thing she said, even before Hello, was "Your horse is fine!"

When she received the lymphoma diagnosis, she made a project of knitting all the barn girls wool sweaters in their favorite colors. In the depths of chemotherapy, she could be found sitting on the porch in the sun, a scarf on her head, knitting extravagant colors and complex cable patterns.

Throughout the treatments, and the subsequent ups and downs of t-cell counts, she stayed unbelievably cheerful and optimistic. She was looking forward to riding again this spring.

She built the horse boarding business out of the shreds of a wrenching divorce, and subsidized her daughter's career as a riding instructor for two decades. Literally hundreds of horse-crazy kids were able to live their dreams thanks to Rose's hard work: carrying hay, worming 50 horses in a day, enduring the stream of little kids and teenagers with muddy boots in and out of the house all day long year-round.

Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone. Rose loved horses enough to let them take over every corner of her life and privacy. And she passed on that crazy love to so many 'city kids' who would not otherwise have had the chance to grow up with horses. What a blessing! Well done Rose. Rest and sleep now, excellent cowgirl. The love is alive.