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March 19, 2014: Adaptability

I am not, when it comes to matters of death and dying, as flexible as most. In fact, in such instances I become emotionally paralytic. I find myself unable to move past the said event. Pete’s different. He’s of course affected. However, he’s able to put such instances into a perspective, which enables him to move on.

And so, our situation is such that we have three horses: one that is somewhat young (Hrimfara), one that’s somewhat old (Tinni), and one that is middle-aged (Raudi). What we now lack is what we used to have, which is another one that is middle-aged (Signy).

That second middle-aged horse was (sad to say) Pete’s riding horse and buddy. Yesterday, I made the mistake of suggesting that we find him another horse. Pete then rightly said no, that it was too soon for that. Of course, he was right.

There are some who collect Icelandic horses, and this is very easy to do. It must have something to do with their kindly personalities and big pony looks. Problem is, having horses is in general an expensive preposition and even more so in Alaska. Plus, it takes a lot of time to tend to them. And so, the more you have, the thinner you spread yourself, financially and time-wise. We were super maxed out when we had five, and somewhat maxed out when we had four. We would not have had five, but unbeknownst to us, Signy was in foal when we purchased her. And once Hrimmi was here, we sure weren’t going to part with her.

So what to do? The answer, according to Pete, is to adapt. (I’d have been thrilled had he said adopt, but this was not the case.) I did not see at first how adapting might be possible. Our having had three good riding horses had meant that friends could ride with us. And it was easy in the interim to pony an additional horse when Pete and I went out. Having that additional horse also meant that we’d be able to do the competitive trail ride together in July. Nix the above and move on. This is what we’re now doing.

When Siggi died, Pete said that he’d ride Signy. And when Signy died, Pete said that he’d ride Tinni. This is now the new story line. I was dubious when Pete suggested this, because Tinni is up there, and therefore won’t be able to go great distances. At the same time, I know that the two will never, ever bond the way Pete did with Siggi and Signy. This just isn’t within the realm of possibility. Tinni and I have bonded – he became and will remain my steady eddy riding horse. I’ve actually come a long ways on him (no pun intended). I remember early on, taking him on trail rides solo. If he wanted to head home, he’d put his head in the air, brace his legs, and stiffen his back. This was his way (I thought) of saying that danger was lurking. So home we went. No more. I now know when the danger’s for real, and when he’s calling my bluff.

Anyhow, I waffled a bit, saying that maybe Pete should ride Raudi. But as we both know, Raudi is my horse. So this afternoon Pete put the saddle that belonged to Signy and before that belonged to Siggi, on Tinni. Then, after determining that it was a good fit, he slipped the bit into Tinni’s hay filled mouth. And off we went, on a ride. Pete rode Tinni, I rode Raudi, and we took Hrimmi with.

The sun was shining brightly. The trail footing was still somewhat firm. Raudi lollygagged on the way out the snowmobile trail. I had her behind Tinni, who maintained a steady pace, along the trail and up and down the inclines. Tinni was good – he did not once consider bolting, and only once did what we call the Tinsi shuffle – a very pace; this when Hrimmi came galloping up behind me and Raudi.

In fact, I’d say that Tinni seemed quite content. Now I know that for Pete, riding Tinni is not the same as riding Siggi or Signy. However, Pete well knows that it’s important for us to continue to love our remaining horses. And loving them includes continuing to exercise them, so that they remain in good condition. And he also knows that while it’s important to grieve, that time spent grieving takes time and attention from all the animals, of which we still have many.

And so today I learned a major life lesson, which is to be happy with what you have, for you may not have it tomorrow. In this instance, today my best teacher was not a dog or a horse, but rather my partner Pete.

Next: 79. 3/20/4: The Unnatural Nature of Grief