by Laura Crum
That’s what this blog is supposed to be about. I have deviated—A LOT-- from the theme, I’m afraid. My interest lately is all about what counts…what in my life is worth focusing on in the light of mortality. Ever since my husband died, my life has changed in many ways. And most of all in the sense that I only give my time to what needs to be done to take care of our little life here, and to what I do out of love. I still love my horses and I still write—I think these things are part of what counts for me. So I can give an update on my horses and my writing, I guess, if anyone is interested.
Since I’ve owned horses all my life and I don’t dump them when their using life is over, I have (no surprise) a bunch of old horses. My horse property accommodates four horses easily, five is OK, and I’ve squeezed six in at times (not good). The way I feel these days, four horses is plenty. So I have my retired horse, Plumber (26), my son’s horse Henry, still a good walk/trot riding horse on level ground at 27, though no longer comfortable climbing hills, and my Sunny, somewhere between sixteen and twenty and still sound and a good trail horse.
And I also keep my friend Wally’s Twister—19 and still going strong as a team roping horse. I’ve promised to take care of Twister just like he was my own if Wally dies. I don’t plan to acquire any more horses. My Gunner lived to be 35, and at that rate I have a lot of years of horse care ahead of me with these guys.
All of the horses I have here have been with us many years. I broke Plumber as a three year old, and trained him to be a rope horse. He carried my son and me when my boy was little, and took good care of us.
Sunny and Henry took us on hundreds and hundreds of trail rides and gathers for seven straight years—on the beach, in the hills, and in the mountains—without one bad moment.
We owe these horses and I am glad to repay them by giving them the best life that I can. But my interest in riding isn’t very high right now. I’ve ridden a couple of times this spring with my son and we both enjoyed it. I’m still not drawn to make much effort in that direction. Our horses seemed to enjoy being ridden after such a long break, and I think they would be pleased if we rode a little more often, but I just don’t have the emotional energy to devote to this pursuit.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved to ride and I’m so glad that I spent many years horseback. I don’t regret it at all. But I see now that the space and freedom that I had to give my energy to exploring horseback pastimes came a great deal from the content and security I felt with my husband. Even though he was not a horseman himself, he supported me (financially and emotionally), and his support gave me the freedom to enjoy my life with my horses in the way that I did. Thank you, Andy.
My energy now goes into tending the garden (by which I mean not just the veggie garden but the entire property), making sure all critters are well cared for, and that my son’s life stays good. There just isn’t any energy left over for other pursuits. So though I sometimes feel sorry for the horses, and think they look a little bored, I have to tell myself (and them), life isn’t perfect for any of us right now. And their life is pretty good.
They have plenty of room to run and play, they get fed grass/alfalfa hay three times a day, there are shade trees and sunny spots and soft ground for rolling, shelter from the rain, and plenty of equine companionship. Their feet are trimmed, they are wormed as needed, and we get them out to be groomed and to graze as much as we can. All of them are at a good healthy weight, pasture sound, and seem to feel fine. There are many worse lives that they could have as older horses.
So that’s my horse life. Not too exciting perhaps, but I do enjoy having the horses here, I am grateful for the many years of reliable riding service each horse has given us, and I plan to take good care of them all until they die. This is what love means to me when it comes to horses. And they give me back love in return—just by their presence in my life. The nickers when I come to feed, meeting me at the gate to be caught, the soft sound of hay being chomped as I sit in the barn, the look, smell and feel of these big, gentle creatures. The willingness to carry me on their backs any time I choose to ride. Horses are still magical to me. I can’t imagine living here without horses.
As for writing, well, I still write. Like the horses, I can’t picture my life without writing. I don’t write novels these days, but I write these blog posts and I keep a journal, and I have written several memoir pieces. I posted one of them (My Life With Horses) in installments on this blog, and I have finished another one (Ordinary Magic). I’ve begun one about my husband’s life. Not sure what the ultimate goal/fate of these pieces is. I wrote them to please myself, but some of you said you enjoyed the Life With Horses story, so maybe I will eventually put the others up on this blog. We’ll see. You can let me know what you think—if you’re interested.
I’m often asked if I’ll write more novels. The short answer is that I don’t think so. I wrote twelve novels in my mystery series featuring equine vet Gail McCarthy, and a dozen novels was always my goal for that series. If you are interested in my thoughts about horses and life in general, I wove many of my insights into this mystery series, which covers twenty years in the life of one woman—and took me twenty years to write. Serendipity. The series also covers different aspects of the horse business that I’ve been involved with—from cutting and reined cowhorse competitions through ranching, team roping, horsepacking in the mountains, breaking and training young horses, and trail riding here in the hills and on the beaches of the California coast. Not to mention raising a child with horses. So if you’ve enjoyed my blog pieces I think you’ll enjoy the novels, which are readily available on Amazon.
And yes, that last bit was blatant self-promotion. I don’t bother with this sort of thing much any more. I don’t really need the money and I understand (from the little bit of local fame that I’ve experienced) that the admiration of strangers isn’t something that I need or crave. But the truth is that I DID put a huge amount of creative energy into my books—any little insight I ever had about life and horses got added to one book or another. My husband and son make appearances in the latter part of the series, and many friends and acquaintances have turns as villains, victims, or suspects. (I often cast people I really like in the roles of victims or villains because if a victim or villain is not a truly interesting character, the story will fall flat.)
Anyway, for those who read my blog posts or have friended me on facebook—if you like my writing here I’m pretty sure that you’ll enjoy my novels. If you read on Kindle the books are very inexpensive. And if you don’t read on Kindle, I was able to buy the first book in the series for a friend (used hardcover in perfect condition) for less than four dollars on Amazon.
The series begins with thirty year old Gail McCarthy beginning to practice as a horse vet in Santa Cruz, California, and ends with now fifty year old Gail deciding whether its time to retire from practice. Every single book has lots of horseback action and all the details were drawn from my life spent with horses. The order—for those who haven’t read the books and want to read them in order-- is:
Cutter (cutting horses)
Hoofprints (reined cowhorses)
Roughstock (roping and endurance)
Roped (ranching and roping)
Slickrock (horse packing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains—and overall reader favorite)
Breakaway (trail riding and training a colt—also the darkest of my books)
Hayburner (breaking a colt and finding a partner)
Forged (trail riding on the coast and marriage)
Moonblind (TB layup farm and pregnancy—non-moms don’t usually like this one)
Chasing Cans (barrel racing and raising a baby—non-moms same as above)
Going, Gone (an auctioneer and trail riding in the hills)
Barnstorming (yet more trail riding and life choices)