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  1. Cutting Low down!

    Just two days before I flew out to America, my black dog Isis had to be put to sleep. She has been with us nearly 11 years now, and it is a great loss. It was softened though by <BLOG_BREAK>the way that it was just her time, she had been in a steady decline, then on Tuesday she was in trouble, and was having difficulty standing. It actually felt as if she was asking me to let her go, and she was no better on Wednesday morning, and she asked me again, so that same morning we booked her in, gave her a bone to eat, which she did with some relish, then I took her to the vet.

    My husband and my mother all came to the car to see us off, and Isis lifted herself into the passenger side, ready to make the journey. I cannot say I was not upset, I cried all he way there, stroking her head. It was easier though once we were in the vet's room, as I believe that Isis knew what we were there for, and she wanted to be allowed to go. It was almost like a business arrangement, she gave the vet her paw, took the jab, leaned against my legs and was gone. The goodbyes had been done already with all her people at home. On the journey home I felt almost uplifted, the fitting end to her life. I wanted a few more days for her, but I guess that was for me really, Isis has had 11 years of lovely days already and she was ready. She left with dignity.

    2 days later than Andy and I were on the plane, and we spent 3 lovely days in Colorado staying with a friend, hiking in the Rocky Mountains and taking photos. The power of nature was all around us there, with the high mountains, the thundering waterfalls, walking hours away from electricity or civilisation, well into bear country. I was kind of hoping to see a bear, but also kind of hoping we did not. I was thinking that we were looking for Bears, whilst hoping that the bears were not looking for us! We did not see one, but we did meet a couple of ladies who DID see one earlier that day. They stumbled accross one, too close for comfort but one of them was determined to take a photo whilst the other one literally dragged her backwards, to her indignation (and secret relief I think).
    One day we drove right up to nearly 12,000 feet, and up there the air is seriously THIN! With the whole scale of things there it is a reminder of the smallness of each person.

    We then drove to Arizona, a 13 hour straight drive, to stay with my friend Cordy and her husband Rick, in Flagstaff. Flagstaff is blighted by forest fires at the present time, whilst we were traveling the road into Flagstaff was closed with the fire right down to the roadside. By the time we arrived  just one lane was open, fires still burning to the tarmac edge, and most of the visible mountain too.

    There is a terrific video on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCWVehGOv1I of this terrifying fire that was taken on time lapse at night after we arrived. This fire is less than 10 miles from where we are staying, and the people on the other side of town have been evacuated, either with their horses, or those horses that could not be got out in time were turned loose. It is just another example of the power of nature, in our country I could not imagine being evacuated and being told forcibly that I could not wait to evacuate Sherlock and Charlie. Here the risk is just so great that it is just done.

    We had not been here quite an hour, we were in the middle of having Cordy's horses shod, when we had a call to visit a neighbor's house where there was a sick horse, Buddy. Cordy ran accross, I finished up with the farrier and then joined her.


    I met Buddy in his corral at the edge of the forest, he was probably over 30 years old, and had seemingly had some kind of stroke. He was disorientated, and was circling more or less on the spot, apparently trying to find his balance. Buddy's family was with him, they were talking to the vet on the phone, and seeing what they could do to make Buddy happier.


    As I arrived Buddy looked right at me, and I could see an intelligent and kind old horse, trying to make sense of the situation. He had that kind of eye contact that looks right trough you and makes a connection. Buddy himself did not seem to be in pain. He was upset but that seemed to be because he could not find his balance, and it seemed to me that this beautiful horse was unsure of how he should behave under these circumstances, he was looking to the people that he loved for guidance.


    Cordy had a stethoscope, she checked Buddy's heart and it did not sound good. His family knew that over the past few weeks he had taken a downturn, he was eating more but losing weight. It seemed that there was a difficult decision to be made,  there was nothing that could be done to make Buddy better, he had come to the end of his time. The discussion was had, and the difficult decision made.


    It was once this decision was made that Buddy changed, he stopped fighting to balance on his incessant circle, his anxiety left him, and he became settled. I would say that Buddy knew a decision had been made, and he was happy with it. He leaned himself against a fence panel so he could stop the circling, and he was given some beautiful food, a mushy grass nut mix with added applesauce. The old horse propped himself more firmly against the fence panel for support and took to eating with relish. He kept looking around at his family, and the visitors, and was happy. It was a magical scene, the sun went down, and Buddy had more visitors arrive. Neighbors all crossed the pasture to support and honor Buddy and his family, even the farrier turned up to be there.


    That corner of the forest in Arizona became a very special place, it was peaceful and sad, and happy and funny all at the same time. Stories were told about Buddy and his life, and all the people who loved him gathered round. Even the Elk came out to play in the pasture, the dogs came to the corral. We even had photos of Buddy's last party.


    Although it was a sad occasion Buddy tucked into his feed with relish, sloppy green mush around his mouth and muzzle, looking up with interest at all of the people who had chosen to visit with him. The stories made us laugh, Buddy was a real character, friendly and intelligent, and he had lived well. The whole feeling was as a celebration of the life of this glorious and generous horse, from where he looked after his young rider, to when he would call unaccompanied and visit at the neighbour's house accross the pasture. From where he was choking on a grass ball and Cordy fished right down his throat to save him, no fear of being bitten, to Buddy's younger days.
    Once it had turned from daylight to dusk and then to dark, the vet arrived.


    The vet listened to Buddy's people, and to his heart. It was just time, Buddy was done. He looked at us all through wise old eyes, he was content. When the time came Buddy was with his family as he was injected and laid down. He took his last breaths as his family petted him and showered him with love and thankfulness that they had shared his life.


    Buddy ended his life with dignity. I hope that when the time comes for my horses, and for me too, that my life too can end in such a a dignified way, surrounded by love and peace. The horse was just ready, it was beautiful to me just how right it was. I feel that Buddy's passing could have been made like a dirty secret, whereas it was a beautiful celebration, where Buddy had permission to go, and went knowing he was loved. Instead of something dark it was something natural.


    With Buddy, and Isis, and the forest fires, it all shows the power of nature, the coming and going of the seasons, fire, and life itself.

    On Thursday 24 June we had the clinic English/Western clinic with Lee Hop. Despite the fires and the fact that two participants were evacuated we still had more riders than last year. Every rider improved over the day, it was a different feel, no microphones, and although we did less "things"we paid more attention to detail. See photos of this fantastic day on http://www.andycooper.fotopic.net/c1864924.html. Once ore I had the pleasure of riding one of Lee Hop's horses.

    Today I had my second cutting lesson with Cordy's cutting trainer. His horses are cutting horses, trained for that job specifically. Very dramatic photos are on http://www.andycooper.fotopic.net/c1865219.html. See also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LYPXAyx2NY for a fantastic video, where I lose my balance but recover it very quickly, and have a total blast!

    Tomorrow I am entering a club cutting competition in Prescott, on the horse I have been riding, and that is SO exciting, a genuine Western American competition. 

    All this week we have battled nature to work in the heat and dust, but in Flagstaff for the clinic we are quite high at 7,400 feet, so the temperature has not got above mid 80s 'F, it feels more physically taxing however, with the thin air that is so dry that it sucks the water right out of your body.

    Chino Valley is hotter as it is lower so for the cutting practice we have ridden until sundown, or from 7.30am. Tomorrow we are competing at the stockyards, and it is the middle of the desert with no break from the hot sun. It is expected to reach 101'F tomorrow, so for my first cutting competition, with the horses and cows, sweat and effort, thrill of the speed and balance, and battling the almighty heat I think I will truly feel the power of nature.


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