Category: Horses

An Capall Bán

An Capall Bán

“My soul was an old horse

Offered for sale in twenty fairs…..

But this evening, halter off,

Never again will it go on.

On the south side of ditches

There is a grazing of the sun.

No more haggling with the world…

As I said these words he grew

Wings upon his back. Now I may ride him

Every land my imagination knew.”

Patrick Kavanagh

 After breakfast I went for a ramble. Surrendered to the direction that called, I let it guide my feet.

Up the lane, around the high road, past an Irish Cob and her filly, around the bend, down the hill and to an intersection. One of many historic markers was posted so I followed it down a rocky path.

Clochán na Carraige, the sign said. So I followed it and several smaller arrows through fields, over stone walls through stiles, across a bog and finally to a beehive hut.

As I reached the hut, far up on the hill behind a maze of stone walls, was a beautiful white horse. Her mane was streaming in the wind and I said to her, “I want to meet you!” But the reality was there was no way to figure out how to navigate the network of walls.

I explored the stone hut, a remnant of green martyrdom of Celtic monks who tried to prove their love of Christ by living a life of extreme penance. It was in great condition considering it was built in perhaps the 8th century and is regularly visited by farm animals as well as humans.

By the time I finished walking around it and climbed through the stile in the stone fence, the white horse disappeared.

After lunch our small group gathered and met with Dara Ó Maoildhia, a Celtic priest who lived as a modern-day hermit in 1985 on Árainn. He now works as a guide to the historic and sacred sites of the island.

Our first stop? The Beehive Hut–Clochán na Carraige.

After we wandered down the hill and through the stiles and across mucky pastures and the bog, we climbed up to the hut and there, waiting for us, was the white horse.

I stopped and stared in disbelief and then said the words…”I don’t believe this!”

Fiona, my name for her, stole the show from Dara. She greeted everyone in our group, some with great gusto. She made faces at us, frisked a few, nibbled a few ears and nuzzled necks and then rolled in cow poo, jumped up and went through her comedy routine once more.

When I first saw her on the hill I was taken with her beauty and thought she was symbolic of the evolving Divine Feminine within me. It made no small impression on me that she was waiting, reminding me of the strength and beauty growing within my life.

An Capall Bán…the White Horse.

Sweet Horse Breath…Remembering a Great Horse

Sweet Horse Breath…Remembering a Great Horse

(This post is from a story I wrote about my beloved Tomahawk Red. It was originally published in Western North Carolina Woman magazine).

When I was three years old I balked at walking down the aisle as the flower girl in my cousin’s wedding.  I was terrified at the prospect of being the center of attention in such a large event.  My mom finally promised me anything I wanted if I would take those tiny steps from the back of the church to the altar.  She got her wish and I got mine.

My red cowgirl outfit was a child’s dream come true.  The red and white checked shirt, red vest, boots and hat made me feel like a cowgirl, as I rode for hours on my rocking horse Champ.  It was not until many years later that my dream of being a real cowgirl manifested with a new best friend, Tomahawk Red.

When I was fourteen years old my dad purchased a young Appaloosa colt.  Since Tommy was too young to ride, I worked with him every day in our backyard.  We became great friends as I spent every spare hour with him.  He became a regular visitor to our patio, much to my mom’s dismay.  She lived in terror of him getting spooked and shattering her sliding glass door.

simonelipscomb (1)We had a large fenced yard so often Tommy would be allowed to graze in the yard.  He would always find his way to our patio and step onto the concrete slab so that he could peer into our family room from the large glass door.  I begged my parents to let him come in the house, but to their credit and good judgment, Tommy remained an outdoor horse.

My father was seriously ill when he paid the $300 for Tommy.  Dad was not able to do much with me due to his debilitating illness that left him in a wheelchair, but he would spend time watching me work with Tommy from the patio or he would go with me to Appaloosa club meetings and shows.  Tommy became a link between my father and me that bridged the distance teenage attitudes and physical illness creates between parents and their maturing children.

When Tommy became old enough to ride I put the saddle on him and rode him.  It was not a big deal and there was no ‘breaking’ of his spirit as some horses experience when learning to carry a human on their back.  Tommy and I were so connected, the first time I sat on his back was a non-event for him.  It was just the next logical step in our relationship.

simonelipscomb (2)Every day after school I would ride Tommy.  We would journey through open fields and dirt roads of coastal Alabama.  He was my best friend, my therapist and the love of my life.  I loved the smell of his sweat and the feel of his warm breath on my face as we kissed, nose to nose.  Without hesitation I can say that Tomahawk Red was my first love.

One night, after flooding rains had soaked the land for days, our stable began to flood.  Our five horses decided to come to the stable rather than wait out the flood in the higher pasture.  In the middle of the night, my younger brother and I had to wade into chest deep water to unlatch the stable door so the horses could come into our backyard to safety.  I know we saved our horses lives that night but in so many ways Tommy saved my life every day.

Expressing my feelings about my father’s illness never happened until many years later in therapy, but the hours spent with Tommy helped me stay open to experience the world and life as a young woman.  Tommy carried me and my emotional pain for many years.  I credit him with helping me stay sane as a teenager.  And for keeping me out of typical teenage trouble.

simonelipscombDad never saw me graduate from college or never met my daughter.  His disease claimed his life when he was only 43 years old.  But my friend Tommy knew of the milestones in my life.  He met my daughter and introduced her to the smell of horse sweat and sweet, horse breath.  He understood the demands of motherhood, a career and a marital relationship.

After us kids left the house and loss interest in riding, all the horses were sold except for Tommy.  How could I sell my best friend?  Instead, I chose to retire him and let him live his life free and easy among the cows on my grandfather’s farm.  I did not see Tommy so much after adulthood grabbed me, but I continued to love him and hold a special place for him in my heart.

When he was almost twenty years old I got a call from my mom about Tommy.  Something was wrong.  I called the vet and met him at the farm.  The diagnosis was not good and I knew the end was near.  The decision I faced was horrible.  How could I choose to kill my best friend, my first love?

I chose to spend the night with Tommy and ask him what he wanted.  He had to be a part of the decision-making process.  As he lay on the grass, grunting from pain, I rubbed him, sang to him and thanked him for many years of friendship and love.  When dawn arrived the choice was clear.

I stayed with Tommy as the vet administered the doses of drugs that would end his physical life.  I knelt on the ground and felt his last breath as it blew warm against my face.  Tears fell against his beautiful spots as I stroked his strong neck.  Grief ripped through my body as I said goodbye to my loyal friend.

But Tommy was not the only one for whom I grieved.  Finally, after many years of being emotionally shut down, sadness over my dad’s death was freed from its dark hold on my life.  I never realized how my father’s love blanketed me through the relationship between Tommy and me.

Tommy taught me how to be strong as a horsewoman.  He modeled loyalty and commitment in relationship and most of all, Tommy taught me how to love wholly and completely with my entire self.

As I walked away from his beautiful brown and white spotted body, I gazed into the sky.  I felt a rush of warm wind as it carried his spirit onward, free to run amongst the wild horses who never knew illness or pain and who dwelled in the eternal fire of unconditional love.  I think I saw my father there, riding his old horse, Prince.  They were all free and happy.

For the Love of Animals

For the Love of Animals

Stanley and Simone
Stanley and me

I grew up having tea time with my friend Bridget, a beagle. Our ‘cake’ was Bridget’s biscuits. Milkbone makes a very good tea cake…in case you are wondering.

Stanley Kubrick, my current orange tabby friend
Stanley Kubrick, my current orange tabby friend
Gracie, my darling queen of the manor cat friend
Gracie, my darling queen of the manor cat friend

My best friends have always been four-legged. Their unconditional love, acceptance and loyalty have been, without a doubt, vital to my happiness. It started with Bridget and then there were others…Freckles, Sarge, Inka, Jake, Pete, Ben, Jessie, Uriel, Stacey, Angie…and the cats Hazel, Maya and Maat and others that left too soon. And Yokie, Gracie and Stanley.

Tommy with my three year old daughter and me...1988-ish.
Tommy with my three year old daughter and me…1988-ish.

When I was 13 or so bigger four-leggeds came into my life…’D’ and Tommy (Tomahawk Red). Tommy and I participated in horse shows and my relationship with him was my most important teenage friendship. A short story I wrote about our relationship was published in WNC Woman and it remains one of my favorites.

My manatee friend...our story is in another blog post from January 2013
My manatee friend…our story is in another blog post from January 2013

Over the past several years there have been wild animals that became my friend in a moment, from first contact, and that heart-felt relationship has lasted for years..the memories still precious. Those would be manatees…flippered-ones.

Henry Flager, my salty sister Renee and her husband Hans' wild boy.
Henry Flager, my salty sister Renee and her husband Hans’ wild boy.

People that make room in their hearts for animals are worthy of their love, of that there’s no doubt. When we commit to a relationship with an animal, be it one that lives with us or a wild animal whose cause we champion, we make an expression of love and compassion. You, my friend, are worth caring for. You are worth the energy it takes to keep you well. Why is it so difficult to maintain human relationships when we do this so easily with animals? It remains a mystery to me.

Sambeaux, my mom's lab
Sambeaux, my mom’s lab

To all the animal companions I have known as my own ‘child’ or as friends in the wild or in other’s lives, I say THANK YOU! You make life wonderful!

Abbey, my friend's Phyliss and Bob's companion
Abbey, my friend’s Phyliss and Bob’s companion
Ollie, my daughter's companion
Ollie, my daughter’s and her fiance’s companion
Yokie, my true friend of many years...RIP buddy
Yokie, my true friend of many years…RIP buddy