Auld Lang Syne: The Ghost Herd

WMEdgar WineI’ve mentioned it before; I still mourn Cochise, that black and white Pinto that Little Joe rode on Bonanza. It’s New Year’s Eve and the song about the “Old Long Since” keeps running laps in my head. I toast this sentimental time.

I’ve been searching for a lost photo. I was fourteen, wearing an old inside-out sweatshirt with cutoffs and tennis shoes–no socks. My hair was a bizarre natural brunette color, short and combed over to the side fairly recently.

I was on a horse named King. He was a strawberry roan in that way that horse-crazy girls can’t just have a sorrel. Sometimes we went to a grade school down the road where kids came to race their horses. King was the kind who hated a horse in front of him. When we raced, I faced him the opposite direction so he would rear and pivot. What can I say; I watched the Lone Ranger on TV.

In the lost photo, King is looking right into the camera, with an honest star and proud ears. As teen angst dictated, I was looking awkwardly down and away. Photos never lie. King was just the exact sweet kind of bad that could ruin you for needlepoint or gardening. I’m sure you know what I mean.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?

That lost photo search released memories of my other horses, whose images paraded through my mind, though they’re gone from this earth. Intermingled were the good horses that belonged to dear friends, like Prankster and Toushay and Rou. I half-think I owned a part of them, too. All gone now and part of my ghost herd.

I’ll be the first to admit there are some lousy trainers out there, but I always had perfect trainer-karma when I was starting out. I was lucky to work with trainers who liked my horses better than me. It showed good sense: It was something we agreed on and putting the horse first is always a good place to start. I’m grateful to these strong women, for tolerating my zeal and teaching me as well as any human might. They ride along with my ghost herd sometimes still.

I followed their lead and I let myself love my client’s horses, too. Not that it’s smart. Horses volunteer better work that way, but eventually you lose them all, one way or another, but the memory of those horses lingers on, welcome to visit anytime. And there’s a special place of honor for the rescue horses from Ruby Ranch over the years. I will never lose count of that herd–elite teachers, every one.

My favorite part of life will always be having the opportunity to meet so many fine horses.  Whatever success any of us has comes from those who brought us to this point and I’m fortunate to have been lifted and carried by horses. I toast to their intelligence and sensitivity. I toast to their kind eyes and courageous hearts. At the same time, don’t be fooled. Horses are heart-breakers. Every single one.

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

Auld Lang Syne is an old Scottish song. Traditionally people hold hands and sing out, promising that whatever changes may come in the New Year, old friends will not be forgotten. Like that could even be possible, but getting mushy isn’t the worst thing on this holiday. Especially if you’ve been as richly blessed as us horse-people are.  But it’s a trade-off; we’ll also have to learn hard lessons about change. If we were smart, we’d find a way to make friends with death and loss–fighting against the pain just twists the knife deeper.

And maybe a good start is to make peace with the ghost herd by keeping them close. We could let them graze in the mist just outside the arena where they could pass us training notes and laugh with us when we’re slow on the uptake.

I feel some slip and drag on the farm lately. I think change is coming in the New Year. I’m pretty confident that I won’t like all of it, but I’ve become a different kind of long distance rider. Most of us have over the years. Horses have made us survivors. It isn’t that we don’t hear the cynics choir; we know we can’t ride ’em all. And we surely can’t save ’em all. Maybe it’s more about being carried along with this timeless herd of horses and the people who love them. Maybe it’s enough to just be in such good company.

New EarsAnna Blake, Infinity Farm

P.S. On a separate note, they tell me that in 2015, my blog had 350,000 readers from 169 countries around the globe. These acquaintances won’t be forgotten either. From my tiny fleck of a farm on the prairie, to the far corners of this great big world, thank you for your friendship and kind words. Thank you! for coming along on the ride.

Anna Blake

0 thoughts on “Auld Lang Syne: The Ghost Herd”

  1. Beautiful and thoughtful on a cold New Year’s day here in Texas. I just came in from feeding Rio, thinking about the many changes here and the many more to come. From one of the 350,000, just down the country road from you in Mississippi and sometimes Texas, Happy New Year, thank you for what you do and for what you say.

  2. Anna, don’t have horses but I feel like I get to know them through your beautiful words…with only minor modifications, I can use service dogs I have raised in substitution and it works beautifully…thanks you for the smiles and tears you bring to all of us…reader in NJ

  3. Thank you for connecting the dots for and between soooo many – horses, humans, other equids, dogs, … probably some cats too (though the dogs may have complaints about that). I look forward to another year of wonderful insights.
    Sarah and herd/zoo pack on Whidbey Island

    • Thanks, Susan. And I am so glad that Knight is still with us here. I have had more than a little experience with ulcer challenges and I wish you both the best in the New Year. Thank you.

  4. Reading this made me gather my ghost herd close, and acknowledge them all. I am left with one 33 and one 25 years old. I had their mothers, brother, & father, so I guess that almost tells my age. 80 to be exact. Thank you for the memory trail.

  5. Hi Anna. I recently read your book, Stable Relation, and loved it. If you were thinking you had another one in you I wouldn’t hesitate to purchase it. Your writing style is very enjoyable and brings back my own memories, laughter, and tears. Thank you very much for putting your thoughts to paper – as it were. Michelle from Duck Lake, Saskatchewan

    • Duck Lake! It sounds wonderful, but then you know about me and ducks. Thank you for the kind words about the book. I can always use another Amazon review if you are in the mood…As for more books–I am stuffed to the gills with books. Two books that are compilations of my blog will be out this year, and I am working on two more from scratch. I’m kind of hard to shut up. Happy New Year to your beautiful part of the world.

  6. I guess between all the horses and dogs in my ghost herd – its a pretty large group – all “out there” keeping me on the right track. As are you, Anna – Hope it truly is a Happy New Year for us all.

  7. Oh…the gift of the ghost herd…may we be guided by their wisdom and stillness this New Year and may we remember what connects us to that Herd are the gifts they imprinted us with- the open heart and true seein Gg. ratitude and Love to you Anna and to all of the herd “out there!”
    with love,
    Sabina in frosty Northern CA

    • Yes, Sabina… it kind of amazes me how much they left me with. It must be why we do it. Happy New Year to you…Northern California is a wonderful area. I ran away there once.

  8. I received my autographed copy of your book and am mesmerized. You are a rock star. I don’t know of too many people, men and women, who would take on the challenge of renovating your little farm. I cried along with you. I am about halfway through it but I,too, have my little farm and numerous critters to take care of so my time for reading is limited. I do love your blog and look forward to your inspiration. You voice what I feel. Thank you….well… Thank you for being you. Sincerely Patricia Nelson

    • I’m glad you like the book, and I do have to chuckle. This lifestyle we share is bad for reading. I have a stack that I’ve promised to read and , yes, chores! My book is self-published, you can imagine my advertizing budget, right? If you feel like it, I’d appreciate an Amazon review, but either way, glad you like it. I wanted to write the story of more than just me. There is a crowd of us, bundled up, throwing hay right about now. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  9. I agree with everyone. I have enjoyed every word of your blog since I discovered it, and Stable Relation has a permanent place on my Kindle. You are so right about the Ghost Herd, hundreds in mine, starting with Sally the milkman’s skewbald mare during wartime England, and ending with my 28 yr old AQHA mare & 30 yr old grade Morgan gelding fifteen years ago here in Vermont.

  10. Another well written and thoughtful post, I look forward to seeing your name pop up in my ‘inbox’. Happy New Year to Infinity Farm, can’t wait for your next book! ❤️🐴📖 x

  11. Well, thank YOU for inviting us!
    A very blessed and wonderful new year to you and all the lovely four footed ones on Infinity Farm.

  12. delightful as always. I bought your book for Daughter Youngest, as a Christmas gift. I am reading it before she gets home to celebrate the holiday, that way we can discuss it during our weekly phone calls. Purchasing books for them, reading them ahead was a tradition I developed with both of my girls in high school. A good story, stitched together with compelling words which leads to images and memories makes for excellent discussion fodder.

    • What a wonderful tradition. I love being a part of your conversation, I love sharing books. This just makes my day. My best to you and Daughter Youngest. Thank you for sharing this.

  13. Anna,
    your story and your heart has been so gladly received by so many and I couldn’t be prouder of who you are and are becoming, knowing where things started so many years ago. The ghosts in my life come visit in my dreams now and then, and it is good to know they are still there, either in my synapses or in the ethereal ether somewhere. Blessings to you and Phil and all the four-footeds in this new year!

    • Thank you, Emily. I remember we both liked to write in high school, and it’s still true. We both ended up on farms, too, but in different ways. It’s nice to look back–we share some ghosts. Blessings and best wishes to you and Dan and everyone there. I looked at Google Maps writing this. That holly field is gone, but the pool is still there. Cars where parked in our arena, the orchard is gone. But I remember the first place you and I talked about corgis. We were walking north on Friendly Grove, right at the crook. Scratch your boys for me, too, tonight. Happy New Year.

  14. Isn’t it telling that you can remember all of those horse names from so long ago. I, too, can name every horse that I knew as a tween, and yet I can’t remember more than one teacher’s name from junior high, nor even more than two friend’s names from that time.

  15. Happy to read your comment above that you have more books in you ! I look forward to your blog and photo challenge each week. This one has inspired me to ponder on and to write in my journal about my ghost herd…. Spec, Glory’s Top Man, Lightfoot, Jackson, and more…. as you say, they are all heartbreakers in the end, and yet I find the joy outweighs the grief. … and oh, my, what tricksters they are, in teaching us life lessons and exposing our strengths and our vulnerabilities. Just this week I heard a voice in my head say ” I’m done with this horse crap. I’m tired of trying to convince a horse to do something he doesn’t really want to do.” …. and yet, on balance, it all still seems worth the work , for that moment when there is peace and harmony between my horse and myself. … please keep writing !!

    • Thanks and great comment. I look at having horses as a anti-retirement plan, with a clause for dementia… it’s a brain twister to keep up with horses, and they say that’s good. Happy New Year, and no fear about me shutting up any time soon.

  16. I wish you a kind and loving 2016 – may all of your heart yearnings be returned in compassion by equines and humans alike.

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