A living tribute to Homer, my handsome 4 legged friend
My horses have been instrumental in teaching me that my life is a sacred journey. And that the journey is about change, growth, discovery, transformation; continuously expanding my vision of what is possible, stretching my soul, listening to my intuition, and to find courage in the face of great challenges. I am on the path… exactly where I am meant to be right now… and from here, I go forward, shaping my life story into a magnificent tale of friendship, of healing, of courage, of compassion, of wisdom, of connection, and of love. It is the same for every human and every breathing being we share our path with.
I think about relationship, my responsibility, showing up, and doing my best, a lot. I always have, it is definitely part of my unique way of being in the world. Like many of us, what I learned about being in relationship growing up didn’t leave me fully believing in the magic of who I was capable of being in relationship with others. I really didn’t understand my potential in this way until I brought horses back in to my life just before I turned 40. I don’t want to muck this tribute up with why getting real with horses is so profoundly life altering but I do want to say that I absolutely would not be who I am today without my teachers…my horses.
The responsibility to care for the beings I share my life with calls me to live in the courage to BE present, to show up fully vulnerable in the best and worst of times, and to let my heart speak in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end.
Life is shifting here with our oldest gelding Homer. I can feel it, he can feel it. We are both reaching towards that place of softness that time tested heart connection reveals. The three horses in my ranch logo found me, I know they did. Each under “bizarre” circumstances and each with lessons to teach me about love, authenticity, leadership, trusting myself, trusting them, acceptance, celebration of individuality, responsibility, empathy, wisdom, dignity, the natural rhythm of life, grace, and humor. Life is a series of waves and sometimes we are surfing on top of them and sometimes we are churning in the power of the water and waves, gasping for air. It is an ebb and flow and these three horses have shared many of my greatest triumphs and traumas. All three have offered the strength of their being to support me in my most painful and most amazing life travels. Montana is on the left, Homer in the middle, and April on the right.
Caring for our four legged friends is a role of guardianship as I see it and it is not for sissies. It is messy, demanding, emotional, and ultimately the most vulnerable place we can be (second only to being a parent) and I know that it is our greatest privilege and responsibility to show up and to walk to the end of the path with those we love. To love them, laugh with them, and to celebrate their life with them.
We have been nursing our senior 4 leggeds for the last few years and each time the next one steps on to the path I am reminded daily that fear has no place on this path, to stay in empathy and compassion, maintain a sense of humor and a sense of reverence and to be open and vulnerable to listen to them and to have the courage to let them go hearing my voice, feeling my touch, and feeling loved and cared for. I am reminded that this isn’t about me so much as it is about me being there for them. Every living being deserves to leave knowing they made a difference while they were here. In our culture so many of us cannot face the vulnerability of being present to the passing of our loved ones and I have been there. My 4 legged friends have called me to be more courageous and to show up fully vulnerable, no matter what. When it is time to say goodbye I want to be there holding them with my heart. I want to honor them in that way.
Homer is my first true horse love, really for my whole family – Mike, Chandler, Cooper and Max, and it has been mutual from the day he unloaded his very fat horse butt off the trailer. He didn’t look like that in the videos and my girlfriend’s threatened to charge me a fuel surcharge to get him home. I bought him without ever meeting him. I tried for a year before the owner finally gave in and hauled him from Oregon to a barrel race I was at in WA. He was a well travelled star roping horse, a heeler, and he was very good at his job! Then he was a barrel horse. That is what we were to do together. It never happened.
***I couldn’t sit in my office and write this any longer. I just want to be with him. Moved to his paddock, sitting on the concrete typing and sobbing. He LOVES the novelty of this laptop! “EXCZ R54DFDF” typed by Homer and then he removed the F key. Funny Man! I asked him who was going to tell Mike about the computer. He didn’t answer! He wanted the R, D, and G keys too. I am reminded that when he first came I used to sit with him in his paddock with a book and drink a beer and it was a horse wrestle over who was going to drink it every time.
My dream of him and I hauling together for fun weekends with the girls never happened because by the time we met he was pretty much done with that scene and it took me a year to get him sound and healthy enough to do anything, we started our love affair just spending time together. I now know that was part of the plan all along! He opened new worlds up for me because we couldn’t ride right away.
He was my daughter’s first horse. They were wonderful to watch. He loved having her ride him. She was pretty young when we hauled Homer and Montana to a Wendy Murdoch clinic in Eastern WA. Chandler was the youngest rider and Wendy went with it and had Chan standing on Homer trick riding. Homer was game, of course. Precious memories for sure.
Homer is a special kind of horse magic, a character with a two way magnetic attraction with people and horses. He loves them and they love him. There isn’t anything he doesn’t want to be in the middle of if we will let him. Power tools, building barns, tractors, landscaping, drinking beer… he likes red wine too but I think he is more of a beer guy if he could choose, rather than slobber in whatever I am drinking.
He was a crazy happy traveler until about 2 years ago when he decided it was a younger man’s game and he became perfectly content to just be at home with “his” friends. Until then, he loved going and he loved seeing the trailer arrive with potential new horse friends. He exploits his charisma and wisdom with confidence and he can be a real trouble maker that way. I always have horses out in my yard. The horses here know they are officially part of the herd when they have earned the privilege to be free on the property. They mug bird feeders, test all feed room doors, tip over buckets, lick all remnants of supplements from the feed pans and then when they are satisfied they haven’t missed anything, they roll and then graze in the front yard. Except for Homer, he knows that just outside the front gate there are two very large grass lawns. Whomever he is out with courageously crosses the threshold at the front gate if Homer is going. If I had a dime for every time I said “damn it Homer” I could cover my arena. Neighbors call, joggers jog in to the house to let me know, my kid’s friends would let me know they saw them on their way past, and often I followed a gut feeling that I should go and look for him. He never runs when we go to get him, he knows the gig is up and seems satisfied with the adventure. I watched him this week do his obligatory checks for food remnants and then head straight down the drive way. None of the other horses do this.
A couple of years ago he was in the neighbor’s yard when a horse we were boarding here was coming back after a trail ride. As soon as Homer saw the trailer he was in the road trotting down the road after them calling out. He followed the trailer home and mugged it while his friend was being unloaded.
He was so much fun to ride. He is a Lamborghini with his power and athleticism and he is a bit hot and when those things combined it was amazing to be on his back. He seemed to defy logic when floating his massive bull dog quarter horse frame in place effortlessly. Not for the faint of heart or nervous rider. Nervous or inexperienced riders really kicked things up a notch for him. Mike so badly wanted to ride him and we tried, we really tried but more than a few stories ended with me yelling “Mike – GET OFF NOW!”
Homer had a bit of a reputation for running off before he came here and he sported a pretty severe hackamore that his previous owner used to try and keep him under control. Much of our first few years were spent learning how to do things together without spurs, tie downs, and harsh hackamores, listening to my seat and coming to terms with his first answer to everything when he got stressed trying to learn something new – TURBO 4 WHEEL DRIVE BACKWARDS! Worked in his previous job! My friend Barb Apple had Homer and I in a lot of clinics. Barb taught me the magic of waiting, quietly, for him to check in. I waited a lot for him, often at fast speed forward and backwards.
Mike and I took Homer and April to the beach a few years into our relationship with Homer. I was counting on Homer to be willing to pack Mike around. We had come a long ways and he was doing well out of his gadgets and was doing well with Mike at home. April was not an option as she had a reputation for bucking just about everyone off who rode her. She was a blast for me to ride but I had not even attempted anyone else at that point. This was one of those Mike and Homer stories that ended in me yelling “Mike – GET OFF NOW!” He did and I got off April and instructed Mike to stand and hold April while I got on Homer to see where he was at. I reminded Mike before I got on Homer, “Do NOT get on her, just wait for me.” ( I am sure you know what happened…) I got on Homer and asked for a little of this and that and then he said “let’s go, I need to run!” I said “uh, no, I don’t think we should”….we did, and he ran, shifted, lowered and ran and then shifted one more time and we flew down the beach. I had Barb’s sage wisdom in my head – “at this point there is nothing to do but Stay On! He will stop eventually!” All I could think of was the kite festival that I knew was somewhere down the beach in front of us. I could picture Homer and I sailing through the middle of the crowds and kites like a scene from of a comedy movie. We have so many stories like this and it was remarkable that he never scared me. He eventually checked in with me and we had a lovely ride back to find Mike and April. As we were approaching from the distance I could see that Mike did not follow my order! He was on April and much to my complete amazement she was taking care of him like they had been partners forever. Shocking… and not…if you know her! : )
The stories with Homer are rich and many. He is an officer and a gentleman 90% of the time and when he isn’t, it is no accident! He has been my
go to guy in the herd for well over a decade. Whatever I needed, he was on board. He is a leader we should all know of horses. He was the first horse that taught me that alpha and lead horses are not the same. Not even from the same planet in the ways of herd social dynamics. He has respect from and for the herd and he has a remarkable tender friendship with the horses in my herd of 10. He is friend, Uncle, protector, disciplinarian…leader they all want to follow.
We stopped riding a few years ago. His body worn from the years of roping and he had earned the right to just enjoy retirement with this herd. He has done that and continued to be a magnet for two and four leggeds that get to know and spend time with him.
I don’t know how much longer he will be with us. I know I am not ready; none of us are, to not have his Homer knicker calling to us daily. This week we had a close call and senior reality check. I spent time feeling into the reality of where we are on the path and wondering if he was leaving us. Wondering how his friends would process him leaving, who would step into his position and re-remembering how much he has meant to me and my journey. How much he has taught me. How much he has loved me and me him.
I wanted to write a tribute to his life now, before he is gone, to celebrate the amazing being that he is and to remind us all that time is precious, live daily in the courage to BE present, show up fully vulnerable no matter what, and to let our heart speak for all the blessed 4 leggeds in our lives. They have so much to teach us when we are ready to learn.