Old woman young womanA picture is worth a thousand words, right?  Just like this one:

I know, it’s not new to you all and I admit, when I first saw it, it was a lovely young woman looking off over her right shoulder, with a marvelous feathered hat – and I needed help to see the old woman with the kerchief wrapped around her head.

But it got me thinking.

I have (and have always had) terrible eyesight.  I was born 7 weeks premature, and as a result, my eyes never fully finished themselves off  –  they had to hang on for dear life as the rest of me insisted it was time to get out into the world.

And thankfully, I was born in the 20th century, when corrective options abound.  So for my entire life I’ve worn glasses and/or lenses.  And more recently both (if you are not over 45 you probably won’t understand this – but wait – you’ll see (or more to the point  you won’t, LOL))  I am extremely myopic with astigmatism.   So what that means to those of you fortunate ones with 20/20 or better all of your lives is this:

  1. What you can see clearly at 20 feet, I can only see clearly (as in totally focused) at 3-4 feet.
  2. And all the rays of light that come into my eye do not hit the back of my eye (my retina) at one point, as they should. The rays of light come in and intersect each other either in front or behind my retina – so no matter what the distance, near or far, I was doomed to have blurred vision as the light is scattered inside my eye.

And it occurred to me that vision and perception are interesting things (and yield interesting things) – not just in life but in the dealing with horses.

For example, I read all of the “Which Horse is the Best (Dressage) (Three Day Eventing) (Hunter) Horse” columns.  And as I’m no trainer (far from it), I find myself picking the horse that most closely looks like horses I’ve seen (in person or in magazines) who excel at the particular discipline.  And invariably, I generally pick a bay.  (It’s my weakness.  As much as my friend Maxine only likes chestnut colored horses, I find I’m most attracted to bays. (Must be the old adage of tall, dark and handsome.)

And sometimes I’m right!

And other times, the best horse is the last of what I chose.

And it reminds me –  to use the Eventing folks as an example – that what you see is not always what you get.  I mean, who would have expected that a plucky little chestnut named Theodore O’Connor (Teddy), not even 14.2 hands, could compete and excel at the highest levels of eventing?

But he did.  And beat out many other larger and more experienced horses in the process.

Further, what you see (or don’t see) can also impact your feelings and expectations.  Let me talk about my current horse Cinemax (aka Clive) for a moment.  When I went to try him out, I had not been riding for 4 months after the sudden loss of my prior horse Wieland. In addition, I was 5 days into a winter cold that left me winded going up and down a flight of stairs.  But I figured I’d give it a go anyway, he was available and attracting a lot of attention so time was not on my side.

So I rode him for 20 minutes in the indoor (you know how it is – walk, trot, canter, circle one direction, change direction, repeat).  And I got off coughing like crazy and acting like I’d just sprinted 800 meters.  But I liked him.  Enough to take a chance on him.

His owner asked if I wanted to hack him out, but I declined.  I trail ride.  A LOT.  And I’ve had two slightly wacky TBs so I’m used to pretty much anything or any type of shenanigan that can happen on the trail.  Besides, she said he was good on the trail.  That was enough for me.  (I should mention that his owner is a trainer, was local to me and we had about 75% of our friends in common – so I wasn’t concerned about misrepresentation).

So I called my vet (who works in the same practice as his vet at the time) to come for a pre purchase exam.

And she declined.

What????

“But I’m asking you to come see a prospective new horse.  And I’m paying for your time to do it because I think he might be a good fit for me.”

To which she explained “Listen, his owner granted me approval to review his records and a year ago he was treated for lameness due to a suspensory issue as a result of his professional jumping career (which his owner had told me already).   The records indicate he’s very lame.”

“But I’ve ridden him now 4-5 times and I’m telling you, he isn’t lame.  He goes just fine.”

And with a little more cajoling, she agreed to come.  (For the record, I adore my vet.  She is always looking out for the best interests of my horses and my budget.   And she knew that I still had outstanding vet bills from when Wieland was put down.)

But she came.

And she watched him go.

Both directions.

And she could not believe what she saw.  This was NOT the crippled, lame, not going to be rideable horse from the records.  In fact, “He is pretty amazing.  This is not the horse I saw on the records.  And he’s probably the nicest horse I’ve ever seen for that price”, she told me.  (In full disclosure, he was free – but only to the right person.  Three others had been turned away before me.)

Hmmm, so sometimes, what you see can change.  So off we went, to begin the new chapter in my own personal life’s book of horses.

And after the ground got better in the Spring, I began to hack Clive out, for the exercise and to get out of the arena (which we see a lot of in the winter).

And MAN – was that (and still is) an adventure!

Clive:     “WHAT?  What’s that?  That thing right there – there – poking out of the tall grass.  Yikes!  It’s going to jump up on me!”.

Me:        “it’s a rock.  Ok, a big rock.  But it’s not moving.  You are fine.”

Clive:     “I don’t know.  It looks like it might open up and I’ll just fall into it.”

Me:        “You won’t.  I promise.  No, don’t back away.  Just stand here for a second.  See?”

Clive:     “Well, I guess so.  But I’m still not sure.  ACK!!!!  Holy Smokes!  Yieeeee – what’s THAT bounding out of the brush?????  We’re definitely getting attacked, we have to GO!  NOW!”

Me:        “What?  What’s the matter with you?  It’s a deer.  For crying out loud, you see them when you are in your turnout paddock.  And besides, you are WAY bigger than that doe.”

Clive:     “I don’t know.  She just came from nowhere.  And she went the way we are going.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  I don’t know.  She’s pretty scary.”

Me:        Sigh.  “Its’ ok.  We are together.  You will be fine.  I won’t let anything hurt you.  Hey!  HEY! What are you doing???  Stop that!  Just because she turned left at the fork in the trail doesn’t mean we are going that way.  Come…….ON………You are making my right arm tired.  We are going right , back toward home.”

And so it goes.  Clive doesn’t bat an eyelash at the 20-25 foot tall statues on our trail ride (yes, there really are tall, concrete garden statues in the woods near us), but the deer and the wild turkeys (as well as the peacocks and cows) all seemingly have a love of horsemeat.  At least that’s what he tells me.

So, I don’t know.  I guess life is a bit like that too.

Sometimes we see things plainly.  Sometimes we don’t.

And for Clive sometimes it’s when he doesn’t see things at all – like when the woodpile is moved and no longer stacked on the side of the trail, now it’s just an empty spot.  A horse eating empty spot that will open up and grab him from the middle of the trail and devour him whole.

But I like to think that even though my eyesight isn’t good and won’t ever be, my faith ( and expectation) In the fact that he won’t willingly ditch me, allow us to see a more beautiful picture.

One that has things we both see as well as things we see individually.

And it reminds me of the artwork by Bev Doolittle.  IF you look, you’ll see the horses – but HOW MANY will you see?

Bev Doolittle