Part 1 is here.
In what seemed like no time at all, Gypsy and I were following along on most of the daily trail rides that left the barn. The summer weekends were very busy, sometimes so much so that I had to have a second horse to ride. The weekdays were quieter, with only one or two short rides leaving in the morning. In exchange, I fed and watered all the horses in the morning and cleaned stalls. The older girls answered the phone and set up bookings, while us younger girls would tack up the appropriate horses - all except our own. The barn owner was old school - once we could ride bareback without falling off, we could have a saddle. In our free time, we'd ride to the lake and swim, or on winter weekends, we'd play hide and seek/tag which involved everyone riding in an agreed upon area of the forest and evading 'capture' from the person who was it. Being at the bottom of the herd hierarchy, Gypsy took a great interest in eveading 'capture' from her more dominant herdmates. Although slow, she became pretty well versed in the rules of the game and we were usually the winners.
I was completely at ease and happy for the first time in my life. Gypsy was the perfect friend for an introverted young girl. I gained more and more confidence. If I paid attention to what she was telling me, there were no surprises, and nothing I couldn't make sense of. My actions, good or bad, were rewarded as such. That, in itself, was something altogether unexpected and wonderful.
Then, in what seemed like an instant, the barn owner decided to discontinue trail rides and become a boarding barn instead. The horses would be sold, and us girls would be out of a job. Most of the girls went on to other hobbies, until there was only myself and my friend from the softball team left. The horses were sold off one by one, usually far away where we knew we'd never see them again. The barn owner approached us - if we could afford to pay for our ponies hay, they could stay and we could continue to ride them. I was determined to make that happen. Gypsy was my best friend and I couldn't imagine life without her. The barn was my freedom and the horses felt like such level and honest friends - something I desperately needed as my father sank ever deeper into mental illness and my mother struggled to cope with a life I suspect she wanted to escape.
Thankfully, my parents were able to come up with the hay money and I could continue to ride at the barn.
The new, quieter lifestyle suited Gypsy. Without the trail rides, her workload was greatly reduced and for the most part we wandered quietly around the trails alone or with my best friend. I spent hours grooming her and preparing her for pretend shows. We spent a happy summer riding to the corner store and swimming in the lake. Life was good.
But as we all eventually learn, all good things must come to an end. Gypsy's feet were becoming more and more troublesome to her and I was able to ride her less and less. I was given a horse to ride in her place, and he was all the things a young girl could dream of - beautiful and spirited, even the dazzling grey color. It wasn't the same. I didn't feel like he listened to me or understood me like Gypsy. I spent time each day on my walk home from the barn giving Gypsy a treat or two, and even bringing her in for a short ride in the ring during the times she felt better. It was important to me that she felt like she was special and needed. In a relatively short time though, her pasture buddy had to be put down due to heaves. After that, she spent most of her days sleeping in the spring sunshine, and just generally seemed closed off and depressed. She'd show brief moments of interest when I would visit, but she obviously wasn't doing well.
At some point the following week, the farm owner had Gypsy euthanized. I went back to feeling like the world was a very unjust place. Looking back now, I can see what a great gift I was given. I've tried to repay it, which I'll tell you about in another post.
*I so wish i could provide you with pictures, but one of the things Gypsy was scared of due to her rough past were cameras, I think becase the motion of raising one and using it looked a bit like you might throw it at her.