Gem has been in my life for almost 9 years now. It has been a long ride that flew by in a blink of an eye. I’ve documented her transformation as a riding horse ad nauseum on here, which was impressive in and of itself. What I find even more impressive though is her change in character since retirement.
Gem has always been a very aloof, independent workmanlike mare. She had her job under saddle, get us down the trail safely, and I had mine, pick the pace and don’t miss ribbons. Our partnership worked out pretty well in endurance. I learned to stop micromanaging her and she learned to listen to my directions. Riding with others in the sport was always interesting as they never failed to mention how Gem would pick her way down the trail avoiding ditches, holes and rocks all on her own while I watched for ribbons, major obstacles and slowed or quickened the pace as the trail allowed. I refused to tell Gem where to place her feet. That was her job. If I had to watch the trail for everything I’d be at risk for missing the ribbons. Gem knew this and on the occasions I forgot this rule and began nit picking our way down the trail she would put a stop to it quickly.
She also learned to pee in the pasture when she saw me coming with a halter, eat and drink at every opportunity and be prepared for any length of adventure from a quick speedy 5 mile run to a literal all day experience. She came ready for work no matter what the job was.
What she wasn’t was overly friendly. She tolerated my grooming regimen including a big neck hug when I switched from her left to right side. She stood still and sucked up spa days. She never ran from me in the pasture as she knew that was a line to never cross, but she also refused to meet me either. If I wanted to ride, I had to get her myself. She expected me to put in my share of the work at all times.
In fact, it was almost like a business partnership.
Then I retired her in the spring. At first she was skeptical. Was this a vacation like so many times in the past? As the months have gone by and with the addition of H’Appy as the horse the halter snags and who gets loaded in the trailer for adventures, it has sunk into her that her time for that is over. Her new job is to eat, take sunny naps and enjoy life.
With this has come a significant change in my favorite bay mare. I can no longer describe her as aloof or workmanlike. She is now friendly nearly down right snuggly.
She greets me with a nicker when I’m out in the yard beckoning for me to enter the pasture and give her scratches. She comes to the gate every night when I yell out “Gemmie! Dinner!” Even the promise of food in the past would not make her budge. She demands her itchy spots scratched before she will leave the stall after eating and will stand ground tied in the aisle for her grooming with eyes half closed and bottom lip drooping.
While she still high tails it when the trailer gets hooked up, when I enter the pasture with a halter she stares at me and then walks towards me these days. Which is nice because butt head is so jealous that it brings him over. When I do slip her halter on to bring her in at non food times, typically for the farrier or when it was going to rain and be cold non stop for days on end, she shoves her head in the halter herself. Wyatt leads her in/out of the pasture and barn by himself regularly and she walks with careful steps and a slow pace never pushing ahead or spooking at even the scariest piece if wood.
Was she a miserable working horse? No. She enjoyed the trail and the adventures. But she had a contract it seemed and stuck to it. She was there for the work and put up with the rest like a day job you mostly enjoy except for that one co worker who talks non stop about their vegan diet and cross fit routine. I loved her then and I love her now. I’m glad I got the chance to retire her at home so she can relax and enjoy the next ten years eating grass, getting loved on and taking long naps in the sunshine.