I learned today that a good friend and a mentor passed away. He took me under his wing and taught me everything I could ever want to know and more about horses. Under his watch I went from a girl who knew how to get around on a horse to a woman who could ride, pony, groom, breeze, jump and muck with the best of them. OK so maybe not the best of them but better then most of them.
It is hard to believe that Mikey is gone. I will remember him for his time, his patience, pushing me when I was unsure, being kind when I goofed, praising the good and working on the bad never with an unkind word. But most of all I will remember him for his sense of humor and his horsemanship.
I had a long stint at Smithwick and watched a lot come and go. Mikey took us all in and taught us all as much as we wanted to learn. Whether it be how to care for a horse with a bowed tendon, a puncture wound through the shoulder, an eye problem, a tongue problem, a bleeder, colic, timber shins, cuts and scrapes, scallops, a heel, a clip, spider bandages, abscesses or how to get a young horse to settle and not shy, over his or her first jump, or bring a horse back from an injury, you left Smithwicks with an education - a real world one.
Some of my best memories are:
"If you don't have leg you don't have a horse. Above all take care of the legs."
The first day I came to Smithwick Stables riding Spice into a herd of horses I had never seen and bring home Bronze Angle and Tingle's Image. Bronze Angle is a big dark bay with a white blaze and thick legs. Tingle's Image is a big chestnut with 4 white socks.
Learning to sit Ginny's trot bareback.
Jumping fences at lunch.
Lessons with Kurt Rosenthal.
Hose fights with Mikey and Speedy.
Mikey making me clean all of the tack and then muck all of the stall at Pop's Bottom barn.
Cleaning racing tack the night before the races.
On the way to Virginia Gold cup and playing musical horses in the van.
Rappahanock, Strawberry Hill, Middleburg, Maryland Hunt Cup, Virginia Gold Cup, Hard Scuffle, Atlantic City, Saratoga.
New saw dust.
Barney, Blue, Spice, Jam, Ginny, Wing, and Petunia.
Jumping lessons with Alex and Rica.
Coffee - black 2 sugars
Mikey teaching me how to:
make a notecard sound like grain.
teach a young horse how to eat a carrot.
pack hooves for thrush.
Mikey making me ride Cracker Jack, after Dyson's victory party, in the snow.
How to get Reef across water.
Jumping lessons with Mikey.
Jumping Jam backwards in the shedrow. Well - jumping everything in the shed row.
Mikey asking me very nicely to unload a truck of 150 lbs bale of alfalfa."I'll give you $100 so you can go have your nails done again."
Riding the horses by the bedroom window when Mikey was laid up so he could see them.
Jumping in and out of fields, bathtubs, oil tanks, and hurdles.
Lounge line lessons, Bareback lessons, Whip cracking lessons.
Being the loungeline holder for the cooler jump.
The young horses.
Trail through the woods by the road.
Foxhunting in the big field.
Uncle Uno, Oficio, Sort of a Devil, Skunk, Gibson Island, Insatiable, King, Sweet Air, Fight Talk, Meet the Best, Reckner, Total Result, JP emperor, Wide Turn, Old Soul, Warren Place, Rougemont, Navy Pilot, Thurston Hill, Kilkenny, Crisco, Skylark, Rock Eagle, Waldo, Mucho Carino, Catalina, Be Nimble, Devil's Bag, Gone West, West By Northwest, Norquestor, Boomtown Bob, Bix, Tingle's Image, Bronze Angle, Tigors and hundreds more whose names I have forgotten, but by God I remember their legs!
King pulling the drag through the snow.
Mikey and Kirsten teaching me to drive King to pull the drag through the snow.
Teaching me how to tub a horse which turned into teaching a horse how to tub.
"Run up there and see if they hayed that field. No not on the road - over the fences."
Doing feed lists.
Spreading hay in the big field.
3:30am wakeup calls to beat the heat.
Stories about the old days of hunting, and steeplechasing.
Sending Mikey on a formal hunt with a Bugs Bunny saddlepad.
Riding Jam and Spice through Mikey's house.
Sleeping in the basement.
Mikey talking me out of buying a horse.
Mikey talking me into buying a horse. - Funny how that worked.
Mikey being the serpentine leader in the shedrow in the winter "If you are paying attention you can learn more riding in the shedrow then you can in the field."
There are a million more fond memories. So to my friend I bid farewell, thank you for taking the time to teach me, and may there be horses in heaven. Mikey - you will be missed and the world is worse off without you.