Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Thinking of horses and loss

Since the weekend I've been reflecting on the troubling events at Rolex. Like everyone elese, I want to understand what happened. I watched the video. I looked at the photos. Some of my questions about the facts and the circumstances of the falls are answered. But I still reflect on the loss of these beautiful animals and the psychological and physical damage to the riders and their families. In early April, I started to write a blog entry about my favorite poets--Maxine Kumin. MK writes poetry about horses, but saying this is like saying Moby Dick is a book about whales. Her writing has an authenticity that horsemen and women will feel in their gut, but the themes are broad: appreciation for the natural world; our connectedness to animals; and our responsibility to protect them. Her poems seem especially relevant now, so I'll share it with you. I'm including one of her poems in its entirety -- a violation of copyright that hopefully will go unnoticed or overlooked.

Maxine Kumin: A poet and writer
Maxine Kumin is a poet that I think all horsewomen should read. Kumin is a lifetime rider with a horse farm in New England. At 73 she severely injured her back in a near-fatal fall from a horse. She wrote about the experience in her book Inside the Halo. She writes about a physician who asks about her accident. When she describes her fall from a horse, he jokes that "the only fit place for horses is in an Alpo can." Kumin writes:

"I am still lying on the examining table and am perfectly positioned to kick this man in the groin. The intravaginal probe still in place restrains me from yielding to the impulse."

Her language is as sparse and practical as the crustiest of horsewomen I know, but it is also eloquent. Like Robert Frost, she uses plain language to evoke powerul thoughts and feelings. She writes a series of poems about her horse Amanda in the volume House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate.
My favorite of these is below.

Amanda dreams she has died and gone to Elysian Fields

This morning Amanda
lies down during breakfast.
The hay is hip high.
The sun sleeps on her back
as it did on the spine
of the dinosaur
the fossil bat
the first fish with feet
she was once.
A breeze fans the deerflies from lighting.
Only a gaggle of gnats
housekeeps in her ears.
A hay plume sticks out of her mouth.

I have come calling with a carrot
from which I have taken
the first bite
She startles
She considers rising
but retracts the pistons
of her legs and accepts
as loose lipped as a camel.

We sit together.
In this time and place
we are heart and bone.
For an hour
we are incorruptible.

My heart goes out to the riders and their families.


  1. First of all, I am a huge fan of yours! Thank you for your consistently knowledgeable and entertaining posts. I thought you might be interested (if you have not already read) the letter put out yesterday by David O'Connor and Kevin Baumgardner in response to the tragedies at the Rolex. They brilliantly speak of the situation, their own concerns, and let us all know they are on board for change!

  2. THank you! I saw the statement on COTH but maybe others haven't so I'm glad you gave the address. The statement, and the subsequent comments and ideas, make me feel confident that we'll find a solution. Personally -- as a non-eventer mind you -- I'd like to see the main emphasis on fencing/obstacle safety. Regulating the riders progress through the levels may be part of the solution but there is some risk for everyone, even the best riders among us can have a bad fall.

  3. There seems to be a lot of tragedy in the eventing discipline. I hope they find a way to make it safer. I am a fan of your blog also and like the poem you posted. I plan to look this author up and check out her poems.

  4. Excellent post, thank you. She seems like the sort of poet I would enjoy lol. All these tragedies in eventing is really heart-breaking.

  5. Thank you for the information about the Rolex. We attended and Frodo passed by where we were standing seconds before approaching the Flower Basket jump. I'm so glad I didn't turn to see him attempt the jump. I was glad to read the letter noted in Alexis's comment from David O'Connor and Kevin Baumgardner, although I agree with you Stacey, that the construction of the jumps is a major issue. Interestingly, the article includes an email address to send your comments for the committee to consider.

    Stacey - off the blog - would you consider doing a link exchange? I've just started a horse blog - Horse Paintings Blog - about my artwork and horse adventures. Here's the address

    Thank you for your consideration.


  6. Karen, I've added your blog. What gorgeous paintings -- luminous!

    Your photo of Laine and Frodo is one I'd like to keep in my mind. If only we could turn back the clock...

  7. It has been hard year for horses in so many ways. I hope they get this thing figured out with eventing. It's such a high cost.


Hi Guys, Your comments are valued and appreciated -- until recently I never rejected a post. Please note that I reserve the right to reject an anonymous post.