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Carol Reiter: Not finished with horses ... yet

Carol Reiter

It only takes a second.

Just one second can change a person's world. A grinding car crash can take a life instantly, or leave someone paralyzed for life.

Or one misstep, one little mistake, can make a person step back and take a look at their life and where it's going.

That happened to my friend last week. She owns horses, and has bred mares for about five years. She said it was always her life dream, and when she reached the age of 50, she made it come true.

She did pretty well, she enjoyed her horses, and she enjoyed the foals. There were a lot of sad times, when a yearling had to be put down, and when another yearling was horribly injured.

But she hung in there. Until last week.

Last week, a bump from a foal, a tangle of legs, and my friend was on her back, on the ground, with a horribly broken leg. A seemingly endless ride in an ambulance brought the bad news -- surgery and a metal rod, a few days in the hospital, and an amazing amount of pain.

When she came home, her mind was made up. No more being a horse breeder. Bad luck, a bad accident, and a lot of pain helped her make that decision.

She wasn't getting out of horses, just breeding. She said she tried it, and she decided she was too old to start when she did.

I understood completely. She had been through a lot of heartache during the past two years, and this was the final straw. It wasn't a hard decision to make, and she was ready to make it.

It sure made me think though. My mom also got into the breeding business late. She didn't own a horse until she was 48, and didn't start breeding until she was 50. She had a knack for it, and she knew how to choose the best broodmares and the stallions to breed those mares to. She had broodmares that put her on top breeders' lists, and she got a lot of money for her babies. She made it look easy.

I'm not quite as good. I've made some bad decisions, bred some bad foals, bought some bad broodmares. But that's how I learned.

My mom kept up the breeding business, with no injuries other than a sprained ankle, while I busted my collarbone, my thumb and took numerous spills for many years. I was lucky, I was never seriously hurt. Of course, I'm paying for it now, with aches and pains everywhere. Like my horse-riding buddy of years said, we couldn't spend all those years busting our behinds and not pay for it someday. Man, was she right.

But when my dad died, something in my mother also died. My mom and dad were a true couple; they loved each other dearly. My dad didn't care too much about horses or sheep, but he was right out there with his wife, helping with foals and worming sheep and lambing ewes. He even broke his arm after one of our rams got him. But my dad knew my mom loved the sheep and horses, and he wore his cast with pride.

My mom gave up after my dad died. She told me it had been fun, but her heart wasn't in it anymore. Her good mares were old and died before my mom did. Her gelding went to my friend's aunt in Oregon, and lived out his old age in complete comfort and was deeply loved by his new owner. Her younger mares became my friend's and mine, and they will continue to be ours until they die.

I can understand my friend who is turning her back on the breeding business. It can be heartbreaking, but unfortunately, she hasn't had the highs that I have. Watching a video of a mare that we raised win a big futurity and take home more than $100,000 is a high I may never have again. But watching that mare, and remembering the day she was born, still makes breeding worthwhile to me.

I still have hope for the future, although it may not be what we originally envisioned. We have some changes to make, and some hard decisions. But I'm not ready to give up. Not yet.

Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or creiter@mercedsun-star.com.

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