Karen died last Sunday, and I felt like it was time to share that with those who aren't local, or may not have heard. And I also wanted to share my part of the story of her last day alive.
I don't remember all the details of Karen's accomplishments as a rider, or trainer; her parents showed me numerous pictures, awards, and ribbons and I couldn't even BEGIN to list them all, or do her justice in that respect. I remember the first day I met her, she showed me a copy of a USCTA magazine with her and her little grey horse, Go Between, on the cover.
Last Saturday, Karen had planned to come visit a good friend of mine, the one that introduced us back when I was a teenager in need of some good instruction. She was coming for a couple different reasons - to visit her friends, to visit her dogs (said friend took her two dogs in when she found herself in circumstances that didn't allow her to keep them anymore), and to work with us and our horses a bit. She and I emailed back and forth a few days before, at which point I babbled on about my mare and the pony we've got, and what we really needed help on. She told me she was very excited to be coming, and had been filled in on all the details by our mutual friend. At that time, I had no idea of the extent of the discussion about me!
She arrived on schedule, and she and our mutual friend hauled over to my barn. I was chosen to ride first, after Karen gave my mare a good once-over; I had explained in our email exchange that I was very interested to see what she thought of her, and her potential. We worked for a while, doing some exercises at the walk and trot, using ground poles and changing direction often. After about an hour, we were having particular difficulty with a certain exercise, and Karen decided she was going to get on my mare for a few minutes and work out the details. I was just about bouncing up and down, at this point - this is a mare I've done all the work on myself, and I've never seen her go with a capable rider like that. So, up she went and seemed to be having the time of her life, especially when she discovered my mare's canter; it can be a very uphill, rocking-horse steady rhythm and they went around and around in two point for what seemed like ages. She made the comment later that when the mare gets rolling like that, that she could just sit up there like that forever, it was so pleasant and nice. I tried to snap some pictures with her camera, but such is the curse of the indoor arena - it was too dark, and all I really got was a shadowy outline in the dark. When she finished, we called it a day - at that point my mare had been working for a good 1 1/2 - 2 hours. She asked me more than once if I'd started her over fences yet, and commented that she would really like to see what she was like when I did.
She then moved on to our mutual friend and her mare. I can't say a lot about what took place, then; I was tending to my horse and took a break for a while. I did see her climb aboard that mare, as well - and would like to point out that this day was the first time Karen had ridden in years.
They finished up, we said our goodbyes and made plans for them to come back Sunday and do another round of lessons. They went home, had a nice dinner, and went to bed. That is where Karen's story ends; there were no lessons on Sunday, no more horses left to ride.
Her parents gave me Karen's chaps yesterday at her memorial. I was surprised, and touched; as I said, I didn't know the extent to which I'd been discussed by her, to her parents and friends. I've been told now by her parents and our mutual friend that Karen had gone on at some length about me, and that she saw a lot of herself in me; as her mom handed me the chaps, she said 'Karen really thought a lot of you, thought you had the potential to be an up-and-comer, and we want you to have these'. Our mutual friend tells me that Karen had wanted to mentor me, to try and hone my skills and help me become the rider and trainer that she saw in me, what she saw of herself in me. As her father was showing me pictures and telling me about all the awards and ribbons she had won, the magnitude of this hit me; this person that was really SOMEBODY, saw herself in ME and thought I had *potential* to be SOMEBODY, just like she had been.
I'm broken to pieces that she is gone. She had an energy and a spirit that cannot be replicated, and there is a huge hole where she belongs. If she could've planned out her last day, I don't think it could've gone much differently; she spent the day riding, teaching, and with friends.