(The view at the farm where Lesley worked for many years.)
In the fall of 2007, I graduated college, picked up my belongings, and moved to Maryland to be a working student. The original intention was to be a working student for two years before returning to Texas to attend UT. During the time I worked, I realized I wasn't cut out to work with horses as a living, and cut my stay to six months.
It wasn't a great time for me, needless to say.
However, this blog isn't about me. It's about a woman I met while I was there. This woman was one of the strongest people I have ever met. She wasn't an upper level rider. She wasn't an upper level trainer, or groom, a farrier, or a vet. She was a horsewoman.
Her name was Lesley Long.
Lesley had been part of the farm for years, and would be part of it long after I was gone. She and her daughter were horsewomen, in the pure and true sense of the word. Lesley made her living in the daily tasks of caring for horses. She cleaned stalls, scrubbed buckets, held horses for the farrier. She pulled manes and clipped horses. Lesley always had two to three horses for her and her daughter to ride. They were always off the track thoroughbreds that she had bought for her and her daughter to retrain and sell.
They were always lovely horses.
Lesley was always to be counted on, rain, shine or snow. Her smile came easily and quickly. She ran Training for the first time on a horse named High Tech, her trainer's former Advanced horse. She was a certified ICP instructor, who specialized in teaching beginners, both human and horse. Lesley knew every trick in the book for treating thrush. She taught me how to break a horse to saddle and rider for the first time.
Around Thanksgiving this year, she was body clipping when the horse kicked her in the head. Lesley had clipped hundreds of horses before, including clipping Dante once. She was as careful as anyone could reasonably expect. Unfortunately, her brain was severely injured and she slipped into a coma. Today, December 14, 2011, she passed away without ever waking up.
I'm absolutely in shock right now. Even though she was in a coma, I never truly thought she wouldn't make it. As I said before, she was one of the strongest people I ever knew, and I thought that for sure if anyone could beat this, it would be Lesley. I write this blog right now because her story deserves to be heard. Lesley deserves to be honored for the blood, sweat, and tears she put into her horses every single day of her life.
It's a stark reminder of how unpredictable life can be, and how dangerous horses can be, even on the ground. Be careful while clipping this season and please keep Lesley and her family in your thoughts and prayers.
If you knew her, please feel free to share stories of her in the comments. She was a wonderful horsewoman and person, and will be deeply missed.