As the title of this column implies, this is about putting things in perspective. Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is the season for reflection and for thinking – about relationships with family and friends; about your goals and dreams; about the future of our world; about the purpose and meaning of your life. This week's column is dedicated to Ingred Lin, the owner of White Fences Equestrian Center who passed away December 17. If you have not been around the Florida dressage community, you might not know Ingred. In reality, there have been many Ingred Lins in the horse world – members of the equestrian community who passed away well before their time. So, in a sense, this column is a tribute to all of them. Some have left this world very quickly. Others, like Ingred, lived in the shadow of death for years and doing so gave them a unique perspective on life.
I met Ingred through Bettina Drummond. Or, actually, I met her horses long before I met her. Over the years, a fair number of Ingred’s horses traveled up and down the East Coast from Ingred’s home in Florida to Bettina’s barn in Connecticut. I finally met Ingred when she traveled to Connecticut to visit one of her horses and ride with Bettina. I caught up with her again one year later at Dressage at Devon. At that time, she was actively battling cancer and when I asked her how long she had been fighting the disease, her response was very matter-of-fact – “On and off for about 10 years.” She didn’t sound depressed and she didn't sound angry. She simply accepted it, saying, “It’s just part of my life. I live with it.” And so she did.
I kept in touch a bit with Ingred through email and during trips to Florida in the winter show season. And always when I thought of her, I wondered – How does one live life when the odds seem so against you? Even this past year, when it was becoming clear that medical options were running out, Ingred trudged on. Surely, those who live knowing they are so close to the edge of death, must have a different perspective on what really matters in life. When we're healthy and the future seems to stretch out before us, we have big dreams and big goals and big ambitions. Ingred was no different. She too had moments in her life where her focus with her horses was on big dreams and big ambitions as both a rider and an owner. But it seemed to those closest to her that in the most difficult moments of her battle for life, her comfort came from a very simple goal – to be with her horses and to ride. "Her horses were a lifeline. They were everything she focused on and she went through so much in order to keep riding," said her friend Susanne Hamilton.
For Ingred, the battle to survive was worth fighting so long as she could get up and be with her horses each day. And, she did whatever it took to stay in the saddle for as long as she could. The pure joy she felt in being on the back of her horses was evident during a September ride, when, often too weak and breathless to ride, she had asked her friends Susanne and Bettina Drummond to travel to Florida and help get her back in the saddle.
"Bettina worked the horses and got them really through and light and then Ingred got on. She had the best piaffe that I have ever seen Queba do in his life, either schooling in the ring or at any show. It was amazing. It was Bettina on the ground and Ingred on top. He wouldn't give that piaffe to anybody but her. It kept Ingred going for the whole next month," Susanne recalled.
Bettina remembers "that sudden smile of pure enjoyment that came over her when she felt her horse right with her." As she piaffed under an alley way of palms, Ingred laughed and said to Bettina, "This is what makes me live so well." Bettina recalls her own feelings at that moment saying that "Ingred had not ridden her horses for quite some time and sharing the renewal of that joy with her, I thought to myself, 'this is why we are with horses, really.'"
In that moment of pure joy to be on the back of her horse, Ingred reminds us of what having horses in our lives really ought to be about. They get us through each day – good, bad or otherwise. No matter what tragedy befalls us, horses can sustain us. As Susanne put it when speaking of Ingred, "Any normal human being would have withered a way years ago, but the horses kept her going. She needed those horses to breathe."
It's often been said that to truly live, you must face death because it's only when facing death that you discover what matters most in your life. If one speaks with close friends of all the Ingred Lins of the equestrian world, one discovers that they shared a common belief, which is that every day with their horses was a day worth fighting to have. Whatever tragedies we face in our lives now or in the future, the horses can help us face them, even if what we face is death.
As we reflect on the passing of one year and the start of another, we should take a moment and give ourselves a different perspective on our lives with our horses by putting ourselves in the shoes of equestrians like Ingred. Ask yourself this – "If this was my last year of life, how would I spend it with my horses?" Here's hoping that Ingred and all the other equestrians we have lost this year are happily riding their way through Heaven.
On Monday, December 28, 2009 there will be a celebration and remebrance of Ingred Lin and her life, at the White Fences Equestrian Center. All are welcome. [#24797 override="Read More" title="Read More"]