Dec 2013

Fandom Project – Shieldmaiden of Rohan

   Posted by Atra Materia in Fandom, Fantasy, Historic

(Click to embiggen!)

Entry for the Dixie Stables winter 2013 costume contest.

You might recognize this costume – it’s my Viking Woman’s apron dress, that I debuted with Jens way back when. Because the few pictures I got that night were so bad, I’ve always planned to do it again sometime, and really properly show it off. This was going to be the year.

And then, at the end of October, I got the call I’ve been dreading for years.

Jens has been “thirty” for quite a while now. When we start calling them “thirty” and keep calling them “thirty”, it means they’ve gotten old enough we don’t much need to care how old they actually are – and horses, properly cared for, can live a long time – late teens and twenties are quite common, and even thirty, thirty-two, thirty-three, you do see. Many horses can keep working for their entire lives, as long as they’re not in pain and their health isn’t in decline, and in fact, some seem to stay healthy longer with a job to do, and only decline once they’ve been retired. And Jens was in good health, still going, but I’ve known that, realistically, my time with him was growing shorter than not.

It was seven AM (and I learned long ago to dread those odd-hours calls from the barn, unless I was expecting news of a foal on the ground). He’d colicked overnight and wasn’t getting any better. It would have been unkind to subject him to an hours-long trailer ride and open him up at his age (surgery on horses is difficult; they aren’t meant to lie down for extended periods of time and they can react badly to anaesthesia, even injure themselves coming out of it), and there’s a possibility that he may have had something called a “strangulating lipoma”, in which case, there would have been nothing that could have been done anyway. It’s a type of tumour, common in older horses, that can wrap around and cut off the intestines, and they don’t show symptoms until it’s too late.

I was, and am, completely devastated. There’s a term among horse people, “heart horse”. Horses will come and go and you’ll ride and love many, but your heart horse is the One, and Jens was mine. I fell in love with him the instant that, pulling up to Dixie for the first time in ten years, I spotted him in the pasture next door, and I was thrilled to no end when the very next week, I found out that, no, those weren’t the neighbour’s horses, they were “ours”, and I should ride him. Over the years, we had an on-and-off riding relationship, but on the ground, I was always his and he was always mine. I took over trimming his mane into the traditional Fjord horse arch, I helped small children bathe him during summer camp, I led them around on him for pony rides in the beginner ring. People told me that when I came in, he’d raise his head and look for me, and didn’t do that for anyone else. On his stall door, I hung a sign that read “I love my pony,” with a heart in place of the word “love”, and when he moved from a stall in one barn to a stall in another, and some thoughtful person had taken the sign down and moved it along with him, I knew where “home” was. He was primarily a beginner’s pony, and those riders tended to move on to larger, flashier horses as they gained more experience – and I did sometimes, too, but I always came back to Jens in the end. I used to joke that when his time did come, they were going to have to put me in the ground with him.

What made it worse is that I’ve developed serious mounted-confidence issues. I have taken a few bad falls over the years, but none of them were recent enough that they should be affecting me this way now. But for whatever reason, I’ve become afraid to ride the other horses, and when I do ride other horses, we never, ever canter. (Jens didn’t canter anymore anyway, so he and I got along just fine on that account.) On Jens, though, on Jens and Jens alone, I was fearless. I’d gotten to a point, in fact, where unless I was at a show or having an actual lesson, I didn’t even bother with a saddle most of the time – I’d just brush him down, toss his bridle on, and hack bareback wherever we cared to go – the arena or the open areas around it in the mornings while the herds were out in the pasture, or in the afternoons, once they’d come in, in the pasture itself, with its boundaries formed of trees, its little hills and hidden path, and the pond tucked off to the side. At our last show, I won on him. I won a class that’s about showing off your horse, that’s normally won by the riders on the bigger, flashier horses, but I and my pony – we showed off the best.

And now, with him gone, I started failing more and more. I couldn’t ride. I made stupid mistakes in the stalls and on the ground. I finally told my trainer’s protegé, “I don’t think I can do it anymore, I think I’m going to have to quit,” and she replied, “No, don’t, just wait a little longer, please! We haven’t told the kids yet, but we’re trying to bring a new pony in, and he’s something you’re going to love.”

Well, that’s him. He’s a seven-year-old Halflinger/Gypsy Vanner cross, and his name is Tolkein, of all possible things. And since I’m as much a LotR fangirl as I am Pokémon and MLP (and everything else I’m into) and I was already going to use that costume again… It wasn’t much work to turn it into something fitting of a lady of Rohan, who dwells among horses and sorrow.

The details of the shift and apron dress are back in the original post. The only real additions are the One Ring, slipped onto a silver chain and worn as a necklace, an ornate silver belt (yet another Goodwill treasure!), and the “last-minute battle flag of Rohan,” which is just green broadcloth prettied up with acrylic paints and hastily stitched to the business end of my white-handled show whip (which is easily fifteen years old, and probably hasn’t been used for its intended purpose in nearly as long). I’m pretty pleased with it, though. and I think I’m going to frame it for wall art! The green-and-gold fleur-de-lis saddle pad is part of my everyday riding gear, too. I love it when things work out like that!

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