APHA

The Other Woman

By Billy Smith

I’ve been mesmerized at Mary Renner’s writing since May—neatly carved wisdom along the facing pages of a Leanin’ Tree card. Reading her words over and over is convincing evidence that good people are not so hard to find—extraordinary people are another story.

Her words conjure an early morning walk through a grassy pasture where the morning mist rises from warming earth like so many pillows. It’s a relaxing read that at times is knee-buckling and eye-watering, almost mystical. The stuff 50-something men aren’t prepared to process; we just don’t have it in us.

Her words sketch the outline of another woman who wrestles with the same physical demons as Ms. Renner. She too scours people for the good in them and mostly overlooks the scars of battles unnecessarily fought. Most of the time Ms. Renner’s in a race to ride her American Paint Horse mare “Allie” (Drummerscreekhavenlas) every waking moment before the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis snatch the final measure from her vibrant life. A retired horseshoer, Ms. Renner lives off her Social Security, travels the country with Allie, sleeps in her tent and rides.

“I am at the jumping off point in my life,” she writes. “When the time comes where I won’t be able to do anything anymore, I want to take these memories and relive them in my mind and heart.”

Ms. Renner, 64, started her “horse life” as an 8-year-old with a black-and-white tobiano that washes through her deep pools of horsey memories.

“I feel so blessed that I’m ending it with another Paint Horse.”

The end for Ms. Renner’s story isn’t so much about sadness (there’s nothing sad about souls as deep and rich as hers), but about the sound of a four-beat footfall woven into the laces of time. That other woman once sat on a beach 25 years ago soaking up the Floridian sun—no worries, no struggles, no pain. Just as effortlessly as the Atlantic waves washed across the glistening sand, her eyesight slowly drained into some unknown place.

“The hardest thing is knowing my eyesight is failing,” Ms. Renner writes.

The other woman eventually regained some of her sight, and is left to the surveillance skills of her hapless husband to make sure everything matches—a vulnerable station in life for a woman as stylish as she. The other woman fell in love with an old gelding that helped her feel strong during her weakest days and she whispers encouraging words to the Paint broodmare carrying a foal in her back pasture now that the old gelding is gone. I bumped into Ms. Renner in the APHA lobby and we visited on that March day. It felt like old friends, only we’d just met. She had an air about her, an air of tenderness and mercies few of us fully know in a lifetime.

“You may not remember meeting me the final part of March and I’ll take no offense if you don’t,” she writes. “There you were coming down the steps. You were so kind to come up to me and visit for a spell. It meant the world to me.”

I’ve known the other woman for almost 40 years. Know her like I know my own skin. Yet, she still surprises me with cold splashes of wisdom and warm drafts of kindness even today. She and Ms. Renner wage the same war against the same disease that nibbles away at them in ways they don’t always understand. Seems like riding a horse or even walking alongside one infuses their own weakened muscles with a healing elixir not found in a bottle.

“Allie has been so sensitive and accommodating to the increased changes in my body. She’s an incredible animal,” Ms. Renner writes.

That old gelding helped the other woman sit straight and strong as the Paint mare does today. I reckon that’s where most people connect with horses. They are strong in places where we aren’t. Smart where we can’t be smart. Fearless when we’re afraid. I’m hoping for four great hopes: that Ms. Renner and I have at least one more conversation, hat Ms. Renner keeps riding even if it’s in the vestibules of her own translucent memories, and that the other woman is always within reach of a horse and near to me. “I’ve been praying every day for your wife and for you. I pray also that your wife will be able to be one they find a cure for.” Respectfully, Mary Renner and Allie

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