Sunday, February 5, 2012
A life worth living
Suki's survival has been such a gift. Initially, the intensity of the tragedy and the early days of recovery were overwhelming. And while some may not like the comparison that I am about to make, it is a lot like having a special needs child. Suki has needs and requiremnts that go above and beyond what a healthy horse has. Of course horse ownership is a huge responsibility as it is. These are animals that depend on us for survival, and we owe it to them to do the very best that we can. But when I compare the needs of Suki and Nikki, there is quite a difference. If I do not get to Nikki's barn, I know that she is fine, and her needs have been met. When I am with her I groom, ride and fuss over her, trying to spend time beyond just the work part of our relationship because that is an important part of our relationship. In order to be competitive, Nikki and I must train 5-6 days a week, which is a huge commitment. When Suki left New Bolton for the rehabilitation farm I was still not involved the multiple times a day treatment required. By the time we moved to a regular boarding situation the treatments were less frequent and less intensive, but I underestimated the amount of time that was necessary for her daily requiremnts. On top of that I was bringing home a 3 year old (Nikki), so she would need to be ridden 4 days a week. On paper, the schedule appeared to work. Aaah, but life does not usually go according to plan, does it? But, I wouldn't change a thing. People talk about the value of a horse who just stands in a pasture. What kind of life is that for them? Jenny LOVED her retirement. She embraced her inner appaloosa and started to do things that she had never done before. Jenny hated puddles. She would jump them, shy at them and do anything to avoid stepping in a puddle, getting her (gasp) feet wet! I moved her to the farm near Suki autumn of that year. We witnessed splashing through puddles, rolling in them and pawing at the water....WHAT? She was hilarious! That winter she would paw at ice to splash in the water. Where did my prissy, diva dressage horse go? She was having the time of her life. That spring, her pasture mate and good friend, Abby, delivered a filly. Babette, of course, kept mare and foal sectioned off in a part of the pasture separated from Jenny and the other mares. Jenny often paced the fenceline watching Abby and baby, until one day, she had had enough. Jenny jumped in by them If you'll remember, Jenny HATED to jump). She didn't hurt the baby, and was actually quite good with her. Babette kept them together. It was a beautiful relationship. Jenny helped give the baby manners, by ever so gently disciplining her. Mama let baby thump on her, as mares typically do. Jenny pinned her ears and swished her tail, signaling that this type of behavior was not acceptable. When it came time for weaning, Abby was taken away from Jenny and the baby. All was good. So how is a retired life not worthwhile? Jenny was a wonderful dressage partner, and I gave her the best retirement I could. In the summers the horses would be led into the Brandywine Creek and splash in water up to their bellies! Yes, even Jenny! BUT....when Babette suggested hopping on Jenny bareback and wading into the creek, I knew better. First, when I hopped on her bareback once, she turned around and glared at me. When I put my leg on her to move her foreward, she bucked. This was her way of telling me that such undignified behavior was unbecoming to a dressage queen. Also, Jenny was in the creek because she wanted to be and I knew she would not want to be ridden into it. "But that was before she found her inner appaloosa", said Babette. So Maisie volunteered to hop on and go into the creek. It was a bit of the repeat performance of what I had experienced. Maisie hopped off and we led Jenny into the creek. She walked in without hesitation! Maybe she felt that she had less control over her body with a rider in this situation? I don't know, but it was certainly entertaining! Beautiful Jenny!