Thursday, May 9, 2013

Happy Birthday Suki!

May 5, 2013
Suki turned 13 today.  A milestone for any horse but especially for one like Suki, who came so close to death.  She looks me in the eye and I see that fierce determination that she must have used to stare down death and laugh in its face.  Behind that look is a softness.  A cool understanding of just what she has accomplished. 

One of Suki's FB friends sent her a birthday card and money to buy special treats for Suki.  Many thanks far I have picked up some gummies and a container of molasses treats.  I am so grateful for such kindness, a nd happy to see that Suki has touched her heart.

Yesterday on Derby Day I thought about what defines greatness.  People talk about the mark of greatness.  What is that exactly?  What is that distinguishing feature, and how do we define greatness?  Awards, achievments? Certainly competitive accomplishments can mark greatness.  As part of Kentucky Derby fever, a special about Secretariat was aired on television.  While not a huge fan of horse racing (although I watch the Triple Crown races for the pomp and circumstance and tradition) one cannot ignore Big Red's accomplishments and personality.  One of the things that caught my attention was how each person who spoke about him had a tone of reverence.  I can't remember which person said this but the comment "it was as though the lord himself had taken hold of the reins" in reference to the famed 31 length Belmont victory seemed to me to symbolize the awe in which Secretariat is held.  Ron Turcotte, Secretariat's jockey said something that I don't agree with, however.  He said that the horse was so great that he thinks anyone could have ridden him to victory.  I don't believe that.  Yes, others probably could have ridden him well, but not necessarily all would have won.  Look at what happened to the great dressage horse Totilas.  Edward Gal was all but unbeatable on him.  Matthias Rath did not share the same success when he took over the ride.  And although there are allegedly many other factors contributing to that lack of success, time will tell as they set about training with Sjef Janssen of the Netherlands (not without its own controversy I might add). There is something to be said about the bond between horse and rider.

And speaking of bond, I watched an episode of Nature on PBS about the Spanish Riding School..... fueling my obsession with the history and tradition of the training and breeding of the Lipizzaner horses.  I love the way the horses are raised in Piber on the farm.  The same place that the performing stallions from Vienna spend their summers.  The horse are handled from birth to encourage and form the bond with humans as a higher member of the herd.  In a large, one room barn there was footage of all the mares and foals coming in together to eat and be groomed.  Moms and babies all seemed to enjoy the attention.  And while I know that some people feel that the training is harsh and the horses not treated well, you cannot fake the way the horses respond to the humans each time they are together.  I also think that centuries of classical training has to have some significance.  I mentioned the SRS shortly after I had an opportunity to visit while attending a conference in Vienna.  Many believe that the horses work too hard during the performances.  But the same horses are not used throughout the entire evening performance.  There are 70 stallions stabled in Vienna...all with specialties of their own....this is what they perform in.  The many years of slow methodical training leads to a happy, healthy and sound riding horse, some of who are trained to the highest levels.  It is evident as one watches them school.  And yes, as far as the television special they show things going smoothly etc.  But patience is key and we see all too often what happens when the process is rushed.  And now I see that Andreas Hausberger, Chief Rider at the SRS and Director of Training at the Heldenberg Training center will be conducting a clinic in New Berlin, NY in July.  A four hour drive from my home you can be sure I will be making the drive to Waltzing Horses Farm to audit for a few days!  So exciting! That will likely increase my desire to participate in the training workshop in Vienna.....

May 8,2013
Very rainy today, so I wasn't sure how much the girls would get out, if at all.  L was planning on riding Nikki but by 9 AM the rain was pretty steady pretty much squashing any riding plans.  Not sure what the turnout status was, I ran over to the barn at lunch time.  If L had ridden I probably would have had just leave the girls in when she was finished.  Anticipating wet girls and soggy fly sheets I opened the barn door that leads to the paddock.  Suki and Nikk sort of looked at me like "What? "You're bringing us in?  It's barely raining!"  I grabbed Suki and immediately noticed that her fly sheet was not very wet and Nikki's back just had spots of rain.  They had not been out very long.  So I let them stay out, and even though the rain became a bit heavier as I headed home (of course) it was warm.  Mkes for happier mares!

May 9, 2013
The beautiful face that greets me!
I had Chinese take out for lunch in my office today.  This was my fortune:
So I am thinking the absurd is trying to get Suki into a saddle again....which leads to the impossible: sitting on her back.  This is my new mantra! 

Back to greatness.....Suki did not have the chance to achieve great competitive success, so who really knows what she could have done.  She and I were finally on the right path together at the time of the fire so we are left with many unknowns.  However, I do believe that she has the mark of greatness in other ways: tremendous courage and the ability to inspire.  And I think that's pretty great!

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