Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Definition of Heart

This was an extremely busy weekend for Blue Skies Riding Academy. On Thursday Miss Beverly left for a training session on natural healing and herbs. On Friday we took nine horses and eleven riders to our first show of the season and little rescue donkey, Stella Blue, allowed me to pet her and kiss her nose on Saturday. All in all a productive three days.

On top of the excellent performances from all our riders (and trainers!), Sneaky decided a five minute hand walk was too boring. While I walked five feet into the barn for a longer lead rope, he decided to take a field trip into the back pasture for some fresh grass. My irritation at him not following orders was quickly overtaken by joy at seeing the grand old Arabian walking free again. He stood in the sun, chewing the new grass, eyes closed in complete happiness in the sunshine. The road to recovery for a 20+ year old horse is long, but I will revel in the small steps.

On a different note, Vince was not having a great day. He had seen the trailer loading Friday morning and the awareness he wasn't going did not sit well with my boy. When I arrived on Saturday morning, instead of happy Vince, I got surly Vince. With all my magnificent volunteers riding at the show, my day was full of stalls and manure and shavings, so it was after lunch before I got time to spend with him one on one.

He loves eating hay while I brush him down, but the back left leg with the suspensory ligament damage is still off limits. No touch, no rub, he barely let my fingertips run along the leg. When I see the immediate pain reaction on his face, my heart bleeds. Horses have no vocal cords for the spoken word, only the twitch of their multi-directional ears and a lifted limb. To know he has been in such pain and I didn't know the source is frustrating.

While I rubbed my goofy gelding and gave him treats with rock sugar in the center (absolutely favorite new treats), my darling daughter was riding her first love in the show ring. Penny (registered name How Much Money) was our first horse, a Quarter Horse with a heart a mile wide and a pedigree that includes Man O' War. (Quarter Horses are a combined breed, usually Thoroughbreds with native pony.) The first years of her life were spent in the rodeo ring as a reining horse. Basically, running first speed from one end of the arena to the other, then slamming on the breaks and sliding on the hocks.

Penny has arthritis in her hocks, we knew that when we purchased her. But she and M have been true partners since the moment they laid eyes on each other. No matter how many other horses my daughter might ride, Penny is her partner, the one I wanted for her first horse. But last year she developed another problem - navicular. With so much pain in all legs, the decision was made to semi-retire Penny. Thus Vince entered into our lives.

This show was supposed to be Vince's big debut, but instead reliable Penny stepped up to the plate. With only minimal conditioning, she went to the show and took home three ribbons, 4th, 5th and 6th. The prize isn't the ribbons, it is that she competed at all. Her navicular has been well managed by proper shoeing, rest, minimal jumping and occasional riding. But when she was called upon, her only answer was "Yes". THAT is the definition of heart.

We have almost 30 horses at BSRA, and all of them have people who love them and cherish them as partners. I own three, Penny, Vince and a wonderful little rescue named Bella, who deserves her own post. If anyone tries to tell me a horse is just a dumb animal, I have 30 four-legged friends to help me prove otherwise. I love the lessons I learn from them. They make me a better person and the unconditional love they exude is precious. Isn't that what we all need?

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