To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"I could have missed the pain...

...but I'd of had to miss the dance."

Our last dance - Tuesday morning before the rain set in.

The view out my east windows throughout Wednesday.

It was better after the sun set; out of sight, out of mind (or at least a little less ON my mind). Then, last night around choretime, I had something of an epiphany. I have been mourning not only the upcoming loss of my dancing partner, but also the end of the dance. I have really, deep down, been crying over the possibility that I may never have another dressage horse. No other riding I have done has developed the same kind of relationship with a horse, the subtle and nuanced level of communication and understanding. And when you get one with the right mind combined with physical ability, the results are almost magical.

Russell and I have had that kind of relationship for over eight years now. On top of that, he has been the horse to whom I could trust both my safety as a new mother and that of my son, just a toddling tot when Russell first joined us. There's a whole lot of special memories wrapped up in this horse; once-in-a-lifetime memories. (My dad said once, after watching Brian scale up the side of Russell like a mountain climber, "There's not a horse in 20,000 like that.")

God willing, I will be blessed with another dancing partner someday. Russell's dressage days are over, but he can continue to be a trusted babysitter and special memory-maker with his new family, just by being who he is - Special Majesty.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Breezy demonstrates the horses' approval of their Christmas morning treats - apples from the neighbor:

Hope your Christmas was equally lip-smacking good!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Family portrait

Russell met his new family yesterday (all except the husband/dad). Russell hadn't been out for over a week, so for them it was a good demonstration of his stellar nature and training. After all four of them took turns riding him around the arena, I got on and briefly "put him through his paces." With them he walked quietly and slowly; when I got on and gathered up the reins, he put on his "show face."

I've been having cold feet about letting Russell go, but felt better after watching them and talking with the mom. The plan is that the mom will come back next Thursday morning when the farrier is here to get instruction on how Russell's feet have been managed, after which she will take him home. My stomach is in knots already, but I do think it's a good fit for them and for my wonderful "Muscle Man." Will there be another dancing partner for me in the near future? I hope and pray so. In the meantime, I'll throw my leg over Brian's pony or one of the little Quarter Horses in the barn so my muscles stay ready. As for my heart, it may be sore for awhile....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Emotional roller coaster

That's what I've been experiencing since Saturday night. That night I attended a Christmas party for the ladies of our church. The hostess is one of Rick's clients and we've talked about getting together for a trail ride over the years, but we're both moms and have never made the time. As I was getting ready to leave, I asked casually, "So, do you still have horses?" She confirmed that she did, but none that she can ride. Two are boarders, and two are 30-year-old pensioners. I commiserated, and she told me of her experiences trying to find a suitable horse for her needs - a safe, well-trained trail horse for herself and a safe, well-trained horse who can occasionally give kids rides in the arena. As she talked, I realized with crystal clarity that she needs RUSSELL! So I asked two questions: would she be interested in giving him a home, and would she give him a forever home? With affirmative answers, my spirit soared.

Its flight lasted about as long as the Wright brothers' epic success 108 years ago. Then I seized up with the thought of letting Russell go. My head told me it was the best thing for both of us, but my heart started back-pedaling, then went into mourning.

As always, my head prevailed. This lady has the facilities (bigger acreage and barn; indoor arena) and means (she and her husband are both physicians) to care for my horse for the rest of his life, and needs a good boy like him for light riding. She is happy to sign a contract giving me first right of refusal in any unforeseen event that she can no longer keep him. Finding the perfect home for Russell - like this one - has been the elusive prerequisite to my getting any future dressage partner. I don't have one lined up, but with a stall vacant, I can act when the right one comes along.

She is going to come meet him the week before or after Christmas. That means Russell and I still have a few slow dances left....

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thursday, December 1, 2011

On reopening U.S. slaughter plants to horses

Yesterday I learned that our lawmakers recently passed Bill H2112, which re-legalizes the commercial slaughter of horses in the U.S. Horse lovers are rising up in outrage. How do you feel about it?

Being close to the "unwanted horse problem" (intensified by banning horses from U.S. slaughter houses), I know too much to have the luxury of a knee-jerk reaction. My husband is an equine veterinarian; he sees the good, the bad, and the ugly of horse ownership. We can testify to the horror stories that abound when people can no longer afford to care for their horses. Rescue facilities are full to overflowing and short on resources. Most vets will not euthanize healthy horses, and even if they were willing, often owners can't afford to pay for a backhoe to bury them or a rendering company to haul the body away if they live in an area with these options, or have them cremated if they do not. So horses too often suffer neglect and slow starvation or are turned loose to "fend for themselves" (in other words, starve, or get hit by vehicles, often killing people in the process). No one likes to think of horses hauled off to slaughter, but there ARE fates worse than death, and untold numbers have been suffering those fates with the closure of all U.S. slaughter houses to horses. The horses that are shipped to Mexico are enduring far more inhumane handling than they would receive here in the U.S. (as per undercover reporting), and even Canada is a long, exhausting haul that could be shortened by having slaughter houses open to horses within the U.S.

Personally, I'm a vegetarian in part because I can't stomach the thought of subjecting ANY animal to a slaughter house when I can be nourished less expensively and more healthfully on a plant-based diet. I've had pet cows, pet goats, and have pet sheep; horses aren't any more (or less) friendly, beautiful, or useful, so why do people get so much more up in arms over their slaughter? As long as people eat meat, animals will die at the hand of man, and as long as people have the freedom to breed animals indiscriminately, there will be more dogs, cats, horses and other animals than there are people with resources (owners, rescue facilities) to adequately care for them. As a result, many - too many - have to be destroyed.

One solution is for the government, in Big Brother fashion, to ban all animal breeding except for those with licenses to do so, and requiring the rest of us to spay/neuter everything, including horses, sheep, etc. Would you be for such legislation?

The bottom line for me is that opening U.S. slaughter houses to horses is a necessary evil given all other current realities.