I have been going a little crazy over Saleem lately, with his broken tooth, and that minor swelling in his hook and well, long story short, I have changed a lot of things, one of them is that I have gotten rid of the bridle. Riding Saleem in a cordeo, has resulted in one thing I did not anticipate. We now only have one gait. Walk.
He is perfect at a walk, he turns, he stops, he bends, he even moves sideways, but he refuses to understand the “trot” signal. That had me thrown for a while, wondering if it was me, who were just riding so differently, without the reins, but I now have a sneaking suspicion that is not the case.
I tried him from the ground the other day, thinking that if it was me, failing as a rider, he would still understand trot, with me on the ground. And he did. And he instantly told me, no. Which have me wondering. Why?
I have been staring myself blind on his legs, his top line, his pelvic, and for the life of me, he is not lame at a walk, but since he refuses to trot, it makes it hard to pin point if there might be a tiny bit of an off beat if he does set the tempo higher, thus placing more pressure on his joints.
And at the same time, with Saleem, it doesn’t have to be because he is lame, that he suddenly doesn’t want to trot. It could be a thousand different things that has set him off, I am just jumping to the nearest conclusion, because he does have a tiny swelling in one of his legs. (My vet has seen it and told me to ignore it. I am not good at that.)
So my new game plan is to test him a bit, doing different things, trying to get a response from him that will clue me in on what is making him hold back. I should ad, he still plays with Apocalipse, he both trots and canters when he plays and he doesn’t seem uncomfortable at all. Just around me, does he quiet down for some reason.
Training Saleem from the ground does lead me to what I really wanted to talk about. Ablaze, my one year old Arabian gelding. For years, I have felt hollow inside. Since Legacy died in March 2011, I have felt somewhat incomplete. I even named Ablaze, Ablazing Legacy, in his honor.
I don’t meant to play down how much I love Saleem and Apocalipse, I would not have made it through the last three years without them. Apocalipse has been a ray of sunlight every single day and the only thing that truly threw me off my game was if something happened to him.
Still, I have been looking at horses in sales adds, looking at foals, somehow trying to replace that increasing void in my heart. Losing Amalia, Poseidon and Apollon all within a year and a half after Legacy, did make me feel like I was never going to heal again. How do you recover from watching your young horse (Legacy,) never have a chance? A standard breed, he was born and broken for the race track before I got him, and I came up short when I tried to mend his broken body.
How do you move past, suddenly realizing that the huge heart on your very old friend and sister in arms, is failing and that she is drowning and there is nothing you can do to stop it? I mean, I always knew she wouldn’t live forever, but Amalia had been with me for 14 years, she was the rock I used to lean on.
How do you, at long last, truly let go of the part of yourself that has always been a troubled, untamed, red horse, allowing him the peace you know, you will never have, once he is gone? Poseidon was my soul mate in every possible way, and when his legs failed at long last I wondered how I would ever define myself again. I felt blurry without him, without a shape, without a purpose.
And then, as a last blow to my sanity and my already broken heart, Apollon just failed and died, being euthanized during a blizzard with violent internal bleedings, for no apparent reason, 13 years old. I was so blindsided, so thrown, so unable to accept that not only was Poseidon gone, but his brother too, I still have no words for it. How unfair, how unreasonable, how … Hollow.
I know I have been searching for something, since my horses died. I know that buying Marble was hands down, because I wanted another thoroughbred mare, now that Amalia was gone. I knew Marble could never replace Amalia, but how could I not have a dark mare like her on my pasture?
I know that when I bought Tardis, I did so one, because she was a perfect pony, and two because she was pregnant. The foal she came with, always made me smile, even when he was just that- a fetus inside my new mare.
Logically, I wanted an Arabian mare, giving me the option of breeding someday in the future, alongside with my thoroughbred mare.
Having met Ablaze though, I think I always knew that he was my salvation. Even before he was born. If there truly is such a thing as a soul mate, if it is at all possible to sense someone’s soul, then I knew he was my other half, the second I met his mother.
The way he said hello when he was born, right at my feet, the way he just raised his head and greeted my boyfriend and me, and his mother, my first thought was, I know this horse. I know that voice.
I swear, I had not thought of it, before he was born. I didn’t buy the mare, thinking that she carried Poseidon reborn. I didn’t go around telling myself that I could have Poseidon back, when the foal was born. I realize that if you want something badly enough, you might convince yourself of it, but it never crossed my mind, until the second Ablaze opened his dark eyes into this world.
I have always known this horse.
There is this glimmer in his eyes, like he knows me inside and out, at all times. Whenever I try to train him, he looks at me, just like Poseidon used to do, asking me just one thing. Not, “why”, like Amalia and Apocalipse, or “how”, like Saleem, or “make me”, like Apollon and Tardis… No, Ablaze asks me, “how much do you want it?”
The first time he did that, I nearly cried. I know that question, I know that sparkle in those dark eyes. Poseidon spent fifteen years, asking me that question, every time I needed him to do something. There was so many things Poseidon could not do, but he never refused me. He always asked me, how important is this? Will you push the matter? Like, with the Ferrier. Yes, I do want you to behave and let him shoe you. Not negotiable. But the vet, well, I can give you antibiotics myself, as maybe it would have been nice if they could have touched you, but I’ll handle it. Negotiable. I didn’t want it bad enough, so I didn’t get it. Not until the very last day, when he was euthanized. That day, I wanted them to touch him, so I would not have to inject him myself. (Illegal and as much as I am all for taking responsibility for your animals, I was prepared to step up and put him down myself if all else failed, but I REALLY didn’t want to.) So, how important is this to you? That last day, he didn’t flinch when they touched him.
So here I am, at long last, actually healing. I know it may not sound like it, but I truly am. My friends and I were at a foal show a few weeks back, and none of those foals tugged at my heartstrings. I didn’t go home wondering what it would be like to get another foal by Tardis or perhaps Marble, I was actually bored, watching foal after foal being showed.
I didn’t truly realize how much Ablaze has healed me though, until I tried walking him in a rope the other day. I keep telling myself that he must learn. He must be able to wear a halter and he must be able to be led on a rope, from one place to another. Of course he must know the basics, if something should happen to me, I would have failed him greatly, if he was not trained. So, I keep trying to make myself train him, but I just can’t. Every time I give him a halter on, or a rope around his neck, he gives me that look, “How much do you want it?” and my heart just breaks.
I don’t want it. I never want him to be tamed. I want him to be just like he is, wild and free, and perfect.
Just like Poseidon always was. Untamed. Unbroken. Even if Poseidon was damaged by cruel hands before I got to him, I still managed to make him live for 15 years, without compromising his spirit.
Ablaze was never mistreated. If he truly is Poseidon, as he could have been, as he should have been, how do I ever rope him in, so to speak?
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter if you believe in reincarnation or even if you don’t believe in souls. What Ablaze is to me, is a chance to do better. To not try and tame that wild heart, to not ever follow traditional training methods. Ablaze is a chance for me, to test everything Poseidon taught me in our fifteen years together, to test just how skilled I truly am.
Ablaze is very well behaved, really, he follows me without the rope, without the halter, he stops, he turns, he keeps his distance, he walks, he trots… in fact, completely without having ever really trained him, he is the best trained horse I have. How could I want to ruin that by forcing him into a traditional box of halters and ropes and restraints?
I don’t. Everything inside me is screaming. I won’t tame this one. He will be my wild horse, forever.
It does sound rather foolish, to say it out loud, I know. Of course it should be taught to be led by a halter like an ordinary horse, what am I talking about? Why the hell not?
Because he never says, “Make me” or “Why” or even “how.” Because he always asks, “How much do you want it?”
Apollon and his “make me,” attitude, he had to learn, because he was simply dangerous and if I didn’t find a way through that, I could not handle him. The Ferrier could not handle him. Not taming Apollon, would have been neglect on my part.
A horse like Amalia and her wonderful foal Apocalipse, who says “Why” is just as dangerous. Most of the time, when you ask it to do something and it says, why would I do that? And you simply answer, because I want you to, it accepts it. Amalia and Apocalipse is (was) very well behaved, practically without training as well. Until you some day reached that one time, once in a while, where my answer, because I want you to, just isn’t good enough.
I have come up short against Amalia more times that I can count because she all of a sudden said, well, I don’t think so. Check mate. Apocalipse is just like her. Ask him nicely and most of the time, he is the perfect angel. If he isn’t though, you will lose.
A horse like Saleem, who says “how,” needs to be trained as well and trained a lot, simply because he finds it hard to perform the tasks I ask of him and I must take the time to explain and teach and make sure he is not stressed out by the questions I ask of him. It is my job, to prepare him, before I ask any questions of him.
A horse like Marble and Legacy, who instantly says “okay!” whenever you ask them something, is easily trained, easily taught, and the most important job of the trainer is to simply make sure you don’t teach it too much, too fast, because it will jump through hoops to please you.
Poseidon though, could be wild, because when it mattered, I could always tell him, I want this and when I did, he would never refuse me.
Ablaze can be wild. I will figure out how to never break that perfect trust there is between us. I never, ever want to lose that glimmer in his eyes. It is singlehandedly giving me peace of mind and healing that hollow heart of mine.
That glimmer, that makes him, not a horse, but a feeling, a touch of sunlight, a gust of wind, a raging fire, ocean spray…
I knew when I named him, that Ablazing Legacy was a heavy name for a foal to carry. Even heavier than Amalia and Saleem’s Apocalipse.
Still, looking at my two foals, they carry their names perfectly.
Looking at them, does make me wonder though. Apocalipse, I love so intensely, I could not imagine my life without him. Whenever he is sick, I am about ready to fall to pieces. He is everything I ever wanted in a foal, horse, he is the only child of my old mare, he is perfect, flawless, I cannot begin to describe what he means to me.
It is different with Ablaze. He is my boy. Not because I love him, like I love Apocalipse, to the point where I fall apart if he gets sick, for fear, however irrational, of losing him, but simply because Ablaze, completes me.