I was nominated on Face Book to do one of those stupid challenges. This one was about posting a picture of a horse everyday for ten days, and telling the story of the horse. I am playing along. Why? Because I love talking about my horses. Clearly writing a book about them, wasn’t enough.
Writing about them again, briefly for the benefit of FB is kind of fun, actually. I figured I’d repost them here. I am writing about them in the order of which they came to me. These are the first 6.
This is Pikant.
He was born and raised to be a cross county horse and by the time he was 5 years old, he was competing regionally already. Unfortunately, he had an accident, which scared him and made him refuse to jump outdoors anymore, so he was sold to a girl who wanted to use him for dressage.
The girls father owned a stable, but he got in trouble with the law and ended up in jail, all of his horses and the stable sold again.
The new owner ended up letting Pikant work as a school horse for 7 years, severely neglecting him.
When I started at the riding school, I knew nothing of horses, but this old soul, chose me. In time, I convinced my mom to buy him for me.
I then discovered, once the horse was mine, that he was suffering from acute heart failure, arthritis in all four legs, and a shattered spine, no less. The vets advised me to return him to the previous owner, but I knew they would continue to mistreat him, so I refused.
Pikant was retired and lived with me for three years. Too long perhaps, but I was young, and didn’t want to have to put him down. He was my first love, and my best friend, and he introduced me to everything the equestrian world turned out to be, good and bad.
Pikant was born in 1980 and I said goodbye to him on August 1998.
He will always be an inspiration to me, because no matter what the world threw at him, he never grew angry or resentful.
Even when his heart was failing, he never stopped being a loving and kind soul.
This is Silver.
I don’t know all of Silver’s story. When I met her, she was owned by a pair of siblings, both of whom, was afraid of her. She was very aggressive and she bullied humans, any chance she got.
I later learned that Silver had been a school pony for many years, and had been sold to the siblings when the riding school was closed.
I bought her, mostly because I was fascinated by her persona.
I had no experience with dangerous or aggressive horses, and I spent years, being black and blue all over, when ever I failed to anticipate her anger.
Silver turned out to be a perfect little star, though. I don’t think I have ever had the privilege of riding or working with a pony as brave as her. She easily jumped her own height, on solid obstacles, and she was fast as a ninja when we did competitions. (Yeah, I was all kinds of crazy back then…) Most of my ribbons, were won by her.
Where as Pikant had been forgiving and loving, no matter the abuse he suffered by humans, Silver turned defensive. I never quite managed to make her comfortable around humans, not even me. Only in the show ring, were we as one. In the show ring, she would do anything for me.
I sold Silver when I grew too old to compete with her. The girl who bought her had learned to ride on her, back at the old riding school and was thrilled to have her precious pony back.
Silver died a year later from laminitis.
I have few regrets in my life, but selling her, is one of them. I am not saying that she wouldn’t have died on my watch, but now, I’ll never stop wondering if she could have been much older, if I had not let her go.
Silver was born in 1986 and died in 1999. The picture was taken the day I sold her, while we were waiting for the transport to show up.
This is Flicka.
I don’t know all of Flicka’s story. Her name is Swedish and means “little girl.” When I met her, she was owned by the same pair of siblings, as I bought Silver from. I was told that Flicka had been owned by a girl for most of her life, who had used her for dressage, but had lost interest and sold her to the siblings.
I helped them out with both horses for a while, but after I bought Silver from them, they moved Flicka away and I lost contact with her for about a year. I was then contacted by the sibling’s mother, who had seen me compete with Silver and was impressed by how that pony was shaping up for me, so she asked me if I wanted Flicka. For free. I just had to come pick her up.
So I did.
I always knew that there was something wrong with Flicka. The obvious sickness was her asthma, which was really, really bad. But I kept wondering how she could look so lame at a walk and so not lame at a trot.
I will have to say, I was a teenager. If I had known what I know now, I would have done a lot of things differently. As it was, I had my vets look her over a billion times and they never came up with an answer.
I even competed with her, in show jumping, and she did good. Only, after a two day event, she would always be lame and I’d call my vet, and they’d tell me to give her time off until it wore off. Times were different back then…
One of the moments that has stuck with me, with this horse, is the first time I brought her to the old stable, where the siblings had had her, and won two ribbons jumping, and every single girl at the stable came by and asked me how on earth I made that horse jump. Or do anything. I was rather surprised and slightly horrified to realize just how many people had tried and failed to work with this horse. I never saw Flicka as a problem horse. Not even a little bit. She was sweet, gentle, cooperative and trusting, from where I was sitting. Clearly, a whole stable, saw her very differently.
I just kept getting stuck at how much this horse wanted to work, and how much she genuinely could not.
In the end, I threw one of my tantrums, and luckily there was one vet who listened to me and examined her a little more carefully than the others.
Flicka had a ringbone.
I instantly retired her. Having just lost Pikant, I could not bring myself to put her down. Looking back, I wish I had had the courage to take responsibility for her, and let her have her peace.
I owned this horse for 9 months, and in the end, I sent her to a farm in the countryside, to a woman my farrier knew, who needed a horse to keep her working horse company. It seemed like the perfect way for me to chicken out of my responsibility towards this horse, just like everybody else had done. I came by and visited her about 6 months later, and she seemed rather happy at her new home. Who knows, maybe she was. For a while.
Flicka died a year after I had given her up, from laminitis. I could have spared her that, if I had just had her euthanized myself. I will always regret that I was not strong enough to see her through to the end.
Flicka was born in 1983 and died in 1999.
This is Poseidon.
I can’t tell you the story of this horse in a post like this. I wrote my book, Surviving the Equestrian World about him and his brother. I just have too many words, to describe what this horse means to me.
I could tell you how he was abused and isolated for the first two years of his life, and how the pain of what was done to him, never left him. I could tell you how many tears I cried for this horse, wondering every single day of our 15 years together, if he was here for my sake, or for his.
I could tell you, how making him live, helping him find some sort of peace with this life, is my greatest achievement, and how my life is without purpose now that his is not here anymore.
I could tell you how I spent 15 years of my life apologizing to him, on behalf of humanity, and how he only ever forgave one person. Me.
I could not tell you how much I love this horse. I would not know the words to describe it. I owe him everything. If there is such a thing as a soulmate, he was the one. The other half of me.
I could not tell you what he was like and there is no picture that accurately captures his essence.
Poseidon was wind, ice, fire, air… He was as ever changing as the elements, as wild and untamed as the stars. He was a feeling, an emotion, a fleeting glimpse of something you could never quite put your finger on. He was raw power and brute force. He was as gentle as the summer rain and as fragile as a flower.
He was, like his name implies, a master of horses and as difficult to hold on to or tame, as the ocean.
My heart, my soul, my star, my endless night.
Poseidon was born in 1995 and was euthanized in 2012 due to a ringbone and a very old, chronic pelvic injury.
I am sorry, but no single picture could ever do him justice. Truth is, this beautiful body of his, was just a vessel for the magnificent spirit within. Once the light left his eyes, the dead body meant nothing to me. It was not him anymore.
But that fire behind his eyes, that feeling I got when I was near him, like I was finally home… Complete. Safe.
Nothing could ever describe that, and no picture could ever show it, or our lives together.
This is Apollon.
I met Apollon when he was 6 months old and his owner moved him to the stable where Poseidon lived. The second I laid eyes on him, I knew he was my baby.
Once we got to talking, his owner and I, we realized that they did not only share the same father, (Zarif was a very used breeding stallion at the time,) but the same mother as well.
I bought him when he was 9 months old, I believe. I won’t say that he was an easy horse.
He was sick a lot. He would get frequent fever attacks, and I have spent countless nights sitting at his stall in a sleeping bag, watching him shiver and hyperventilate, as his temperature just rose and rose. (The vet was always called, by the way.) He managed to get injured as well, twice tearing his legs to pieces in the electric fence. The first 7 years of his life, was mostly a nightmare, going from one horrible injury to the next, spiced with random fever attacks.
He was an aggressive horse as well. I can’t say that I blame him, but when he turned on me, he did so with the intent to injure. He had perfect aim, and once he set out to get you, he did. He even managed to hit me in the head a few times, with his front hooves. (That may be why I’m so crazy today… 😛 )
He would never accept to be led by just a halter. I had to use a chain underneath his jaw, just to get him out in the morning and back in, in the evening. Otherwise, he would run away, or attack me, or both. Most of the time he did so anyway, but with the chain, I stood a minor chance.
As a horsemanship trainer, he might be my biggest failure, which is why he is such a huge part of my book, Surviving the Equestrian World. I could take him onto the training grounds and he would be the sweetest and the most perfectly trained horse ever, but it never translated outside the training grounds. He knew he had the upper when there was no fence around us.
I know it sounds like we weren’t really friends, but the truth is, he was probably the horse I loved the most. He needed me. He needed me to find out why he was so unhappy. He needed me not to fail him.
I have cried for this horse, because I knew that he fought me because I wasn’t doing good enough. I have cried for this horse, because I wasn’t sure I had it in me to open his stall in the morning and go through one more day with him.
I have loved this horse from the moment I met him and I will never stop driving myself crazy, trying to figure him out.
In the end, I found a barn he could live in, where he could chose if he wanted to be indoors or not, eliminating that fight from our lives. That helped a lot on his mood and it removed most of the stress from our relationship. To this day, he is the reason why my horses live in an open barn. He spend years screaming at me that this was how they were supposed to live. I got it, in the end. I’ll remember. It was beaten into me.
I did a lot of dressage competitions with him over the years. I guess that somehow, showing him off, made me feel like less of a failure. Like there was some aspect of this horse, I could train. I am happy to say though, that I grew up and got over myself in the end, realizing that the only one I needed to prove myself to, was him.
When Poseidon was euthanized in the spring of 2012, Apollon became lame almost instantly afterwards and we spend the rest of the year running tests, doing x rays and ultra sounds, to no avail. He seemed perfectly fine, except he wasn’t.
In November, he crashed and burned. His fever attacks suddenly returning, with renewed force, and I knew I was fighting a losing battle. We ran tests again, again, again, with the same results as always. A virus.
This time though, his body gave up. His minor arteries ruptured and he was bleeding internally. I knew rationally, that even if we found out what was causing it, there was no saving him this time and still, it took me a month to let him go.
I never knew what killed him. I never knew what had made him so sick, so often, through his short life. He got to be 13 years old. If I did not know better, I would say that he died from a broken heart, having just said goodbye to both Poseidon and Amalia, within 4 months of each other.
He was born in 1999 and acutely euthanized in the middle of a blizzard in December 2012. Kudos to the vet that showed up and helped us say our goodbyes while heaven and earth became one, white and cold place.
I know that I am only supposed to share one picture, but I can’t. Not with my two red boys. They were the world to me, for so many years. No single picture could describe them.
Apollon starred in one of our early music videos, if you want to see him move, he was magnificent; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sKU-TMaSUk
This is Amalia.
I met Amalia by the end of August 1998. I know the date, because she came into my life the day before my first horse, Pikant, was euthanized. She was four years old.
Amalia’s owner and I became friends over time, as we realized that our horses loved each other. My two red boys and Amalia were quickly inseparable. I have been on some of my best rides with Amalia, her owner, and Poseidon.
In time, I started jumping Amalia, because her owner had no interest in that, and Amalia was perhaps the most talented horse I have ever come across when it came to show jumping. I counted myself blessed to be allowed to work with such an outstanding horse.
We stayed together for years, even when our old stable was sold, we found a new place together, and in the end, when Amalia’s owner could not have her anymore, she asked me instantly, if I wanted her.
I was drowning in vet bills at the time, since Apollon kept getting sick and I had to be realistic. I simply could not afford to take on one more horse. So I spent a few weeks crying over the thought of losing her, and then, came up with a plan.
My, at the time, very new found boyfriend, would totally need his own horse. Amalia’s owner and I, easily sold her to him. She did it herself, actually. She took an instant shine to him, and displayed her charming self in the best possible way. He never stood a chance.
In 2009 we got her pregnant and in 2010 she delivered the perfect little foal to us. I have known Amalia for 14 years, but I have never seen her so proud or so happy, as she was the night Apocalipse was born.
Amalia was the rock I used to lean on. The one horse that would keep me sane, when ever the two red boys were driving me up the wall. She was the queen on my pasture, her persona so great that nothing could ever fill the hole she left behind when she died. I don’t know how I would have gone through losing her, if I had not had her beautiful foal to keep me going.
She was our pink lady; as in our pink Cadillac. A class above the rest. And she knew it. She wore it gracefully.
Amalia was born in 1994 and euthanized in 2011 due to acute heart failure.
Really, they are not all sad stories. I love and adore these horses. And I owe each and everyone of them my life and my sanity. I’ll repost the others as well, once I get to writing about them. I hope you guys won’t mind. I like talking about them. Remembering. And I’ll get to those still here, still living, soon. 😉