Good week, bad week.

Saturday December 10th 2011 11:47:38 AM

Some weeks we’re glad to see the back of and for me this was one such week. It started off really well with a demonstration at The Colesfield Saddle Club Sixth Birthday party over at Honiton. This is a wonderfully positive riding club with a complete mixture of novices and accomplished horsemen and I showed them a few of my ideas on how to handle horses on the ground. There were members who been around horses for over fifty years and others less than five but they all agreed we never stop learning about horses and the most important thing was to keep your eyes and your mind open. I was handed a rather beautiful liver chesnut mare to work with who had been described as rather ‘bargey’ and at times very challenging.
As with all horses I meet for the first time I go right back to basics. The first thing any horse will do to a human (or another horse) is to try and move their feet. If the horse moves the human then he’s in charge, if the human moves the horse than he’s in charge. This isn’t ‘being the boss’ it’s just seeing who is going to take the decisions and decide what’s going to happen next. As soon as I took the lead rope the mare very quietly but very definitely tried to walk straight through me I responded by asking her quietly to step away, which she did. Twice more she repeated this behaviour and on each occasion she got the same response. Remember the saying ‘Third time lucky?’ Well I believe it comes from horses because after the third time this little mare stood still, rested her leg and that was it. She went on to walk over tarpaulins and back over poles without batting an eyelid.

Then on Sunday disaster struck.
Checking my horses late at night I was greeted with a banging and crashing from one of the stables. I thought that perhaps someone had rolled and got stuck but what I saw was far worse. Sunday, my 12 year old thoroughbred mare, was hanging by a back leg from the adjoining wall of the two stables. I believe she had kicked out at the pony next door and the force had pushed her foot between two bars trapping it. As I went to her she called to me, a real cry of relief and ‘Help!’ It took my husband half an hour of hard work with a hacksaw blade to cut the bar by torchlight while I lay on the ground next to Sunday and kept her hopes up.

Eventually she was free and walking round the yard looking relatively sound. But as time passed we could see that all was not well, she walked in an agitated way then returned to me burying her face in my coat again and again, it looked like colic. Luckily our own excellent vet was on call and arrived within half an hour. She has a horse herself so absolutely understands the emotions of owners towards their horses. A thorough examination showed that there was no hope, Sunday had twisted her gut and we had no choice but to put her to sleep. We were exhausted and closing the stable door we let the other horses into the yard so they could at least see her body.

At first light I returned to find them ‘huddling’ together, seeing me they rushed over making noises I have never heard before. Deep noises from the depths of their chest, were they crying? These horses hadn’t come to me for food they came for something else. As they gathered round pressing their faces against me, all issues of personal space forgotten, I knew that they were grieving. The violent end of one of their herd was quite different from the previous deaths due to long term injury or old age. We stood silently hugging each other, not humans not horses just ‘beings’, coming to terms with the loss of a much loved friend.


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