There are a great number of transitions happening around our equine world of late. It’s breeding season, of course, and various connections are busy raising or awaiting this year’s foals and getting ready to make next year’s models. We thought we might try that–briefly; but economics and practicality intervened, along with the horses’ own biology. The young ones are stuck and not coming into season. The ones coming into season are the elders, who have given at that office, repeatedly, and who won’t be called on again.
Which is as it clearly should be; we’ve moved on from breeding to caring for older horses in need of TLC, and the young ones we put on the ground need us to notice that, hey, it’s time they had their turn.
It’s not always easy to recognize this, or to act on it. Much easier to stick to the tried and true–to ride the old familiar horse we know is safe, and let the younger, less reliable one sit (and eat, and hang with the herd, and become progressively less patient with this state of affairs).
Sometimes there’s an added element. Not only resisting the transition, but being actively forced into it.
My Home Horse, my heart horse, has been with me since she was four–she turned twenty-six a week ago as I write this. Aside from one brief break to have her only foal, she’s always been my go-to riding horse.
From day one (that’s a future Olympic rider on her, showing her to me on the day I bought her, before I got on and knew I didn’t want to ever get off)
Early in the new year, I had a wonderful ride, one of the best we’d had–all three gaits in a lovely winter evening; we were in synch, we were happy, it was lovely.
Three hours later I came out for the bedtime check, and she could barely walk. She had been getting into it with her neighbors, and from the evidence, had caught a hindleg in the stall bars and twisted her back.
I clung to the belief that she would recover. Her stablemate had had a worse injury, which took two years and quite a bit of rehab, but he was (and is) sound to ride in the end.
Which is all very well when a horse is in his early teens, but a horse in her late twenties, not so much. I called in the masseuse and had her worked on. The masseuse is more than a bit of a magician and can work wonders with an injured horse–and her ministrations did help, considerably. But when I talked abour riding again, she shook her head.
Meanwhile the horse was completely cheerful. This is a horse who, when injured earlier in life, would pine away because she couldn’t be ridden. I brought her back several times, and she always came through; she lived for the work under saddle.
This time was, is, different. Every time I mentioned riding, she got worse. I finally got a clue and said, OK, I get it. You’re done. And my mare got her happy ears on and rapidly improved–but only just so far. I am not to be tempted, she says. That part is over.
With a horse on the far side of the equine life expectancy of twenty-four or so, there’s always the question. Or should I say, The Question. Done with riding, or really done? Ready to go? Finished? No more?
Not that, she said. Not yet. Her appetite is good, her coat shines. She moves around pretty well. She enjoys her herd and her life, and we keep on with her rehab and her exercises. She taught a student just last week, showing her how to work with and through a severe injury using bodywork, groundwork, and massage. She’s still teaching; she’s not going anywhere. But her riding days are done.
I’m through denial. Anger hasn’t been much of a problem, though I look at the one who is twenty-seven on the day this blog posts, and she’s still ridable, and damn. There’s no bargaining to be done. Despair, sometimes. But we inch toward acceptance.
Meanwhile, as this mare transitions from riding horse to elder sage (and we know there will be another, final transition–but not quite yet), one of her herdmates is waiting. Patiently. For me to stop dithering and start riding.
She’s ready, she says. She can be the Home Horse and the Heart Horse. She stands close by the older mare, within her circle–which she never did before. She’s taking the place, since I’m being a clueless human and foot-dragging and not getting the point.
That’s a transition, too. A lovely one, if I will take it. Not easy, and not simple, but it’s more than doable. It’s necessary.
I’m working on it.