Ladies and gentlemen, Diamant Pilar has arrived at Ridecare. Turned six years old just last week, she is a bit on the skinny side and she will need to put on a fair bit of muscle — but she is gorgeous, and she knows it. A purebred Friesian, she is black with abundant tail and mane, and an absolutely adorable little moustache on her upper lip.
She had a two hour drive to get here and I have got to say, there are some horses that just don’t think being lead into a trailer is a big deal. It took less than a minute to get her to step up — Alvin was in there, with carrots. Carrots, man! You can’t argue with carrots. During the drive down to Fredericia she stood neatly still, looking out the window, and calling out for every horse and pony we passed in the road.
She does that, as it turns out: She helloes everybody. Every car that drives into the barn area, every person that walks past, every horse being lead past — hello, hello. We have acquired a very social animal, one who also already has mastered the fine art of the full body frisk for treats. She isn’t quite caught up yet on the idea of personal space, but otherwise she is easy to lead and handle.
She did get a kick in on me this morning when I got entirely too personal and frisky for a first date and asked to pick her hind hooves clean, but it was more of a swat than a genuine kick. I’ve seen worse temper issues in older horses, and I promise you all, in a month she’ll be offering me her feet on her own in exchange for dried grass pills.
First day down. Tomorrow, saddle fitting and perhaps a walk around the area to get more familiar with sounds and smells.
It’s been a week since Logan died. I miss the little red horse so much — driving into the barn area is particularly hard because there is supposed to be a red head going up, ears up, and a hrhrhrhrhr of hello. But there isn’t, because he’s not in the paddock anymore.
It’s often said that when a door closes, another door opens. About an hour after Logan’s body had been picked up for destruction, little Halo was born to shetland pony Lucy, who had gone at least a week over time. I have gone out to the barn several times this week to sit and watch mother and daughter, because watching new life and happiness is by far preferable to sitting at home and feeling the loss. Besides, there is nothing quite so adorable on this planet as a teeny tiny shetland pony baby.
Life does go on. You know that advice people will always give about buying horses, the “Never buy the first one, take your time to look around” bit? Yeah, I ignored it. Hopefully tomorrow, and definitely this week, I intend to become the proud owner of a six year old Friesian mare by name of Diamond Pilar.
Letting go is the hardest thing a horse owner ever faces. Scheduling the vetenarian and the disposal of the carcass makes you feel like you’re plotting to murder a beloved family member. It’s the hardest decision to make, and make it I must. The inside of Logan’s right front hoof looks like an angry, spiky cactus on the x-rays, due to aggressive arthritis. He’s had a long and sometimes difficult life.
Logan started his working life as a coal mine horse in Poland. From there, he somehow ended up in Fredericia as a riding school pony for somewhere between fifteen and twenty years. And finally, he’s had a year now with us at Caroline Frandsen’s RideCare barn near Fredericia, and we have done our best to spoil him rotten. We speculate that he’s a crossbreed between a Jutland horse and heaven above knows what only, because he has the colour and build of one, though he is not quite tall enough. His age is guesstimated to be between 26 and 30 plus.
Over the last six months his arthritis has gradually worsened. At first he was no longer able to carry a rider in trot and gallop — but I could still ride him on quiet walks. As of two weeks ago, though, that too came to an end. Last night the vetenarian and I made the decision, and he will be put down come Monday. Until then, he’s being kept on pain relief medication.
I am going to miss him terribly, and so are a lot of other people. During the short 14 months he was in Taulov, he’s made himself so very much at home that everybody knew him, and he was everybody’s big cuddlebear. Going to be a a hole in reality the shape of a little red draft horse that’s going to take some effort to fill out.
Here in Denmark we have one day every year that marks the transition from late winter to full-fledged spring. Today is that day: Yesterday the grass peeked timidly up between yesteryear’s dry remains — today, the dandelions exploded out of the ground like so many shining suns, and the first trees are coming into bloom, just like that!
Me, I’ve spent the last two weeks more or less hibernating on the sofa with a broken tooth, but today I got out in the sunshine in the afternoon. I got on Logan bareback and we grazed our way fifty metres down the road and back again. Grass was consumed. A few dandelions died too, but the first shoots of wild carrot were the bestest.
For him, lazy grazing time that does not place much strain on his arthritic hoof. For me, bloody hard work since my lower spine is notoriously out of whack, and keeping my balance on him without a saddle is a lot easier said than done. Perfect for us both, really.
Every so often people refer to this diagram of horses and the way they express pain, typically in connection with too sharp bits or too hard hands on the reins. I have no idea who made it, so as far as I am concerned, you’re free to grab it for your own use.
What is horsemanship? Almost every equestrian will have their own answer to that. Dictionary.com defines it as “the art, ability, skill, or manner of a horseman”, which really doesn’t make one a whole lot wiser. A horseman is somebody who works with horses, and makes it look good — and who makes the horses feel good about what they are doing.
I’m no expert trainer or clinician. I’m just an overweight housewife with an old draft horse and too much time on my hands, time that I spend a fair bit of following online debates about horsemanship and equestrian affairs in general. I don’t follow the high level sports; I’m not really interested in extremes and I don’t think that the high level riders and caretakers emphasize horse well-being nearly enough. In fact, a fair bit of the material that ends up circulated from higher level contests tends to get shipped around animal welfare groups, and that’s not a good thing.
To me, horsemanship is friendship. It is wanting to be where my horse wants to be, and my horse wanting to be where I am. It is expressed at its finest when I arrive at the barn and my horse leaves the little herd to trot over to the fence, ears and tail up, spring in his step, happy to see me. It does not matter all that much what we’re going to do on a particular day. What matters is that we are doing it together as partners, equals, and friends.
I don’t win competitions and I don’t have a wall full of plaques and diplomas. I just have a very good friend who happens to have four feet.
Yesterday was the first proper spring day of the year, the first day where the sun had power enough that you could feel its warmth through your clothing. You could even shed the outer layers of that clothing if you were doing something to keep you warm — such as, say, riding a horse. And that’s what we did.
There is no sensation that compares to sitting on an energetic, happy horse that wants to walk faster, see everything, smell everything, and eat everything. Horses don’t walk on the first spring day — they poing like excited weasels. Even 26-year-old arthritic draft horses like Logan. Poing, poing, poing.
Simple pleasures in life: The clear blue sky overhead, little grey Cassie pawing at the water in excitement, and Logan walking briskly ahead with not the slightest trace of a limp.