After the veterinarian’s truck rumbled down the gravel drive, I stood in the barn’s parking lot, holding the lead rope of my very first horse.
Reality did not match my childhood dreams. Sirocco, a 6-year-old Arabian, fleabitten gray with bloodmarks splashed on his ribs and hip, didn’t look like the horse I wanted when I was 12. To be fair, I was no longer the girl who pined for the Black Stallion, either. I was middle-aged and---unmoored by my mother’s sudden death ---I had just done what all the books tell you not to do while in the throes of grief: made a big, potentially consequential decision.
I’d fallen in love with Sirocco based on an online ad. Under his trainer’s watchful eye, I’d worked with him for a few weeks of lessons and at a weekend clinic. But, I could count on my fingers and toes the number of hours I’d spent on horseback before my mother’s death, so it was clear that I was in for a steep learning curve.
To make matters worse, the long-ago riding lessons I’d taken lessons as a girl were linked to devastating memories. In the aftermath of an acrimonious divorce, my father circumvented the custody agreement by promising to buy me a horse if I came to live with him and my new stepmother. But after I took two bad falls from the sorrel Paint my father bought me, he sold the horse and sent me back to my mother.
In the decades since, these physical and emotional traumas were welded together deep in my subconscious. Over and over, I replayed the moment I tumbled from that sorrel Paint’s broad back into the tall pasture grasses, and daily I carried the shame of being sent away. In my mind, I had already lost one horse to my inadequacy as a rider and a person. I couldn’t afford to fail with Sirocco.
A young, green Arabian and an inexperienced rider with horserelated trauma and perfectionist tendencies was a recipe for serious injury, so I continued working with Sirocco’s trainer. She specialized in natural horsemanship and, having worked through her own traumatic experiences, was able to integrate a healthy dose of therapy into our lessons. For months we worked on the ground and at the walk and trot in the saddle.
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PROGRESS AND STRUGGLE IN SENIOR HORSE CARE
A study from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University confirms what many dedicated horse owners have long known: Caring for a geriatric horse with a chronic health condition can be a significant physical and emotional burden.
THREE WAYS TO PREVENT BLANKET INJURIES
Of all the things your horse could injure himself with, his blanket seems an unlikely candidate. But don’t rule it out. Blanket mishaps do happen and they can be serious. Here are three things you can do to avoid them:
PUT AN END TO BARN DRAMA
While it’s impossible to prevent all discord at the barn, conflict resolution techniques can help solve problems, restore calm and enable everyone to enjoy their horses.
The turning point
You don’t always get the horse you want, but sometimes you get the one you need.
A FOREVER HOME
How a Facebook post led to a midnight rescue and an unexpected partnership
Nice work if you can get it
A career focused on horses is not for the faint of heart but the rewards are many and can last a lifetime.
MAKE WINTER EASIER FOR YOUR OLD HORSE
The season ahead may be hard on aging horses in cold climates but with some planning and preparation you can help yours sail through until spring.
7 THINGS YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN ABOUT TETANUS
With modern vaccines and wound management practices, tetanus is almost a thing of the past. But the threat persists, so it’s wise to remember which horses are most at risk and why.
THE FIRST AMERICAN “SPORT HORSE” BREED
The very name of the American Standardbred reflects the performance requirement established at the inception of the breed. Here’s how genetics, conformation and training came together to create horses that could trot a mile in 2:30 or less, or pace it in 2:00 flat.
THE 6 WAYS HORSES LEARN
You’ll be more successful in teaching your horse new skills or maneuvers if your lessons, timing and tasks are aligned with his natural modes of acquiring information.