Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Fond Farewell to Robijn and Cupcake

At some point back in the summer, when I was sweating my guts out doing my daily routine of leading and feeding, riding four horses, and such,  I realized that the amount of work I was doing each day to keep the horses all fed and worked was not in proportion to the amount of enjoyment I was receiving for the effort. Horses had become my albatross instead of my freedom, and that equation was just wrong. It took some doing but finally I got photos and videos together in some ads posted onto a few places in cyber world and started to get hits from folks wanting more info about the ones on the market.

That opened the gate and unleashed the parade of the tire kickers. There were the ones looking at a four or five digit price tag wanting to know if the mare would be good with children, or good on trail rides. There was the one who said he was an agent for a woman in New Zealand who wanted to pay me immediately with his credit card, never asked anything about the horse, and sent me to a shipper to find shipping costs, which were suspiciously very low, and whose English was a bit sketchy. For the past two weeks I have done little but answer emails to folks telling them all more about which particular horse and fielding out the ones who sounded like total and absolute, idiots, and there were many. Finally though, for two to my horses, I managed to find the right buyers, or they found, me.

Robijn was the first to sell. I had bought Robijn as a yearling from a breeder in California eleven years ago, sight unseen because I knew the bloodlines well and I knew the breeder and trusted her to send me a nice horse. She did. Robijn was awarded her First Premium when I presented her to the breed jury, and went on to produce four super foals during the time on my farm. I backed her as a three year old and rode her intermittently between her being a baby hotel or mommy. She was a gentle giant at 17h, a bright red bay with a wide blaze, a generous supply of chrome on the legs, and enormous dark brown eyes. In recent times though, she had begun having trouble holding onto a pregnancy, and this coincided with my becoming a bit unenchanted with the whole breeding business, and so I made the decision to sell her. This was not going to be easy as what I had was a very big sweet and pretty mare, with big super fancy gaits, but who was middle aged, very green broke, and who was questionably breeding sound. Finally the right buyer popped into the scene and suddenly the shipper appeared and off Robijn went to Illinois.

To make a decision to sell a horse is a deliberate one, not unlike the breakup of any relationship, and the follow thru of actions until the mission is accomplished is often complicated by conflicting emotions. This mare had been part of my life and daily routine for eleven years and in that time we have shared many things. I have helped each of her foals into this life, and guided them to her waiting udder, and watched her lick their wet skins as they swayed on their new legs. I have stood in the dark and cried with her after she lost one of her best foals, a bay colt that had more athletic talent than all combined and who just died for unknown reasons one day. The mare and I stood that night, with her eyes locked onto me, questioning me, seeking answers I could not give her. I was the first to sit on her back and then teach her the next steps to being a riding horse. She knew me, and I, her.

There is a blank spot in the herd just now and I miss her sweet face that always welcomed me to the barn. With her sale however, there is a release from just a bit of my responsibility to maintaining this herd. I mentioned a bit of my sadness in a text message to the very excited buyer when the mare was in transit to this lady, and she replied a very saving thing, “She is not gone. She is just not there.” My relationship with Robijn is over and she will begin one with someone else, but in this process I have gained an ounce more freedom and that, I keep reminding myself of, is my goal.

Cupcake, Robijn’s last foal here, a young mare, also a red bay is to be picked up by her new owner on Saturday. Last Friday, Mark and I loaded the mare into the trailer for her first trailer ride ever, to go across town to a veterinarian who was to do a prepurchase exam on her for the potential buyer. The whole idea was terrifying to me. The unknowns of taking a young horse on their first ride for something like this are huge, and the risk of a panic attack on her part were looming in my brain. Off we drove with the sounds of her scrambling hooves blam, blam, blaming the walls of the trailer. Finally she found her sea legs and there was silence for the rest of the ride across town.

Once there, we readied to take her out of the trailer and opened the ramp for her to back down. A misplaced foot that was wet from dropping on the floor, slipped down the ramp and she suddenly found herself with all four legs stretched in very awkward directions. No panic, she managed to regroup and got out unscathed, and we walked over to the clinic to begin the exam. The mare was an angel, standing still when needed for x-rays, and happily trotting along when the flexion tests were done. Her x-rays showed a flawless set of legs, and so she passed with flying colors, impressing the examining vet with both her quality and her character. I was impressed as well. After a bit of apprehension about reloading into the trailer, she stepped back on board and home again we drove.

One really doesn’t know what you have with a young horse until they are tested with sensory overload, and on this day she was tested in many ways, above and beyond, and justified her value. She will soon have a good home with the enthusiastic young lady who came to see her after New Years day. I will miss Cupcake, too, like Robijn, but perhaps not as much as her half sister Cistine, who has been pastured with her since they were both born. Theirs is a tight bond that only siblings know and that will be a sad one to break. Life changes for all, and with these two fillies coming of riding age it is now time for their lazy days to give way to the beginning of their work as the dressage horses they were bred to become.

Cistine will remain on the farm for now, as quite possibly be the last young horse I will start down the path of learning to carry a rider and all the other many things she will have to learn as she grows up. It is by reducing the size of my herd that I will have time to devote to her, and it will give me time to focus more on the two older mares further along. It will more importantly though, give me time, just plain time, for whatever I might want to do that doesn't involve a horse. That is my goal, and to that end I say a fond farewell to the ones I will sell or sold, and look forward to enjoying the lighter load in the barn world and beyond.

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