When you have horses you have dreams for them. Those dreams can be a sort of mental wish list of what you want to do or achieve with your horse in a year from now or five years from now. My ultimate dream with Cassie is to one day ride to Santiago de Compostela. I don’t have a time schedule or any concrete plans, but that is my dream. And Cassie is only 6, so we have years and years. Dreams don’t have to be big, they can be very modest. Or they can be just a single image. When I think of Minnie, I see the two of us galloping with wild abandon, mane and hair flying, revelling in the glorious speed and the sheer freedom of it. The gallop is where Minnie and I belong together, a place where we are joined.
On the other side of the dreams lies the cold reality of disasters and disappointments, which is also part of having horses.
The first hints of spring always set Minnie’s blood on fire. She wants to run and that it what she does. Horses make no excuses or allowances. They give it all, 100%. The past two weeks Minnie and Cassie have been galloping around, racing each other and ploughing up our land. Then the other day I called them for their evening feed, and while Cassie came trotting, Minnie was slowly shuffling her way towards me, head nodding deeply with every step. My heart sank.
I checked her legs and although there is no heat or swelling, she is undeniably lame. My guess is that she ripped scar tissue in either her tendon or suspensory ligament. It is very disappointing.
It is of course possible to keep a horse sound by keeping them stabled and controlling their every move, but I can’t do it. For horses, life is movement. They eat on the move, they communicate with their moving bodies and they need to be able to move to feel safe. I don’t want to take that away, but I have also always wondered how sound a horse actually is if they can’t be allowed to move at will for fear that their legs aren’t up to it. And if the horse’s legs can’t cope with the strain of natural movement, surely that horse isn’t sound enough to be ridden?
I have to face up to the fact that Minnie’s riding days are over. We won’t be galloping together again and it makes me feel sad that I won’t experience that sense of oneness with her anymore. But as I was sitting in the yard, watching her munch hay, I remembered a dream I had about her a couple of months ago. In the dream, I was walking through sand dunes to a beach. It was a grey and windy day. I heard soft foot steps behind me and as I turned to look around, I saw it was Minnie. She caught up and then walked beside me..