Thursday, July 14, 2011

A horsey Story

Ever since playing "Cowboys and Indians" as a young boy, I have imagined living on a piece of land and owning my own horse. I would ride the valleys, cross the rivers and climb to the top of plateau's and marvel at the views, on the back of my trusty horse.
As the years went by, I went from being a "rep" of various products, poaching perlamone in the good old days (when there was so much of it, that you didn't think there was anything wrong with it), from plumbing, being a griller, waitering, doing odd bits of this and that, landscaping and garden  maintenance, having a roadside nursery, running the first door-to-door food delivery business in Plettenberg Bay, to getting married to my beautiful wife and having three precious daughters... I would tend to forget about my dream.

But every know and then, I would see a horse or watch a "horsey" movie and that urge would get rekindled and awakened all over again and I knew it was something I just had to have. I must mention here that the three horse riding experiences that I had in the interim, never went that well but this never put me off!
So along with one of my daughters being absolutely horse mad and having a dream of living on a farm with her own horse, I now had the allie I needed to make my own dream come true! Also, as I mentioned before in a previous blog, that along with my dream of moving to a farm, I was also ensuring that my kids got to experience something other than than crowded shopping malls, movie houses, Steers for entertainment. I wanted them to experience the open space of  nature and how they could exist in it every day and not just on an outing or on holiday. Maybe one day when they become adults living in the city and life is perhaps not quite what they want, then they will at least have an alternative existance to fall back on.

Lush and myself in the middle

After looking for a farm all over the Western and Eastern Cape, we were constantly drawn back to the Langkloof  in the Eastern Cape, where we eventually found our little farm. My daughter Alex accompanied me of these "farm hunting" missions to the Langkloof and being crazy about horses the way she was, she would make me stop if we saw horses in a field and we would just stare at them over the farm fence and if they were close enough, we would go up to stroke them and tell them how beautiful they were! This particular time, however, was the first time she made me stop to take a photo of a horse standing in a field. Little did I know then, that a year later she would become my very own horse!
Beani's first morning on the farm

It was a year later that we were finally settled on our farm, now owning  three horses that belonged to my daughters, that I replied to an advert stuck on the local farmers co-op message board, of a horse for sale. After phoning the owner and getting the directions, Alex and I set off to go and test ride the horse to see if it was a suitable choice for me to learn to ride on. She was beautiful and her name was Lush but after Alex had tacked her up and was walking her down the field, she suddenly went into a trot and then a canter and suddenly Alex was airborn, she went flying through the air and landed on her knees!! My heart came to a leaping halt, but she promptly stood up and climbed right back onto Lush, trotted back down the field toward us and happily announced that she was the perfect horse for me! The owner had also told us that his daughter had given up riding Lush, as she had been bucked off and was now to scared to ride. He said that she always seem to do it when going from a trot into a canter. Anyway, taking my daughters word for it, we took ownership of Lush. When we left, we both came to the realisation that this was the same horse we had taken a photo of a year earlier.
So, Lush became the horse I learnt to ride on.... in total, she bucked me off twice and the other times I fell off her was through my own stupidity and inexperience, but at the end of the day, Lush was the horse that I climbed mountains and crossed rivers with.
How I cured her of the bucking was easy, whether this was the correct way or not, I dont know but it seemed to work. I would go riding with my daughters and instead of me putting her into a canter, I would let her follow the "lead horse" into a canter and soon she trusted  me to put her into a canter without the bucking.
Suddenly, after three very happy years together, she had an accident and I had to make the terrible decision to put her down. It was possibly the worst day, of my adult life so far and there will always be an empty space in my heart left by her, that will never be filled. Her fellow equine friends on the farm, "Gwho-Gwho", "Jack" and her daughter, "Lulu Long Legs" ( now nicknamed "Beanie"), spent the rest of the day after Lush's departure, just standing up on the hill staring down at the farmhouse and it was obvious that they knew Lush was gone. Although a beautiful sunny day, there was an oppressive silence for the rest of the day, as there was someone missing that had meant so much and will never, ever be forgotten by me or her equine family.

Mommy and foal
She did, however, leave us a beautiful gift... When we got Lush, we did not know she was pregnant but just thought she was lovely and fat but 'lo and behold, one lovely spring morning, there was Lush standing in her field with a lovely little Palamino foal. We named her "Lulu Long Legs" and somehow, as it happens with all people and pets that you love, they invariably get a nick name. Hers became "Beanie". So that day, in celebration of her birth, we decided to watch a "horsey" movie and the only one available at the video store was "Flicka" which we all thoroughly enjoyed, even though we had seen it before.
Pablo and bullet

The following day, we thought we would go and tell Lush's previous owner the wonderful news and see if we could find out who "Beanie's" father was. We then made the amazing discovery that a 35 year old stallion  had been kept in a field with Lush for a while and his name was "Flicka".
It has been almost a year since I lost Lush and I have started to feel that I am ready for another horse and that I really need one soon, so every few days, I would mention it to my family, saying that I would really like to get another horse before I turn 50, hoping they would just somehow produce one!!. A couple of evenings ago, we got a call from one of Alex's friends in Plettenberg Bay, asking us if we would like to take on a 20 year old Percheron horse that had been used for logging in the Knysna Forest. He had been rescued by animal welfare three years ago, as he had been abused.


Everybody was so excited and I could not believe how my silent prayers had been answered. Later that night while discussing the matter with my wife, a bit of apprehension set in, as we realized we would be taking on another animal to add to our already large menagerie of animals to feed and look after, especially since we are wanting to sell our farm and find a bigger farm. Then later that night, unbeknown to me, my wife, before getting into bed to read, said a little prayer, asking if this was in fact the right thing to do. Afterwards, she settled down to read her book, "The Horse Whisperer" by Nicholas Evans. She started reading where she last left off on pg.134 and on pg.135, the following sentence came up,

"His mother used like telling how, at two years old, they found him in the barn, curled up in the straw asleep, between the massive hooves of a Percheron stallion. It was as though the horse was guarding him." 

If you have read the book, you will know it has nothing to do with a Percheron and this is the only time it is mentioned in the book. So the decision was made and he arrived 3 days later, all nervous and shaken from his 2 hour trip in a horse box.

Pablo and me going for a ride
Pablo has been with us  for three weeks now and he is the most gentlest and sweetest horse you can imagine.

A kind eye

I really love him and he has stolen my heart in a very short space of time, I enjoy riding him but will take it easy because he is here to retire and forget about the abuse the past humans have put him through.

Riding off into the distance


Dani said...

A beautiful story with a beginning, a middle and, now, an unfolding chapter...

Lush was your preface, Beanie is your affirmation and Pablo is your confirmation.

Pablo must have been very happy to find a peaceful home with you - one which I'm sure he now knows is his destined path on this planet.

You just so belong to each other :)

Thank you - reading this story has brought peace to my heart this evening.

African Bliss said...

And reading your comment has brought a few tears to my eyes... thank you Dani for your thoughtful comment

Anonymous said...

I wish you and Pablo many years of happiness together. Looks like a pairing that was just meant to be.

Jessica said...

What a great story. Being a horse lover and owning my own as well, I can so relate to you. I am happy I came across your blog. I think it is great and can't wait to read more.
Have a great day

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