Love is stronger than fear

BlazeI don’t know why we always let ourselves be caught with the emotional blackmail – “If you can’t take this horse/dog/cat then it will have to be put down”. But this is exactly how I was caught…
I received a phone call from my very first riding teacher to tell me that one of her other students had this rescue horse she couldn’t do anything with and needed to find a home for her, because if she didn’t…

I went to see her but I think I had made my decision long before I saw the bright chestnut mare with the wide blaze and four white feet in the field. The horse came with a sad history and a list of warnings as long as my arm. I would never be able to ride her, she didn’t like stables, she didn’t trust men, she didn’t like having her feet done, she had to wear a headcollar at all times, otherwise you would never catch her etc, etc…

I remember the story as it appeared in the news a year earlier: A bunch of horses had been found on a farm where they were destined for slaughter. They were left without food or water, with the dead bodies and bits and pieces of their companions lying around gathering flies. I was told how the SPCA had found a dead horse upside down in a bathtub where it had been desperately looking for water and finding none…

Apart from the horrific sites and neglect these horses had to endure, there must also have been some terrible abuse- I have never met a horse so traumatised, before or after….

I could not leave her there. Despite warnings, I had to at least try to save this horse. Even at age 14 I was hard to convince otherwise once I had set my mind on something! On the day of the move, she had to be loaded into a crush first, then from the crush into the horsebox. But it all went without trouble- it was as if she knew this was her last chance.

I will not lie- there were times that I wondered whether ending her life would not have been the more humane thing to do. On the very first night she arrived at my house, she had a disagreement with the two horses who were already there and broke through the fence into the next-door neighbour’s property. She had cut her chest to shreds on the fence, and I cannot actually remember how we managed to get her back. The vet had to be called to put stitches in the cuts- under heavy sedation. Having to clean out pussy wounds every day did not make an already hard-to-catch horse any more compliant.

And so our journey started. I could not catch this horse. If she did allow me anywhere near her, and I dared to reach for the headcollar, she would rear. If I was quick enough to grab onto it, she would whip around at the speed of lightning and kick. I beared many, many hoof-shaped bruises in that first year. I have yet to meet the horse with quicker back-feet than that red-head! Sometimes it was really hard to tell what was true fear and what was temper with that mare! If there was a man in the near vicinity, the white sclera of her eyes would show and she would pin her ears back in disdain, and you could forget getting anywhere near her.

Her feet had been neglected for years and were as flat as saucers, with no heel at all. She was more often lame than sound. I could not tie her up or she would go into a blind panic and when the farrier came to do her feet, he had to be accompanied by the vet with a strong sedative. I cannot remember how many farriers I had to go through, but I knew all the farriers in the Gauteng area at that time- some of them knew the horse and refused point-blank to come out to do her feet.

After I had had her for a year, without expecting much of her, my riding horse died unexpectedly. I looked half-heartedly for a new horse, but no-one could replace what I had lost. I decided that I would see how far I could get with the horse I already had- Blaze.

She learnt to lunge very easily and accepted the bridle and saddle with relative ease, but apart from riding my young colt bareback, I had never started the training of a young horse before, never mind one that had “quirks”. I do not recommend the experience to anyone.

I will never forget the first time I sat on her. It was early one Sunday morning before church. I had started slowly and the time had come for me to do more than lean across the saddle. I was really rather surprised when nothing happened as I slowly dropped my right leg on the other side of the saddle. There was no-one to help me, because my horse did not trust anyone besides me. I was even more surprised when I asked her to walk forward and instead she bolted out from underneath the saddle, leaving me in the dust. I sat in church that morning with blood oozing through my nice blouse and my face full of scratches.

I called in some help and got the lady who had blackmailed me into taking the horse to come and help me. She was amazing and within a very short while I was sitting on my “crazy Blazy”. It was the biggest triumph of my life yet. Not only had I won a personal battle, but I had SHOWN all those skeptics!

I rode her for four years, until I left school. We had some awesome adventures together. We went on to do some, albeit interesting, showing at Pretoria show, some graded jumping and even some equitation. By that time, I could sit on her back and daydream while she was grazing…

At the end of my St9 year, she got the cursed African Horse Sickness. I realised it quickly and we were very lucky. She pulled through, but I could not ride her for 6 months. Then it was my last year of school and I spent more time behind my books than on her back. By the time I got back to riding her, something was not right. It was time to put her into semi-retirement, although we still did plenty of hacking.

Blaze still lives (now fully retired) on my parents’ smallholding. Today, my father can walk up to her and catch her. I can leave her tied up if I need her to stand. The farrier can do her feet without any assistance and she still comes when called. Love is so much stronger than fear.

Blaze being led around by my dog, Milly

Blaze being led around by my dog, Milly

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3 Responses to Love is stronger than fear

  1. Zen Doe says:

    Bless you for taking on this horse, and more so for sticking with it. I have one with a similar story.

  2. Pingback: The measure of success | Me, my life and I

  3. Pingback: We learn nothing from easy horses… | Me, my life and I

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