They say that old age is not for the faint of heart and neither is this post. Don’t expect a warm Disney story about my horse aging. Spirit is 23 years old this fall -retired for 7 years. He has hated every day of it.
Spirit was a frightened weanling when I met him- he had never been haltered and he wouldn’t come near me. Naturally I bought him. We got off to a rocky start, but neither of us would quit. We purchased trust by schooling six days a week for years, and eventually we managed to add up to much more than the sum of our parts. Our resume included everything from reining to jumping, and finally dressage.
My gelding was forced to retire at 17- by an injury that required an end to riding of any kind. He got mad! Once again he wouldn’t allow me to touch him. Spirit would stand at the gate facing the riding arena and slam his injured front leg again and again, pawing painfully at the ground. Every time I rode another horse he reminded me that I betrayed him. Never mind that his tendons were blown and arthritis had crippled him- he didn’t quit. It was me that quit him, and I was not forgiven.
Eventually the pawing has given way to watching me with a sad stare when I ride others. His back is swayed, he drags his toes. I spend part of each day thanking him for the life we share, but he still holds a grudge. He misses the dignity of work.
Now I am an old gray mare, I get kind invitations from AARP. When I hear advice about planning for retirement- I think of Spirit. Like him, I am not confident that the best days are ahead. Like him, I am rich with memories of deep partnership and dreams lived into reality. He reminds me every day that passion is a gift, but it cuts both ways. I don’t quit. Like him, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I did.
“Do not go gentle into that good night,” writes Dylan Thomas for his aged father. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Poetic words, but so painful to watch in my Grandfather horse…
Anna Blake, www.AnnaBlakeTraining.com