Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Life is a Rollercoaster
I quite like Ronan Keating. He’s the lead singer of that recently reformed Irish boy band, “Boyzone”, as well as a solo artist. I’ve seen him live twice; once about a decade ago in Zurich, performing with Boyzone (a somewhat disappointing concert; Ronan was clearly in a foul mood that night), and then again about four years ago when he gave a private solo concert at a chi-chi event my husband and I were invited to (smiles, twinkly eyes, and Irish charm all around!). Do you know Ronan Keating? He’s the guy who sang “When you Say Nothing at all”, the theme song for the romantic comedy “Notting Hill”, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. He has a nice voice, and he’s kind of cute.
At this point, I guess you’re wondering why the heck I’m rattling on about Ronan Keating on Equestrian Ink. Well, simply because I’ve had one of his hit songs, “Life is a Rollercoaster”, stuck in my head for the past week. It’s been pursuing me ever since I hit this wall of sad truth: Kwintus’ dressage career is over. Actually, it’s worse than that. Kwintus won’t be being ridden again.
Yes, life really is a rollercoaster,as maybe you’ll remember that the last time I blogged here, two weeks ago, my equestrian horizon was all blue skies, sunshine, and a happy, healthy, fully recovered horsey. That first ride in over two months was a dream (which is why I so related to Jami’s post on Sunday, although I read it with tears in my eyes, having already made my decision): Kwintus felt so…enthusiastic and youthful and bouncy. But the days that followed brought me back to earth with a bump. No, I didn’t fall off, but the way he started to stumble again brought back memories of close calls with hard surfaces. Falling off a horse is never fun, but having a horse fall away from underneath you is a truly horrible sensation. Also, a few days into his return to work, he started throwing his head in the air and yanking the reins out of my hands, something he’d only ever done when suffering from a pain in his upper neck. He also felt stiff and tired, and…well, just blah. But what really freaked me out was that tackling the slightest incline was clearly unpleasant for him. The way he shuffled down the not-so-steep hill leading from the stable block to the private road, making teeny-tiny steps, catching the tips of his front feet on every other surface irregularity was hard to watch. So, last Friday, with lead in my heart, I took him for a short hack to the next village, feeling terribly unsafe on his back as we inched down the gently sloped trail beneath the trees. He must have stumbled four or five times. Twenty minutes later, I dismounted. For good.
I could call in the top osteopath in the country. I could cart Kwintus right back across Switzerland, have him x-rayed from head to toe, and then infiltrate every creaky nook and cranny. I could. But it would be wrong. He’s going to be nineteen next year. He’s worked hard all his life, giving all his owners (I reckon he’s had about 5) his very best. He gave me back my confidence when I lost it to a rearing, twirling youngster. He taught my daughter and me flying changes, pirouettes, half-pass, piaffe and passage. He won first place for my daughter during their first competition outing together. He’s been an amazing horse. He’s had an amazing career.
But it’s time to lay off and let him take it easy.
And so Kwintus is officially an OAP (old-aged pensioner) as of last weekend. He will spend the rest of his life strolling around the huge pastures surrounding Stephanie’s stables, initially alone as he’s still wearing shoes (I shod him ten days ago, so his feet need to grow a little before we can take his shoes off), and later in the company of Stephanie’s old, retired eventer.
I’ve shed numerous tears this week, and hauled back buckets loads of other. I’ve never enjoyed riding any horse as much as I’ve enjoyed riding Kwintus. Heck, I’ve never loved a horse as much as I love Kwintus! So I’m therefore extremely grateful to Steph for letting him stay on at her place, as the last thing I want to do is send him off to a retirement home for horses hundreds of kilometers away, which would mean no longer being able to see him regularly.
So there it is. In the space of one week I went from ultra high to mega low. Now? I’m coping. Okay, so I’m a little blah. But I’m also at peace with my decision. There’s comfort in knowing that I did everything I could for my horse’s wellbeing, that I can get off this particular rollercoaster, that I’ll no longer keep second guessing myself over whether or not Kwintus had really reached the point where he was dangerous to ride.
My equestrian future? Meh, it’s sort of vague. I’ll give myself some time, get through the winter. Come spring, I’ll hopefully be able to start searching for another horse, hopping on a whole new rollercoaster.
Right now, I’m just hanging with Ronan Keating. Go on, sing it to me, Ro! Life is a rollercoaster, just gotta ride it…