Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Are you superstitious? I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly superstitious person. I don’t have a meltdown if I come face to face with a black cat, or a crow, or if I have to do something important on the 13th day of the month. I’d classify myself as “superstitiously aware”. For instance, I wouldn’t purposely tempt fate by walking under a ladder if it wasn’t absolutely necessary, and maybe I’d experience a nanosecond of doubt and hesitation should I rope myself into doing something major on a Friday the 13th. But I never throw salt over my shoulder, and can't recall spitting on my chest three times. Nor do I hang garlic to ward off vampires, not because I’m particularly impressed by Robert Pattinson (although I do think that Damien in “The Vampire Diaries” is rather yummy!), but simply because I’d rather cook with it.
How about the old adage of bad things happening in series? Do you believe in that? As far as I know, there’s no scientific evidence of crap thwarting people in multiples of three, but when I look around or think back to my own experiences, it sure seems to be the case. For instance, for the past few weeks I’ve definitely been experiencing a bout of turbulence. During the first week of November, in the space of four days, I moved Qrac, my Lusitano stallion, to two new stables, each diametrically opposed to my house (for all the woeful details about the first stable moved him to, see my last blog, “The Giant Pickle”). I’m happy to report that,after almost three weeks in his brand new stable, Qrac is doing better than ever and that I’m loving the fabulous indoor arena, loving having my trainer, Marie-Valentine, come twice a week, loving interacting with people in a friendly atmosphere, loving the compliments constantly being sprinkled on my horse! I’m not particularly enamored with the 45 minute trek out there, but the facilities make it worth it. Besides, Michael Buble’s new album has been injecting the journey with plenty of Christmas cheer.
However, last Friday, after the “law of series” blasted me with two major bummers in the space of two hours, even Michael Buble couldn’t cheer me up. Bummer number one (which really counts as bummer number two in the proverbial sequence of three, seeing as the original bummer was finding myself in a damp and dismal riding stables) hit around 11.45, when I handed my orthopedic surgeon three freshly developed x-rays of my right ankle. He wrinkled his nose. I knew it wasn’t good.
My right ankle has been bothering me for about two years now. The pain probably stems from a double fracture I sustained just over a decade ago, following which my surgeon had to insert titanium rods into my lower leg, with pins placed just below my knee, as well as into the inside of my ankle. The rods and pins were removed about twelve months later and all was well until I fell down the stairs carrying the laundry basket three years ago and tore the ligaments in the same ankle. I rested my foot, did physiotherapy, but from then on my ankle never has felt completely right. In the past year, it’s gradually got worse, to the point where I’m not comfortable walking anywhere in anything other than good trainers, or sturdy hiking boots. Heels? Forget it! And as much as I love my Ugg boots, I don’t feel like they offer enough support. I’ve been meaning to go and have an x-ray since the spring, but there have always been far more important or pleasant things to do, and the pain has been more or less bearable. On bad days I found different ways of putting my foot down when I walked, and I carried on with my life, hoping to wake up one day all shiny and new. Well, it didn’t happen. Lately, night after night, I’ve been stinking out the bedroom, slathering my ankle in anti-inflammatory gel, until last week I finally caved and made an appointment for an x-ray at the hospital. I thought the x-rays would reveal a little arthritis which could be resolved by some cortisone infiltrations.
Turns out I have a massive cyst on the outside of my ankle which needs to be surgically removed. Not only does it need to be removed, the ankle needs refurbishing with good bone, which my surgeon will probably take from my hip. Furthermore, to ensure the pain I’m experiencing isn’t also linked to ligament issues, my surgeon has scheduled an MRI this Friday morning. I’ve a sneaky feeling my ligaments might be a bit dodgy, in which case the operation will be more complicated. Either way, according to my surgeon, I’ll be out of equestrian action for between four and six weeks, potentially more, which totally sucks.
But this wasn’t the worst news I received last Friday. After I left the hospital, I headed up to my old stables, where my now-retired and mega-beloved Kwintus lives in peace and happiness with his also retired best-friend-forever, Coconut. Coconut belongs to S., who owns the stables and who promised me when I first moved Kwintus to her place almost two years ago that, once retired, my horse would be able to spend the rest of his life there. I retired Kwint last autumn, when the arthritis in his 5th and 6th vertebra really started bothering him. He’s spent most of the year out in his field, super-glued to Coconut. Separate them for a couple of minutes for one reason or another and they holler their heads off. They’re in love.
Last Friday, at approximately 12.30, S. calmly finished eating a banana, looked at me across her kitchen table and told me I had to find another home for Kwintus.
My stomach filled with ice water. I couldn’t believe my ears. Why? For what reason? It’s not as though she has no space for him; most of her stables are empty, Kwintus is the only horse on the premises who doesn’t belong to her. Recently she’d been complaining about everyone having left because she hadn’t been able to get her indoor arena built before the winter, and, consequently, of no longer having any income. I still paid her pretty good money every month for Kwint’s retirement. Sure, it wasn’t as much as I used to pay her for Qrac, but considering Kwint spent from mid-May to the end of October living in the field, his upkeep hasn’t exactly been labor intensive.
With tears in my eyes, I asked her why she was kicking him out. Her answer? “It doesn’t fit the concept”.
Frankly, I could pick holes the size of the Grand Canyon in her aforementioned “concept” but have too much integrity to do so on a public blog.
I offered her more money. With tears in my eyes, I begged her not to separate Kwint and Coconut. I asked her to imagine what it would to them. “They’re only horses,” she replied. “They’ll get over it.” Yes, I suppose they will, but it seems so pointless, so unnecessary. But it’s her place, and it’s her decision, and there’s nothing I can do to change her mind, so I went home and immediately started making phone calls to try to find other possibilities for Kwintus.
Later this morning I’ll be driving to a village outside the town of Cluny, in Burgundy, to look at a place that comes highly recommended by Maya, an old friend of mine who owns a tack shop close to where I live. Maya recently retired her daughter’s horse there, has known the lady who runs the place for many years, and tells me wonderful things about it. Burgundy is much further away than I’d like, but it’s difficult to find nice places to retire horses in my area. I live in a beautiful part of the world, in the countryside just outside Geneva, Switzerland, but we’re stuck in a narrow stretch between the lake and the mountains and, consequently, land is exorbitant, which makes keeping horses exorbitant, too. There is one very nice place near me that caters to retired horses, but not only is it full, it’s also crazy expensive, costing almost as much per month as I pay for Qrac. Most local places seem to be small, sad, depressing dumps, and after everything Kwintus has given, whether it’s to me, to my daughter Olivia, or to his previous owners, he deserves so much better.
If I like the place in Burgundy, I’ll be hitching up my trailer and hauling him there this weekend. Just writing about separating him from Coconut makes my eyes tear up, so I dread to think of how I’ll be feeling as we drive away on Saturday or Sunday morning. I keep telling myself that he’ll soon make friends with other horses, and live a wonderful life in acres and acres of rolling fields in another
beautiful part of the world. If he goes there, Kwint will be just over two hours away, a distance that rules out weekly visits, but seeing as the facilities also offer guest accommodation (it’s a registered “chambre d’hôtes”, a small rural hotel), it would be nice to visit him once in a while at weekends, particularly in the warmer months. Of course, I really wish I didn’t have to uproot to my wonderful old horse, but crap happens, people disappoint, and what choice do we have other than to make the best out of bad situations?
I’m really hoping this place in Burgundy will be perfect for Kwintus, that I’ll get a good feeling from the lady who runs it, and that I’ll be able to trust her to take good care of Kwintus during his golden years. His welfare is the only “concept” that matters to me, to the point where I’m actually more upset about separating him from Coconut than I am about needing surgery on my messed-up ankle. Hopefully, finding Kwintus a nice new home will end this current cycle of gloom, and I’ll be able to start New Year with a lighter heart.
What about you? Have you had any runs of bad luck recently? And, more importantly, what is your experience with uprooting retired horses?