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?


Alison said...

Hi Cesca! Happy Thanksgiving! (Do you celebrate something like Thanksgiving in Switzerland?)

As I was reading your post, I could tell that the ankle issue annoys you and not riding for several months will drive you crazy, but that moving Kwint, like you said, because of the whims of your 'friend' is the real heart breaker. I have no experience to share to make you feel better and won't spout 'it will be all right' platitudes. I do hope with all my heart that you find the right place for Kwintus and that he will make new friends--and that your ankle will be stronger after surgery etc.(I can say that after my 92 year-old mom had her hip replaced, she was SO grateful to get rid of the nagging pain.) Keep us informed.
PS Your photos were a joy!

Martha Seaman McKee said...

Such a heartless attitude on the part of your "friend" makes me a little glad that you are moving him anyway. If he were suffering from something else, would she care enough to help him? Hope that his new home is all you pray it will be. And that your surgery goes well.

Mikey said...

I think it stinks. "They're just horses" well that says it all. I'm angry for you, and the prospect of separating two retired horses like that. Ugh. No good. I'm sorry for what you're going through, ankle and all.
Hope things get better. I am very superstitious. I broke a mirror 7 yrs ago, and Wade SWEARS it's the cause of all my bad luck. But it should be over now.... we think.
Hope it gets better girl. Thinking of you!

Laura Crum said...

Cesca--I am moving my 31 year old horse, Gunner, home from the pasture to my house today, since we euthanised his longtime companion, ET, on Tuesday. On the bright side, Gunner seems to be taking the loss of ET in stride, but I am unwilling to leave him out in his field all alone in winter storms. It just seems too sad. Like you, I am crossing my fingers and hoping with all my heart that Gunner takes this transition well. So we're in the same boat there. I guess the other bright spot for me is that I am looking forward to having Gunner at home with me, though it creates some logistical problems. My place is very good for four horses--five can fit, but only by using my smaller pen, which I usually on use for sick/lame/rehab horses. Anyway, I am hoping it works.

I will be thinking of you and wishing you and Kwint (and your ankle) all the best. Maybe eventually, when you are having a lovely pain-free weekend at the place where Kwint is happily living (and not having to deal with S any more), it will all seem like it was worth the grief. That's what I'm hoping.

Once Upon an Equine said...

I'm very sorry about your ankle. I hope your surgery and recovery go very well. And I'm very sorry that Kwintus is being evicted. That is unfair and unkind of the barn owner (sounds like she's got other problems and is taking it out on Kwint). You have indeed had some bad luck. I don't have experience with retired horses and I'm not superstitious, but you know what they say also?..."Good things come in threes" or "3rds a charm". Qrac's 3rd move was a good one. Maybe following your bad ankle news and Kwint's eviction news, the new retirement options will be "a charm". Good look. I'm happy that Qrac's new stable is working out well.

TBDancer said...

Having your ankle repaired will make things MUCH better (loved Alison's Mom's comment. We put up with a lot and then realize it's time to quit being stoic. I had rotator cuff issues, both shoulders (first one, then the other, then repeat) for YEARS and finally got a referral to an orthopedic surgeon after a re-injury. MRI, return visit, doc gave me several options. I looked at him and said, "I just don't want to HURT anymore," and he scheduled surgery. That was two years ago this month, and while the rehab was six months--because soft tissues take longer to heal than bones--I am pain free on my right shoulder and managing nicely on the left.

As for bad things happening in threes: I am saving for a suitable dressage saddle. The "custom in price only" piece of trash is too small for me and pitches me forward. Always has. I just get enough saved in my fund -- and I have a vehicle problem that needs fixing. First it was my horse trailer (axle straightening, new tires, wheel packed, bearings, breakaway brake battery replacement, universal plug and receptacle. $1400). Then my SUV needed work (fuel pump, new battery, front brakes and several other things, $1800). While the SUV was in the shop, my truck started "buzzing." It needed something done--seems to me it was fuel pump-related. Another $700. Needless to say, I don't CALL my savings account the New Saddle Fund anymore. Don't want to jinx it. The truck needed double batteries (diesel) not long ago. About $400--including towing, charging, and system check ;o)

Your retired horse situation: It's tough to separate buddies, but I bet Kwintus will like his new place. Hope you like the lady, the layout of the facility is PERFECT, and your "friend" and her "concept" are sorry they let you go.

I believe all things happen for a reason. We don't always KNOW the reason right away, but eventually we "get it." My depleted saddle fund kept me from using a saddle fitter I wasn't all that crazy about--turns out my instructor, who owns a facility where this gal fits saddles all the time, doesn't like her either. HER fitter is coming some time next month and I'm on the board for an appointment. Kwintus will be even happier at his new place, and you'll be glad you moved him.

(PS: As for superstitions, I DO throw salt over my shoulder. Can't tell you why, just always have ;o)

Francesca Prescott said...

Alison: Happy Thanksgiving! No, we don't celebrate it here, but I have many American friends here who do. I've never been to a Thanksgiving dinner but from what I understand it's "bigger" than Christmas in America. Is that true?

Thanks for your sweet words. Yes, it's defintitely been the moving Kwint issue that's upset me the most. But I visited the place in Burgundy today with my mama, we drove out there and it took us a bit longer than expected because my GPS (sat nav?) was on drugs and took me way off course through thick fog! But when we finally got there, it turned out to be totally idyllic despite the fog, so I can only imagine how gorgeous it must be on a sunny day. It's like a movie set and the horses looked so content and healthy, and the ladies who run it were really friendly and very helpful and answered all my questions (and I had lots!) and offered us a lovely lunch. There are dogs and donkeys and geese and ducks and cats and 24 horses. I'm taking Kwintus there on Sunday, and will stay overnight in one of their guest rooms, then drive back Monday as it's quite far for one day with the van.

Happy to hear your mother is thrilled with her new hip. My father who is 70 has had one hip replacement and two new knees! He's a bit fed up with surgery but seems to be doing better in the past few weeks (his last knee surgery was about six weeks ago).


Francesca Prescott said...

Martha: you know, I'm relieved to be moving away. I've had some great times there, and moved there at exactly the right time for many reasons, but am moving out at the right time for just as many reasons. I think Kwint will enjoy his new place and will keep fit by walking up all those lovely rolling hills with his friends. Thanks for reading :)

Francesca Prescott said...

Mikey: ooh, I hadn't thought about mirrors!!! You're right, I'm always scared of breaking mirrors and have an old (and I mean REALLY OLD) hand mirror with a magnifying side (always makes you feel so good in the morning...sheesh!!) that I use to put my makeup on since I'm getting so longsighted it's not even funny. Anyway I'm paranoid about breaking it!!!

Things are already getting better as I'm moving my lovely old gentleman to a beautiful new place on Sunday. And my MRI is set for tomorrow, and it will be good to get the verdict next week and finally get rid of this pain.

Lots of love to you :)

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura: when I read your post yesterday I could so relate to everything, especially knowing what I was going to do today. I know it's not the same as what you went through having to put down those two horses, but we are so emotional, and I get so worked up, so stressed out over things like this. My chest literally aches! It's crazy! Like you, I'm relieved this evening, knowing I've found Kwint a nice place where, hopefully, he really should be able to live at for the rest of his life. Big hugs.

Francesca Prescott said...

Once Upon an Equine: you're right, good things come in threes too! It's all about looking at whether the glass is half empty or half full. I tend to be a half full person, but there are those half empty days that get me down! I bounced back tonight though. I'm tired, as it's been a long day, but I'll sleep better this evening. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

Francesca Prescott said...

TB dancer: I messed up my left shoulder years ago, shattered it like a windshield, beyond operable, and it took months sitting around, strapped up, not being able to do much to fix it enough to the point where I could do physio, then Pilates. It's good now, and I'm lucky as I know how tricky shoulder injuries are. Good for you to have managed to fix yours. Yes, we're stoic and tend to just solider on as much as we can if we possibly can, but maybe we should take better care of ourselves and be less stoic so our injuries wouldn't get worse, needing more care and taking longer to fix! It's a fine line, isn't it!

Gosh, sorry to hear about your vehicle trouble! That sucks! I've just had to buy new snow tyres for my car: 1300 swiss francs, which is probably about 1400 or 1500 dollars!!! And I need to buy some for my daughter's car, too :(.

I had a saddle made for Qrac a few months ago as both saddles I owned just didn't fit him properly. I LOVE my new saddle, it really fits him well, I can sit better in it, and he has no back issues at all anymore. Yep, it cost arms and legs and shoulders and hips, but it's worth it! I hope you find a new one to suit you soon.

I agree with you that things happen for a reason. Most of the time, anyway! I also believe that some things that happen are really random!!!!

Lots of love to you :)

Laura Crum said...

Francesca--Gunner is home and really seems happy and engaged to be meeting "new" friends (he actually lived with them many years ago). So, so far, transitioning him from his long time pasture situation and companion has gone remarkably smoothly. He hasn't shown any distress--more like excitement. I am hoping its the same for Kwint.

Francesca Prescott said...

Laura, that is such lovely news. I'm hopeful Kwintus will have the same reaction as Gunner. I think he will, he's always been a very sociable horse. Thank you for telling me this, I'll sleep even better now! xxx