I entered a short story writing contest with the Canadian Horse defense coalition a while back. And just received notification and a prize saying I had won fourth place!
Not bad at all.
So here is the story I shared.
An Unpolished Jewel
I am opening this story, rather this honorable mention, with a poem.
I am doing so for a couple of reasons. First, it is my preferred style of writing, I find that the lyrical quality of poetry shares my feelings and thoughts more easily. And second, the topic of this particular poem speaks to the story in some way. Horses teach us in so many ways if we are open to learning. We often approach training a horse like we are the wiser, stronger, and more capable in the partnership. In my humble opinion it is that attitude that is often the catalyst for abuses of animals. When we can recognize and celebrate the mutual benefits that are availed us by animals, then we can properly learn and begin to teach.
When training a horse
Here is a secret I have learned
More often than not
The tables are turned
While we go along
Thinking we are teaching
The horse goes along with
what we are preaching
but look a bit deeper
and you see a surprise
The very best teacher
Resides in their eyes
We ask them to give, to lead on a line
They teach us of patience,
respect and of time
We get on their backs,
as really we must
They show us the ultimate form of trust
We teach about pressure, contact and release
They show us their honesty,
and willingness to please
We push them and try them
and ask them to give
they give us all that and
They teach us to live
This is the story of C7 Sparks Jewel. A lovely and troubled Appaloosa mare I was blessed to know and own.
I bought Jewel as a 5 yr. old. A friend had called me about a registered Appaloosa mare that she (or someone) had "rescued" the details were pretty shady all things considered . The mare had come from what was described as a "bad situation”. Not a lot of detail given, other than her age, her papers, the fact that she had had 3 foals (that means bred as a long yearling!) and was very spooky and thin.
Helluva deal right?
Well I went and got her anyway. It took more than 2 hours to load her in the trailer, an exercise in patience and determination, I was only to begin to learn just how much patience and determination I was going to need when it came to this horse. She and I were sweaty and exhausted, and I believe both questioning the judgement of this particular venture. Poor Jewel! She was an honest horse, just flat out scared! I kept this thin nervous little darlin’ in a box stall for a few weeks trying to get her settled. Daily handling, which involved me standing in the door of the stall while she ran in circles and backed into the corner working herself into a total frenzy dripping with sweat and spraying loose manure in all directions, until she let me put my hand on her, then slowly I got a rope, then halter on her and took her out for a walk and some green grass. I would get her dried off ,brushed her a little then start all over again the next day. I honestly began to think I was never going to get through to her. Especially one day, I had her standing in the alley, tied (not hard and fast, but enough to keep her there) she somehow got the rope over her ears, and immediately began to panic! As much as I wanted to step in and help her, as soon as I got close her panic increased to the point I thought she would do herself real harm! Patience is key with all horses and especially with those who have suffered abuse! I don’t really know how long it took (probably only a few moments, but it felt like years, standing quietly talking to her and inching ever closer till I could finally help her. Got her settled and put her in the stall. I went to the house that day thinking, I was just not the person for the job. And the wisest and kindest thing to do would be to find her someone else to try. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that day was a turning point for me and my Jewel. The next day I went in and I cannot tell you it was perfect, but there was a subtle change in her, the frantic look was less and it took just a little less time to get my hands on her. I continued the regime with her but moved her out into a larger outdoor pen, and eventually into the herd. Jewel was never a pocket pony, and if anyone else was around I could not catch her for many years, but slowly she appeared to be at a minimum, at peace in her world and to feel safe around me and on my farm. And from time to time she seemed to return affection. I worked within her limitations, and always caught her first while I was still alone for vet and farrier visits.
This mare had clearly had a rough go of it somewhere in her life, but I was hesitant to call abuse without other input .My farrier at the time was an incredible horseman, and he agreed that this was not just a crazy horse, and that among other things she had likely
had a nerve line/war bridle used on her (she would barely tolerate a halter, and it took years for me to be able to touch her ears) I never got her whole story, of who owned her before she was rescued, or how she came to be in the care of my friend. Maybe that's lucky, as I believe if I ever found the sonova buck that did the damage to that mare ... well let’s just say things might have gotten a little “western”.
Jewel was never trained to ride or drive, I felt at that time and still do that it might have been too much pressure for her. However, she was not without a career. Jewel was a momma! And what a mamma she was! After getting her settled and healthy, we did raise foals from her. The first one we kept to be sure that the, temperament issues we not a factor of genetics. I kept Jewel till she was 25, and after she suffered a stroke sadly had to let her go. In all that time she settled and was accepting of my handling her, I never really sure I had been able to heal the scars in her mind. That said… A testament to her, and to horse’s ability to overcome and their resilience and loyalty, was an episode where one of her foals had sadly been killed by a cougar. I was walking the property searching for the foal or any evidence of the loss, Jewel was with me the whole day, and constantly pushing me away from a ravine area which later proved to have been the epicenter of the initial attack. Was the cougar still there at that time? I will never know for sure. But as sure as she came to trust me, I trusted her. Many of the horses I have known, I have memorialized in a list of “honorable mentions . Telling their stories and remembering them. Jewel was certainly one I felt compelled to write about as well. And honorable mention, for an honorable mare
Stay safe friends!