Among The Stars - Part 3 of 8
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   17th Feb 2019   •   3,118 views   •   0 comments
Among The Stars

At the beginning of 2013, following his injury at champs, I began to bring Moo back into work. Physically, he seemed fine, but suddenly his behaviour was worse than it had ever been. He was perfectly sound, but if I put on any pressure at all, he’d be up on his hind legs, and just stick in one spot, going up and down, for as long as half an hour.

We tried chiropractors, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, body stress release, and nothing seemed to help, nor did anybody find anything seriously wrong with him.

Finally, we discovered an excellent team of physios working with Faradic Pulse therapy, called Chiron Equine Therapy. Their treatments were the first that Moo did not object to. Usually if anyone poked and prodded at him, he would have to be twitched to keep him from biting them, or rearing up and chopping at heads. Moo did not approve of being touched without his permission. Over the next few months, with Chiron’s help, Moo gradually became more comfortable and rideable. He was still opinionated, and still objected vehemently if I asked him to do anything he didn’t approve of, but if I just ignored his temper tantrums and carried on, we’d still get the job done.

He went on to reach Elementary Medium dressage, often finding himself ranked in the top 3 in the province for each level (despite me having virtually no dressage background). He showjumped up to 1,10m, winning a lot of classes, including one big title of overall SAEF 1m Junior Champion (from having the best overall performance in the country over a select 4 courses). He was never outside the places in his eventing as he progressed up to 1m, and was regularly high on the list of the best eventers in the country. He won a provincial championship title at 1m, and made an Adult Open Showing Team as a working hunter.

Unfortunately, just before we were due to leave for our showing championship, bad luck struck again, and Moo came down with biliary. He felt quite sorry for himself, but not sorry enough to stop him from attacking chickens who ventured into his paddock, or from playing with me (in a very similar way to the chickens) every time I came to visit him and give him carrots. I took the opportunity to teach him a few tricks, to keep that intelligent brain entertained with something more productive than fowl-murder. He was always a quick learner, and I had him kissing and bowing on command in no time. It did, however, result in Moo aggressively force-kissing any passing stranger who he suspected of carrying carrots – though I can’t say many of them minded much. Sure, he was rude, but he was self-confident and handsome, and who doesn’t love that in a ‘man’?

When Moo came back into work, I took a bit of pressure off and started having some fun with him, jumping tackless and riding in a neckstrap. I can’t say I ‘taught’ him to do these things. Somehow, he just knew. Moo was incredibly sensitive and, for all his bronco antics, very obedient in his own way. He loved the new challenge, and would try hard to figure out what I wanted from him without the clarity of the bit for communication. We had a deep understanding, and communication was almost effortless. I trusted him completely, with or without tack, and always felt safe and at home on his back. Understanding though, of course, that he might decide to stop being a willing dreamhorse and take off bucking like a demon at any moment (which he did, multiple times, but he always stopped before flattening me).

That was just a part of Moo’s personality that, as his rider, I had to accept.

Moonfire Jumping TacklessJumping Moo Tackless

Moonfire Riding TacklessRiding Moo Tackless

He could be the most incredible horse to ride, make me feel invincible and on top of the world, or he could decide that he had better things to do with his time, and attempt to deposit me on the nearest surface in the rudest way possible. But for all of his fireworks, and rodeo-antics that often left spectators gasping and asking if I was mad, I never once felt in danger on his back. He could be a monster, but he was my monster, and he knew exactly how much of his ‘rudeness’ I could take, just like I knew exactly how much pressure I could put on him before he started to object. We were a partnership, in every way. Some days we fought and we hated each other, but we would always kiss (literally – because of the carrot-begging trick) and make up, and go on to build each other up, becoming better and better in pursuit of our goals.

When Moo resumed full work again after the biliary, something was different. He had developed a respiratory noise in canter, which an endoscopy revealed to be a grade 3 laryngeal paralysis (in other words, he had become a roarer). He roared like a lion in the gallop, but since he was happy, and the roaring had no effect whatsoever on his performance, the vet advised against a tie back operation until such time as Moo seemed to be struggling with his work. So now I had a horse that walked like a lion, bit like one, and roared like one too. And as he took on bigger and bigger cross country courses - roaring loud enough that you could hear him from a mile away, but with pricked ears at every stride - he proved that he also had the heart of a lion. That’s how he became my ‘Little Lion Horse’.

If you’re wondering what exactly roaring is, then I want you to think back to any equestrian event you’ve ever been to. Did any of the horses coming past you make a loud, loud noise while breathing, sounding almost like a roar, or perhaps a whistle? These horses are roarers. ‘Roaring’ or ‘Recurrent Laryngeal Neuropathy’ AKA ‘laryngeal hemiplegia’ describes a condition which affects a number of horses – particularly thoroughbreds (usually male) over 16hh – wherein part of the larynx (usually the left side) becomes paralysed. This results in the larynx being unable to open fully when the horse breathes in, loosening the vocal cords and creating the ‘roaring’ sound which is heard during exercise.

As a grade 3 roarer, Moo competed in his first one star event, which he won, a full 15 seconds inside the time. It was not a big show, but it was a huge victory for me, and for Moo. We had proved that we not only had what it took to make it to the higher grades, but that we could make it and be successful too. Unfortunately, Moo’s roaring had drawn attention, and people were starting to talk about the noise, saying it was cruel to expect him to compete that way, and although our vet had told us otherwise, it was clear that if we wanted to impress the right people and make the right teams to accomplish what were rapidly becoming very big goals, he would need to have the tie back. We started to consider it. Then, at our second one star event, something went wrong. We had a huge lead after the dressage, and for the first time, the pressure got to me.

I couldn’t breathe, Moo couldn’t breathe, and we fell apart completely.

I retired. That decided it: it was time for the operation. At the same time, I had my own breathing checked, and found that I had developed stress-induced asthma. Moo and I really were a true team. Even our issues were shared ones.

Among The Stars
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