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David and CharlieThere has been a  lot of change this first third of the year.

Our lovely horse Charlie quite suddenly became very lame. It is so out of character for him to be lame that we immediately had a full workup by the vet, including X rays, and it showed a <BLOG_BREAK>bone spur growing on his pastern. We rested him for 4 weeks, but the lameness got worse, in the end he could not trot, and was not even lying down in his stable. We made the decision to have him put to sleep, as the condition was not going to get better, only worse.

We felt that Charlie owed us nothing, in fact we owed HIM to do the right thing for him. Charlie came into our lives and home in the year 2000, when he left us last week he was nearly 17 years old. In that time he was firstly my eventer, we evented through Intro to Pre-Novice and on to Novice. Charlie was also FAB at Showjumping, he won 3 British Novice classes in a row, was only a few pounds off jumping out of Discovery classes, and even won a Newcomers on a ticket. All that and he only did about a dozen BS shows with me as pure Showjumping was not really my “thing”. Then, dressage. Charlie did not have the best of natural paces, but he gamely picked up a couple of points BD in the few competitions we did. He hunted well, was often able to hold back or give leads for young or less confident horses, and never spilled a drink or dropped a sausage roll at the meet!

Charlie then became a “husband horse” and it was here that he really excelled. The photo is of Charlie with David, after all for the past 6 years he has been his horse.

Charlie taught my husband and many other people to ride, he was a real “nanny”. I could put anyone on his back, and if he thought they were unsafe he would slow down and stop. If someone thought they could canter, and Charlie thought they could not, he would not. He would trot steadily, and however hard the kicked, or even smacked him, he would have a saintly look on his face and just trot steadily. He was not hurt, he understood that the human meant him no harm, he took care of them. We learned from him, he was never “lazy”, and soon I would take his word for it, Charlie became in charge of the lesson.


I guess there will be many people with stories of riding Charlie. Particularly in the field of Showjumping, he NEVER stopped at a fence in all of the time that I had him, and he was an expert at gliding smoothly over the fence and then catching his rider once he had landed. One time he had a mis-time with a rider at a fence and the rider landed on his neck in the middle of a double. Charlie realised he had to jump the second fence as if he swerved he would unseat the rider, he took the pole with his legs so he did not have to jump so high. At the landing the rider was still there, but just about on Charlie’s head. The rider later told me that he was slipping one way, and Charlie swerved to catch him, then he slipped the other, and Charlie swerved to catch him. All this time Charlie was holding his head high to keep the rider there, and the rider was scrabbling with his hands on Charlie’s ears to recover  a more normal riding position. As he scrabbled he pulled the headpiece right off Charlie’s ears,  the rider scrabbled further and at one point was scrabbling with Charlie’s eye socket in an attempt not to fall. Wonderful horse just came to a gentle stop, with his head up and bridle dislodged, and waited. The rider regained the saddle, I went over and replaced the bridle, they cantered a circle and went right on jumping as if nothing had happened. What a horse!

In fact there is even a series of photos of that event. As the mis-time happened I stopped taking photos, but as Charlie did his “thing” I realised that he was not going to drop the rider, so I went back to taking photos. That series of photos went on “Facebook” and Charlie received more comments for his gallantry than any other photos I ever put on!

With Charlie I shared cuddles in bed, canters on the beach and even a proper swim in the sea. He came to the pub, nannyed horses on the busy roads, played silly games and made videos. See the videos page on this website for Charlie cantering figure 8’s with no bridle, bouncing a ball, skipping with a skipping rope, taking Sherlock out for a “ride and lead” adventure. He took my husband to his first (and probably last!) dressage competitions, and gave so many people confidence and fun.

I thank that Charlie came into our lives.


More change.....


Yesterday I took Sherlock to start his life in a new home. After we did FAB at dressage last month I realised that Dressage alone was not for me, I found that I was kind of resenting Sherlock for not being able to jump. Sherlock and I both deserve better than that. He now lives with someone I have known for a long time, who I trust, and more importantly who Sherlock likes. He settled in right away, and I wish them both well.


I do feel sad, but it is not for Sherlock, he will be as happy as it is possible for a princely pony to be, it can't be for me either, as I am now free to buy another horse to go party with at whatever I choose to do. I guess it is sad for all of the plans, the shared adventures that we will not now be having.


Someone once said to me that the one thing that is certain in life is change. Change is like time and tide, it will stop for no-one. Change is inevitable, in your life, in your body, even in the landscape itself. The strongest people are those who can adapt to change. That seems particularly relevant in the world at the moment. With Tsunamis, earthquakes, wars, and back at home with the economy. I, like many others are facing wage cuts and price rises. The more major happenings do put my "troubles" into perspective though, I have a wonderful life.


I guess it is my job to adapt to my new situation, to seek the new opportunities.


Hey, it is back to the "open door" thought. That saying "when one door closes then another always opens, but often you can't see the door that has opened because you are looking so hard at the one that has just shut". I decide to look forward, to the open door. I also had another thought arrive to me from e mail, that you can't see what lies ahead, and what may look like a setback right now may be actually just what you need to bring about change. If life were never difficult you would not be challenged to be innovative, strong, and resourceful.


On a different note..... I went to Spain with my mum on a Tango holiday! We went to stay at Casa Media Luna, in the mountains above Malaga. What a FANTASTIC break, and you would not even have to want to dance to go! Spectacular, beautiful place, wonderful food and most importantly Ken and Erika made us feel like extended family. See their website on http://www.casamedialuna.es/ .
I had a video or two taken dancing with Ken, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkhd9jO8Dio for dancing in their studio. This is after only dancing for 4 months, still very much a novice!

I also had a go at dancing outdoors on the terrace, but found that it was Sooooo difficult as the terrace does not have “slip” for your shoes, it felt like my feet were stuck! See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aFfwN3xxtM for dancing on the terrace!


One evening we went to a Milonga, or social dance, in Old Malaga Town. As we entered it seemed like stepping into an old film set, all marble floor, cast iron pillars, old music and people dancing. Best of all I was kind of equipped to join in with the action by having taken time to learn to dance, it was like stepping right into an old time movie. Quite magic! There is actually a film of this on Youtube too, I guess you could find it in my videos.....


Many thanks to Ken and Erika for making us so welcome.


I am still learning so much from my dancing to take back to the horses. For instance, it is different dancing in the studio to dancing in a Milonga. A bit like schooling in a school and then going to a show. As a lady I must just “follow”, but as a nervous novice dancer I need good direction from my male “leader”. I am learning first hand just what gives me confidence as they guide me.


In a busy and confusing environment, if my lead hesitates, even if that is because there is “traffic” ahead (as in other people dancing in your line of dance) then I feel that hesitation and it makes me hesitate too, and then the smoothness of movement is lost, and confidence goes. If the Lead is feeling that people are watching then they start to be aware of the “audience” and they are no longer “with” me, and that feels disconnected and I can no longer follow as my attention starts to go where their attention is, and then attention is no longer on US and how we are moving together.


I also now know that as well as good direction, it is the MOST important thing that the Lead does not show disappointment or irritation when I make a mistake. It feels OK to pause and re-do, to be shown the right thing. But if the lead shows even the slightest disappointment then my confidence goes, I am no longer having fun, and fun is the whole point.


As a “follow” I am not allowed to initiate moves, it would be considered “naughty” like a horse in a collecting ring would be perceived if it made up its own moves. Also the Lead cannot TELL me what is required, it is all on feel/timing/balance, just like when riding.


If I have made mistakes and lost confidence I have found that if the lead takes us into a little routine, repeats a set of simple moves, then the confidence comes back, and we can move on with some more adventurous stuff. I know I have done this before with horses, I have called it a “repetitive loop” exercise to reconnect.


I will be looking to buy a horse soon, probably a youngster that has not been to many, or any, shows. I intend to take what I have learned from the dancing forward and see the collecting ring from the horse’s perspective. It is great to have been able to feel the “boot on the other foot”.

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  1. Gail

    Ruth and David, I know how difficult it was for you to make the decision about Charlie. I'm sure there are many who experienced Charlie's gifts during the time you shared with him who also will miss him. Thank you so much for your honest self-assessment and sharing your feelings about Sherlock and dressage. There is much to ponder in what you have said there and in the dance correlation, as much of it resonates with where I am right now. I know you will see the door when it opens for you, and look forward to hearing about your next equine partner!

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  2. cordy

    Ruth, I am sorry about Charlie & I know you & David are as well. Sherlock will be happy where he is & your new door is opening & you will walk through it with the passion & enthusiasm you have for life. Thank you for sharing this in your blog & it is so good to see you back on line. Take very good care, go softly & be kind to yourself. Have fun learning the new dances of music & horses. You & yours have been an inspiration to me!

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