Sometimes the path to overcoming adversity means letting go of something that was a big factor in the start of that journey of recovery but changed to become something holding you back from the next stage.
There are times when continued perseverance becomes counter productive and it’s time to let go of something that had been part of you for most of your life.
At those times, things that had helped build resilience before, now tend to erode it, work against you, hold you back.
We have just finalised that process. One that we started months ago. A sad but necessary decision that has brought more relief than pain but signifies a big change for us and draws a line under a long chapter of our lives. It also marks an acknowledgement that we are getting older and that it is better to make these decisions ourselves than delay and have them forced on us by physical or mental infirmity.
Our two beloved horses went to a new home on Sunday.
When we moved to Canada in 2004, we tried to replicate our life in Zimbabwe. We rented a farm-house with a barn, a couple of acres for pasture and we thought, 200 acres to ride around without having to cross roads. There were another 600 acres just a few kilometres away along what was then a quite road. We bought Magic Penny for Sue, Copper, a yearling Morgan to train and sell then Twinkle a Morgan mare as the foundation brood mare for our planned horse breeding business. Soon after that we bought Silver, a pretty Cremello Morgan as a yearling.
We also boarded a horse from early Fall to Spring. He was a bigger Morgan, spirited, just the size and type of horse I liked. I had little time to ride in Summer. With Top Gun the boarder for me to ride for half the year – weather permitting I did not rush to buy a horse of my own.
Copper grew into a good size, lively horse. At 15:2 hh almost as big as Top Gun and a similar size to the Thoroughbreds we owned in Zimbabwe. Magic had an attitude and Sue did not enjoy him. He was not tall but strongly built and easily carried my weight. Sue rode Twinkle and I rode both Magic and Top Gun when he was with us, while we waited for Copper to reach 4 and start serious work.
I was spending long hours from Spring to late fall looking after irrigation and greenhouses for a local farmer. We did not know many people and with the long hours spent working and cutting wood to heat our old house, did not have much spare time. Our horses were our relaxation and gave us a reason to get up in the morning. They were also a link to our previous lives as both of us had been around horses since we were children.
Our plans did not work out as expected. Twinkle developed founder (laminitis) a condition rarely encountered in the drier African conditions with poorer grazing. We did not think it right to start breeding from her due to concern for her health and our unwillingness to perpetuate a founder prone blood line. Despite many courses of expensive medicine, a special diet, wearing a muzzle to restrict her grazing and special shoes with pads, she deteriorated to the point where on some days she could hardly walk.
As the only alternative to putting her down, we opted to donate her to the Veterinary School at Guelph where she had the best chance of a comfortable and pain-free life or a humane ending.
We started riding Copper when he was 4, he showed great promise for a while and then started running out of energy after a few minutes of work. He developed heaves or OCPD, a respiratory affliction similar to COPD in humans. Another condition unheard of in Africa. He too became unridable most of the time. It was distressing to see him struggling to breathe, flanks heaving even when standing quietly.
We treated him with everything we could, including cortisone and natural remedies. Some days he was almost normal and would trot around the paddock with the other horses. On other days he would stand quietly on is own.
The continual struggle for breath was too much for his heart, we went down to the barnyard one morning in 2010 to find him dead in his shelter.
Our horse breeding venture had not got off to a good start. We abandoned the idea of buying more horses.
Our dreams of riding regularly around the fields only became possible during a small window in Spring after the snow had gone, when the mud had dried and before the crops were planted. With crops planted right to the bush or road boundaries it became impossible to ride without damaging plants until after the harvest in December. Recent harsh winters have shortened that window.
We had been spoiled with thousands of acres to ride on in Zimbabwe without seeing a vehicle or another building. Through cultivated lands and bush, a climate where we could ride every day of the year and only the odd rain shower to contend with, no snow or ice.
After the last harsh winter when the pipe to the barn was frozen for weeks and considering the lack of places and time to ride, the cost of hay, our ages and other factors, we decided to find them new homes.
The horse market has been decimated by the removal of gambling subsidies from the Ontario horse racing industry. Good horse are being given away, others sent for slaughter at meat-packing plants. We advertised our two at a premium and slowly brought the price down to dissuade speculators and traders. We were more interested in finding them good homes, together if possible, than making money from them.
Our patience paid off, they have gone to a good home where they will be well looked after, will be ridden regularly by enthusiastic and competent riders and be together. We can also go to see and ride them. We have kept our saddles and bridles to take advantage of that or other opportunities to ride.
The money we got for them and some equipment was a fraction of what we had paid for Magic alone back in 2005.
It is only the second time in my life since I got my first horse at age 7 that I have not had my own horses. Much the same for Sue.
We thought we would be sad to see them go, we were, but not as much as we thought. It was more a feeling of relief when the trailer pulled out of our yard on Sunday.
Relief that they had gone to a good home.
Relief that we had made the right decision.
Relief that we had cut our expenses and the time we spent looking after them without being able to enjoy riding them as much as we wanted.
Relief that we are not as tied to getting home before dark to put them away at night as we were.
Relief that there is less to worry about when we visit our children and grandchildren overseas.
Conditions in Canada are different from those we knew in Zimbabwe, we have learned that it is just not possible to replicate the life we had. It is time to accept that and make the most of conditions as they are not as we would like them to be.
We recognised that what we thought would be the solution, had become a problem that was holding us back.