This week’s column has been in the back of my mind for two months. I’ve been searching for a solution to my horse “problem” since day one. Little did I know that when it came time to write, the title would have more poignancy and fearfulness than imaginable. I spent nearly every cent I had to my name in what is now, sadly, referred to as “separate property.” (BTW, I don’t believe you can buy a horse. You cannot buy their soul. I believe true horsemanship is a partnership, no more and no less.)
I named her Aria because she made me “sing.” Not literally, of course, but it’s a phrase I’m fond of using to describe something that just works. Something that blows you out of the water, gives you goose bumps. Like the high “C” in the aria Nessun Dorma.
She is a black, 16-1 hand warmblood (Oldenburg, half Hanoverian and half Holsteiner) beauty with a star. We attempt to ride dressage. I say “attempt” because, frankly, I’m a lousy rider.
I took up the sport at age 32 to find an outlet since having children was not in God’s plan for me — nor, to be honest, in mine, either. I also didn’t progress because I had to give it up for years. It’s a really, really expensive sport, like owning a boat. There’s always something.
Dressage, for those who may not know, is the nearly invisible coordination between horse and rider that, when well executed, is grace and power in motion. Think of your favorite dance duo (Astaire and Rogers works for me). Or, think of Roger Federer, but the subject weighs more like 1,300 pounds and there happens to be a rider on top.
Dressage is not an especially common sport in Cambria and environs. I have met some riders, nearly all of whom have to trek to Paso, Atascadero or Templeton where they board their horse.
With no disrespect towards Western riders or their horses, you can’t throw a dressage horse of this quality out in a field and leave her. Barbed wire fencing? Not on your life. No barn, no stall, no go. Stabling is part of her routine, her comfort zone and her care. Daily turnout is another big must.
There there’s my horse-related comfort zone. Things like a riding arena; a wash stall with hot and cold running water; access to a top-notch “hot shoe” farrier and vet care.
From my first arrival, I start searching for a place to board Aria and become increasingly discouraged. I’m referred to an “equestrian center” in San Simeon but that’s not an option. I did get a lead on a super facility in Los Osos, but that’s a bit of a haul, especially juggling a new job and Ula. Like her mother, Ula is high maintenance.
My closest friend back in Virginia, Dawn, thinks Los Osos is a good idea. There’s no place for turn out, but it does offer a nurturing environment and a good way for both Aria and me to transition to the horse management practices on the West Coast. There’s also my own fear of getting back in the saddle. It’s been a long time. I’m grateful to the Grand Prix instructor/owner who reaches out to me with support and encouragement. Thank you, Barbi (and Geoff)!
I’m still making calls, though, still trying to find someplace or, more to the point, someone who has the facilities I’m desperately searching for so that Aria can be close by and daily visits/rides are possible. Anyone out there?
Having already delayed her trip once, I’m all set and thrilled that Aria will be arriving at the end of May. Then I get The Call. It’s from Dawn. There’s something wrong with Aria. As of this writing, we don’t know what it is but we suspect. We’re waiting for the blood work to come back from the lab. It’s doubtful she will be strong enough to make the long trip right now. I do the only things I can do — I cry and I pray.
Next up: As time goes by.