Tuesday, October 19, 2010

My Black Wednesday

It all started in 1993, September, just as I started back at school for the new year. I was 14. My first stop on the way to my first day was the stables, my favourite sanctuary. As I rounded the corner and through the little wooden gate a dark flash shot across the field ahead - I looked closer and there she was - standing bolt upright and snorting wildly, the mad crazy bay Arab mare who would become the love of my life, my best friend, my soul mate and the one who knew everything there was to know about me. It was love at first sight, and I would like to think that the feeling was mutual, even if she was wicked to me on occasions! Dusty was unique, she was wild and crazy and no one else's choice of mount apart from mine. She was as fine as spun sugar and as strong as an Ox and she gave you a look as if to say, 'you just stay on your toes lady!' she was a stunning bright pale conker colour, with a shock of black mane and tail and she had the most amazing white markings, two symmetrical white back legs, flecks on her flanks and incredible white stripes across her tail, as if she had leant against a fence covered in flour! Her face was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, beautifully dished with a startling white blaze that ran right to her lip. She had a tiny whorl behind her ear which she very rarely let me touch, she HATED her ears being touched, in fact that was one of the ways that we could tell if she was feeling poorly, she let us touch her ears. Dusty was incredibly fast, she could gallop and would outrun everyone, always - she was bold and jumped like a little stag, although was often a little too excitable for me to actually do a clear round!

For the next 4 years I looked after her day in day out, we rode as often as possible both up and down the cumbrian fells and all around the the surrounding villages. We jumped (terrifying on occasions!) and we schooled, we galloped and we explored, we spent so much time together. Indeed she threw me and fell backwards on top of me the week before my A Levels - that was not so fun! It broke my heart when I found it near impossible to ride her when I was almost crippled with arthritis, but I had a go, and she looked after me then, it was as though she knew.

When I finally left school, the summer holidays and the prospect of not having my pony with me were too much, so Nellie (head of riding at my school) agreed to sell her to me for £700 - so I worked all summer at the Naafi and in the Officers' Mess and when I finally sent Nellie the cheque I was elated! A week later, clattering off the back of a lorry in not so much as a brushing boot for protection, my darling arrived at our new home, where I would be working as a working pupil for the next year. Quite how I managed to keep us both on my salary of £35 a week I will never know, but we had a fantastic time, we hunted for the first time, and I insisted on doing so in a snaffle as she wouldn't accept a stronger bit - much to the amusement of my colleagues - especially when my dog hating horse saw the hounds released for the first time, we nearly went in to orbit! Her stable was just over the corridor from my dorm, and we shared everything from crips sandwiches to easter eggs..

Then as we both got older we moved yards together, bringing Ladybird with us - my Mum's horse who became Dusty's equine soul mate. We then had a riot of mad hacking, jumping, photoshoots (Dusty was made famous in Good Housekeeping in 1998 I think it was!) lessons for my Mum, local shows - oh the disasters, even a lovely sharer for her, Sammy who helped me out when work got too much.

Dusty was such a brave horse, prone to colic which gave us great cause for concern on many occasion - and had a heart murmur which never seemed to bother her! She acted like a filly her whole life, and age would not weary her, not at all. No one ever believed me when I told them she was born in 1981, the year before my sister! She suffered her fair share of dramatic injuries too, she was attacked in the field and did severe damage to her leg in 2001, but I nursed her back, she even got horrendously kicked in October last year and fractured her leg - but we fixed her then too (although we then retired her from being ridden, much to her delight!) it was tough but she was a fighter.

On Wednesday 29th September 2010 I received a call from my Mum, it was 8.30 am and she wanted me to come down to the yard straight away to see Dusty, she said that she was having trouble walking. As I put down my phone, I knew, I had had a terrible dream two nights before and I felt the horror rising up inside me that my worst fear was coming true.

I got to the field within minutes and as I saw my beautiful girl trying to walk towards me the pain ripped through me like a knife. Her back end was failing, her legs weren't supporting her body and they were contorting horribly with every step she tried to take. I called the vet immediately. Dietrich was with us within half an hour. Dusty had spinal trauma, most likely a tumour and nothing was going to fix her this time, no open ended credit card, no medicine, nothing would. The feeling of helplessness was overwhelming, I sobbed and sobbed as I gave the consent to send my best friend to sleep for the last time. We had to sedate Ladybird to keep her calm whilst we said goodbye. So, I buried my face in her lovely wild mane and told her I was sorry, that I loved her so very much and that I had to say goodbye. Dusty fell peacefully to sleep at 11am, and with her, a piece of me died too.

It is the hardest thing now knowing she isn't here any more, that I wont see her face when I return to our field. Dusty was always there, she listened to all my dilemmas, my thoughts, my hopes, dreams and secrets - that horse took many secrets to her grave. She always listened, never judged and always gave such a lot back. She saw me grow up, fall in and out of love and back again, do my work, have my children (whom she wasn't always overly keen on!) and she even let Teya on her back on a couple of occasions, but never for very long!! Despite the fact that she was nearly 30, and I knew she wouldn't last forever, the shock is still severe.

So, goodnight Pony, thank you for the past 18 years of unconditional love, and for all the joy that you brought to me and my family. We will miss you everyday. I am so very grateful that you didn't have to suffer, that you had no long term illness that was causing you pain. I am glad that you were able to live your life to the full in your fab 8 acre field, right up until the end. Take care up there, I treasure each and every thought of you.