If you’ve ever lost a horse to colic, a severe accident or simply old age, you know how heartbreaking it can be. Last week marked the five-year anniversary of saying goodbye to my heart horse, Ben. We spent 17 years together before some of his health issues became too great of a risk—severe arthritis in his knee and chronic choke, which we believe may have been due in part to the melanomas we couldn’t see (he was gray). So when he was just 21, I made the very hard decision to say goodbye. Could he have survived another year? Perhaps. But I wanted to say goodbye on good terms. Not when he was suffering. And while I have never regretted my decision, his loss was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to cope with as a horse owner. Yet through his death I learned that I was strong enough to handle the love and loss we all eventually must face.
In this issue, our monthly columnist Dr. Jenny Susser addresses how to cope with loss and shares how she’s handled saying goodbye to her sweet partner. It’s a wonderful tribute to her little horse and a great lesson in how to find strength through the grieving process. Read “Mind Over Matter” on p. 16.
A different lesson in strength comes from this month’s cover girl, Adult Amateur Alice Tarjan. A former threeday eventer, Alice turned her focus to dressage after graduating college. But at the age of 27, she was diagnosed with cancer and underwent chemotherapy for five months. It’s during this time that she set a goal for herself—to live long enough to ride at Dressage at Devon. Alice went on to compete at Devon multiple times, which resulted in a win of a Materiale Championship with a score of 83.8 percent and riding in the highly anticipated Saturday night Grand Prix Freestyle. She also caught the attention of U.S. dressage team technical advisor Robert Dover, who invited her to train in Florida. You can read her story starting on p. 44.
Our training feature this month comes from Dressage Today Technical Editor Beth Baumert. In her book When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics, she addresses how, by nature, the horse’s forelegs are more eager than his hind legs. This is apparent when you watch a horse galloping at liberty in a field or playing with his pasture mates. But when we ride, we do half halts and ask for transitions that encourage the hind legs to be more responsive and the forehand to wait. Beth does a remarkable job of explaining this and sharing how riders can help solve the horse’s innate balance problems in her story “In Search of Balance” on p. 34.
There’s much more this month, including how to find your horse’s ideal walk, a Q&A with German Olympian Ingrid Klimke and prepping your farm for winter. We hope you enjoy the issue.
Until next time,