Friends for life
I was so pleased to read of Heather Benedict’s decision to remain loyal to her equine companion and forgo, for the time being, the path so many others choose on their way to competitive riding “careers” (“Paid in Full,” True Tale, EQUUS 448). Heather’s commitment to her horse Eros reminds me of my own experience with my dressage and event horse, Babes.
I retired Babes from jumping at the age of 22 because of early arthritic changes in her ankles. She was moving fine, and we continued to compete in dressage, but I wanted to minimize wear
and tear for the years to come. I, too, was inundated with “advice” to dispose of her and acquire a more competition-worthy mount. Because I could afford to keep only one horse, I did, for a time, consider doing this. But the thought of ridding myself of a horse I loved simply because she was no longer competitively useful made me feel ruthless.
I never regretted the decision to keep Babes. Indeed, by the time she passed on at the age of 36, I was profoundly grateful that such a magnificent bond with this wonderful horse had been a part of my life. And I am relieved, ethically, that after all the years she put in for me, I reciprocated in kind and granted her the retirement that was her right ---one with purpose, meaning and love.
Like Heather, I never progressed as far along in competition as I would have liked---but that ambition seems trivial to me now. Horses don’t give a fly’s poop for trophies or so-called “riding careers,” and it saddens me to see people disposing of otherwise wonderful animals who are unable to aid them in those pursuits.
I think Heather would agree with me that, while trophies gather dust and show results fade in importance over time, relationships cultivated with love, commitment and self-sacrifice add layers of meaning to our lives. It may take the lifetime of a horse to realize it, but afterward, we see that through it all we have reached a nobler understanding of what is really important. The experience itself is something precious to be treasured. It is a gift. Sue Leffel Green Bay, Wisconsin