Monday, June 27, 2011

Vale Moonie

One of the special ones died peacefully in his sleep yesterday morning, in the short hours before dawn. Despite the Cushings, he was well, bright, chirpy and cheeky as usual in the days prior. He went as I had hoped he would: painlessly, without decline, peacefully and dignified as such a horse should. Moonie was a part of my life for 19 years, a good part of my adult life. He taught me much, and even in his death, he is still teaching.

I met Woodbine Moonriver when he was three, at his breeder's property where I agisted my Northern WB mare. He had been returned to Jan and Chiffa High by his then owner, a good friend of Jan's. Their personalities did not meet and Moonie was returned to find a more suitable home. I rode him in the months while Jan decided what to do with him, and she finally put him on the market. I hadn't the money at the time, and held my breath each time a campdrafter or showie came to try him out. None committed, and I kept riding him. Luck was eventually kind, and after a timely little pay out came my way, I bought the black grey with silver mane and tail.

Through Moonie and the Highs, I "met" Ray Hunt, and Tom Dorrance.  My interest in dressage grew, and I had lessons with each clinician Jan brought onto her property, and travelled with her to others. I began to read the Classics and the Greats of dressage, and to put that into practice with Moonie.

Moonie was always tolerant to a point, but was happy to tell me when I was wrong, or not quite right, or unbalanced, or annoying him. Canter aid not to his liking? He'd squeal with delight and pigroot. I found out by accident his potential for piaffe coming home one day from beach riding. He was doing his usual homeward jigjog (which he never grew out of, and was frequently as annoying as hell!) and I asked for more,  but on the spot. Moonie was happy to give it. He thought he was pretty clever!

Moonie was always gracious with those he liked and trusted. He was constantly referred to as a complete gentleman by most he met, from vets and farriers to fellow competitors and parents of patting kids. People often mistook him for an andalusian, or a warmblood from a distance, and refused to believe he was registered full stockhorse. He seemed to radiate bigness in size as well as personality, despite his 14.3 hh stature, particularly when on show. In the dressage ring, he would become larger than life, and double in size and power, channeling his inner stallion More often than not, I was barely in control as he kept telling me "hang on woman, I know what I am doing, more than you do!!"  His showing off led to some amazing offerings in the training arena, where he would frequently blow me away with his cleverness, making one plus one equal not two, but three, and then four. He taught me to trust my horse and to allow space for self expression, as well as negotiation, to the point where I was happy to let him tell me if today was an arena day, or a bush riding day. If you give a horse room to be, and to give, they will.

He was incredibly affectionate and cuddly. It was an in-joke that Moonie loved his food, but he loved attention, and just hanging out with his person,  as much if not more.He was absolutely a people horse. If your horse asks for you to scratch his rump, take the time to do it. I'm glad I did late last week despite being in a bit of a hurry. He caught me that day with the twinkle of his eye;  always the charmer.

One particular incident, that happened only last year, exemplifies for me my relationship with Moonie. He was off colour one evening, and I wasn't comfortable about it. At 10.30 that night, we got up and went out to the agistment to check him. He was exactly where we left him,and obviously not quite right,  a bit colicky. So after a little tummy massage, I began to walk him up and down his paddock. I didn't need a halter, he came with me, with his muzzle by my leg, glued to my hand. We walked like this for some time, up and down in the moonlight. When I left him that night, I knew he was going to be ok, but somehow he left me a little richer for the experience.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why are YOU responsible??

"No, animals are not people. But people are animals, and we have many things in common. There is no reason to suspect that it is any less painful for a horse to be whacked in the mouth and aggressively spurred than it would be for a human or another mammal. Horses may not be wonderful at planning ahead and understanding abstract thought, but they feel pain and fear like we do, and they suffer when abused."

from here.

And that is why I am personally responsible,  you are personally responsible and every other horse person is personally responsible.

Are you a participant or in the paying audience?

FEIreinergate has been hot on the interwebs these last days, and a blog post has been brewing in my head as a consequence. Lots of lights going off in my head, on so many issues, but the big one that is biting me hard is that of participation and advocacy.

Some pre-reading for you. When you've had a look, come back and read the rest of the blog. Or for those of you who are up to date, or can't be bothered, head directly to GO.

For those not familiar with FEIreinergate, Epona TV filmed a high profile reiner warming his horse up before an event. Warming his horse up in a way that could easily be read as contravening FEI General Rule 142. No action was taken against this person at the time, and they went on to win silver that day. I won't name the person, because for me, it's not about the individual, but about the structure and governance of the sport at a number of levels, and about what is accepted (note: not acceptable) and what is not.

It's been interesting reading articles, responses, commentary on this event, both in terms of the event itself, and of Epona's decision to film and broadcast the action. People have responded by attacking Epona, attacking the individual filmed, attacking each other, criticising the stewards there on the day, and the odd comment on the FEI, the Chief Steward, and The Rules (mainly @carrotsandbute). Mostly it has been individualised, personalised comment. And the main conclusion has been “boohoo; yeah real bad, but nothing I can do about it”.

To that sweet little copout, wash-my-hands-of-responsibility-whilst-maintaining-the-feel-goods, I say bullshit.

As a horse owner, rider, educator, judge, trainer, health care provider person, I have a responsibility for the horses in my immediate care, but I also have a responsibility to take ownership of the sport in which I am involved. I don’t just pay my membership and entry fees, rock up , compete and go home. As a paid up member of my chosen sport, I have a duty and a right to say what is good, what is acceptable and what is not. I am entitled to have a say about how my sport is run, and a say on the welfare of those who participate, particularly those who do not chose but are chosen to participate. I am entitled to have input, to be heard. And in fact, when no one else will, I have an absolute duty to be vocal about the unacceptable, especially when those who are on the receiving end, such as the horse, cannot.

To those who say "yeah that's bad, but pity. What can be done about it? (code for I don't want to do anything about it)" here is a solution. It's quick, dirty, cheap and effective. Trust me, just go ask Cycling Victoria. I am on their hot list of annoying vocal members who effect outcomes.

Get your voice out there: Get pixel to pixel happening and communicate,  via any means you feel comfortable with, and by as many modes as possible. Email your local governing body, and their governing body, and THEIR governing body. Tweet and Facebook and blog so people do find out about the issues, can do their own research and make informed decisions, and spread the word if they feel it needs to be spread.And do it repeatedly. Don't get personal about it, it's not about the person, it's about the horse. We are the only ones who can advocate for the horse. Are you prepared to stand up for your horse, and my horse, and his/her horse?

One mosquito can make a lot of buzzing, and through social networking, can have a much larger impact than the individual realises. I am reading an editorial from an European website via Twitter, here in Melbourne Australia, and am now blogging about it.

It’s not hard. It’s simply having the conviction to do it. 

And a reminder as to what exactly Article 142 is:

It doesn't just apply to dressage!

Article 142 - Abuse of Horses
1. No person may abuse a Horse during an Event or at any other time. “Abuse” means an action or omission which causes or is likely to cause pain or unnecessary discomfort to a Horse, including, but not limited to:
- To whip or beat a Horse excessively;
- To subject a Horse to any kind of electric shock device;
- To use spurs excessively or persistently;
- To jab the Horse in the mouth with the bit or any other device;
- To compete using an exhausted, lame or injured Horse;
- To "rap" a Horse.
- To abnormally sensitise or desensitise any part of a Horse;
- To leave a Horse without adequate food, drink or exercise;
- To use any device or equipment which causes excessive pain to the Horse upon knocking down an obstacle.
2. Any person witnessing an Abuse must report it in the form of a protest (Article 163) without delay. If an Abuse is witnessed during or in direct connection with an Event, it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to an Official. If the Abuse is witnessed at any other time it should be reported as a protest (Article 163) to the Secretary General for referral to the FEI Tribunal.