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.