Remember to Smile: Saying Goodbye - Dressage Today

Remember to Smile: Saying Goodbye

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Sometimes things happen that put everything in your life in a holding pattern. And there’s nothing much you can do but try to cope and, to use a dressage phrase, “Think forward!”

Credit: Eric Olsen

Credit: Eric Olsen

All within two weeks time, I’ve been dealt a couple of body blows: my darling mother, aged 92 and suffering from the latter stages of dementia, entered hospice, with death, I was told, “being imminent.” Coming home, after splitting a shift, keeping sad vigil, along with my siblings, I walked into the barn that evening, doing a bed-check before falling into my own. What met me was the horror of seeing my 23-year-old Dutch gentleman, Fozzy, whom I mentioned in a recent blog, lurching, drooling and swaying to the right. He was neurological, and it was very obvious that there would be no happy outcome.

My vet arrived in minutes and after just managing to support him enough to get him the few feet from stall to grassy front lawn, it was frankly supposed that we were probably looking at spinal cancer. His brain was functioning: Fozzy was grazing greedily, ears pricked, eyes bright, but he could barely stand. And truth be told, I had had a difficult time keeping on his weight this past winter. Being grey, it's very likely we were dealing with melanoma and there was absolutely no option but to put him down, immediately. 

Fozzy had been my heart horse. A breathtaking mover but, as an ex-jumper, acquired at age 5 1/2, he had been mentally fried with a ruined mouth and, quite certain that he was going jumping again, was nearly unrideable in the warm-up at shows. Once I got him in the actual show ring and away from the other horses, I could sometimes get him to focus, sometimes not. Being slightly croup-high, he was chronically late behind but we received a tremendous amount of effective help when I was in training with Jan Ebeling, and I was able to build on that when I moved to my own facility, 13 years ago. 

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Knowing that Fozzy was simply unhappy with the pressures of competing, I enjoyed, instead, riding him in several clinics and exhibitions, where he boldly showed off his flowing extensions and half-passes. And, boy, for a long-backed, croup-high horse, could he ever collect!

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Fozz, I thank you for babysitting Forrest during his longeing sessions, and I am honored and grateful to have had your affection and trust all these years. I learned a tremendous amount during our journey together and you made me a better rider and trainer. You taught me that success doesn’t always have to be tied into ego and blue ribbons: It can mean nailing those tempis when no one is watching or surrendering the inside rein during a well-balanced pirouette. I don’t know how I’ll ever get over not seeing your cheerful face pop over the stall door, always the first to say, “Hello!” upon my entering the barn. But I do know that you’ve given me glorious memories that will gradually replace this gaping hole in my heart. Godspeed Fozz. 

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