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Among The Stars - Part 1 of 8
 By Polo the Weirdo   •   2nd Feb 2019   •   1,252 views   •   0 comments
Among The Stars

I believe we have a choice in this world about how to tell sad stories. On the one hand, you can sugarcoat it the way they do in movies and romance novels, where beautiful people learn beautiful lessons, where nothing is too messed up that can't be fixed with an apology and a Peter Gabriel song. I like that version as much as the next girl, believe me. It's just not the truth. This is the truth. Sorry.
-Hazel Grace Lancaster, The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

This is not some feel-good story about overcoming hardship, or an inspirational tale of positivity in the face of tragedy. It’s not about ‘being strong’, or learning to gracefully let go of things you’re not meant to keep. It’s not a lesson about how sometimes losing something amazing makes way for something better, or some comforting lesson of ‘I know it hurts now, but trust me, time will make it better’. As humans we love to look on the bright side, we love our silver linings and positive spins. We love to feel moved and inspired. Sorry, but I don’t have anything like that for you today. What I’m here to share with you isn’t graceful, or inspirational, or ‘nice’ on any level. I’m here to share the truth. The raw, ugly, honest truth that somehow nobody ever really seems to talk about. This is a true story about how going through that one thing you fear more than anything - that you can barely even imagine - just sucks. It just plain sucks, in every conceivable way.

When I was 16 and just reaching higher grade eventing for the first time, I was acting just like your typical 16-year-old girl. I was stalking a boy. Hardcore stalking - with hours of Googling, checking out where he was going to be and when, and reading every article I could find where his name appeared. This “boy”, of course, was a racehorse (because I was never a typical 16-year-old girl in the ‘tranditional’ sense) who had all the best bloodlines you could want in a South African Thoroughbred sport horse. I have always had a passion for retraining racehorses, and a fascination with which racing bloodlines ‘accidentally’ create sport horse champions. This guy had them all. So when my mom and I visited the vet shop near the racing stables, every time we would ask the receptionist if she’d heard anything about this horse I was stalking; if he was ready to retire yet, if they were needing to find him a home. Every time she would answer no. That is, until one day in August 2010. That day, the no came with a ‘but’, and that but would change my life forever.

Now, I know I said this wasn’t some feelgood story with ‘life lessons’ and all that nonsense, but in a way that’s not true, because it sure started out that way. After all, for something to be so devastating to lose, it’s got to be pretty damn special while you have it. And this story couldn’t be a better example of how sometimes not getting what you want is the best thing that could ever happen to you. The horse that I wanted wasn’t available yet. “But”- there was another horse who’d just finished racing, and he needed to find his person.

We went to the racing yard within the week, and my instructor or ‘other mother’ came with us. We found an angry bay horse flashing his teeth and just about kicking down his stable while a rather disgruntled groom struggled to brush his far-too-sensitive coat with a far-too-prickly brush. He always was an opinionated drama queen of the highest measure, and no amount of his displeasure ever went unvoiced. When he exited the stable, we were met by sleek but beautiful animal who walked like a lion, and looked a bit like one too. We trotted him up, and in between displaying some beautiful movement, he’d playfully pounce and nip and shake his head like some wannabe wild thing. He was just one big, inflated ego with enough attitude and sass to host his own reality TV show. He was rude, pushy and arrogant, and he was the most perfect thing I had ever seen.

I had to have him.

Among The Stars

We took our Moonfire home the very next day. The trainer let us take him free of charge, and he followed me straight into the horsebox, starting what would become an incredible partnership of complete trust. The first few months were like a dream. He was playful, but sweet, and beautifully behaved. I could take him out for a gallop behind another horse, and he’d come back with just a touch of the reins. He was so naturally balanced, and willing to try anything I asked. He could move, and he could jump, and the more he learned, the more potential he showed. Until suddenly, one day, he learned a little too much. He learned that he could say ‘no’, and started to put that inflated ego of his and his great athleticism to use in other ways.

After that, he went on a mission of constantly finding better, more effective ways to say ‘no’. In a flash, and for no reason whatsoever, my perfect child had suddenly grown into a horrible, rebellious teenage delinquent. He’d spook at nothing and take off bucking, and every time I applied a bit too much pressure, he’d object with a very expressive fit of rears. Moo was always ‘willing’ (in his own weird way which spectators never really ‘got’), but he was also stubborn, and when he said no, he meant it, and he would make damn sure everybody within a 100m radius knew that. His temper tantrums were basically strongly worded ‘to whom it may concern’ letters. You didn’t get to discuss the issue – Moo had spoken, and Moo’s word was law.

MoonFire

I still have an old dressage test (where he placed 2nd in the class) showing two movements following one after the other: First, a free walk on a long rein (8. Relaxed, obedient.). Next, a trot-canter transition at C, (2. Resistant, rearing!) He went straight on to win his second test with over 76%, and the judge came out to personally compliment me on what a wonderful, willing horse I had. My wonderful, willing horse who had just stood right up on his hind legs and tried to high-five a dressage judge at the utter horror of being asked to pick up a canter. He was like a naughty boy who’d purposefully smash a vase behind your back, then blame his sister – all big-eyed and innocent. He was talented and gorgeous, and he knew it damn well. Being his rider was like being a personal assistant for a particularly fussy celebrity. If you want to keep your job (and your life) you had better keep the Talent happy!

MoonFire
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