Updated: Jul 5, 2022
Abbey is my 30 yr old Arab mare that I have had from birth. Not many horses only have one owner in their lifetime and not many horse owners have the opportunity to have a horse for their whole lifetime! I watched Abbey being born. This was before barn cameras. My kids were young & my husband worked nights. I brought the mare in from the pasture that evening and she was drip ping milk so I set out a baby monitor in the barn and got my kids to bed. I would periodically run to the barn, peak in at the mare and run back in the house. My kids were light sleepers so I was as quick as I could be. The mare was not showing any outward signs of labor the first few trips to the barn so I would scoot back in the house and wait another 30 min. and run out again. I hit the jackpot around 11:00 pm. She was pacing and contracting but the dilemma was I still only felt okay being out at the barn for just a couple minutes. Fortunately just then she dropped to the ground, gave a couple grunts and Abbey slide out! It was the most peaceful birth I ever witnessed! I had my 3rd child the next year and tried to meditate while in labor on Abbey's easy birth. I wasn't as successful as the mare to remain quiet.
The last few years I rode Abbey less & less, not because she was lame or arthritic, but because I trail ride with my Walkers. Abbey is a follower on the trail and hates to be hauled. So Abbey has basically been retired. I no longer even have a saddle for her- she much prefers a bareback pad and rope halter anyways. One of the things I love best about Abbey is how soft she is to ride. I often visualize being able to lead her with a thread because she responds to the lightest cyes & softest pressure. As sensitive as Abbey is, she is so sweet and maternal with kids. I wasn't sure though how my grandson would feel about riding without a saddle, his first time riding a full sized horse! I took things slow initially and lead him a couple times around the riding ring, giving him some exercises to do to find his balance and feel her move. He did great and rode her independently for the 1st time yesterday! I stopped leading & let him direct Abbey while I stepped to the center of the riding ring. Abbey responded so well to Landon's direction and I could see by the expression on my grandson's face that he was proud of himself too.
After grandson #1 was done with his ride, Abbey gave grandson #2 a pony ride (he kept calling out Ye Haw!) as I lead him around a couple laps. His main goal is always to 'go fast' so I told him we start off s-l-o-w at first before we go fast!!
I had given Abbey a bath earlier in the day. You'd never know she was a senior wxcept for the extra grey on her face. During the bath, she was her usual, prancy, fidgety Arab self. I was hoping she wouldn't continue like that for the riding lesson and cause my grandson some anxiety. I think any horse person, hoping to instill the love of horses in another generation, knows good first impressions are so important! Plus, Abbey has been know to be opinionated on what she likes and doesn't like. Since it was July 3rd I was hoping no one decided just then to set off fireworks or shoot their guns like they did the night before!
I got Abbey tacked up with her bareback pad & rope halter as she danced & sidestepped. I led her to the ring and had my grandson help lead her around, practicing stopping, walking, turning and good ground manners from the ground. Abbey has always had impeccable ground manners while being led so I got to show Landon how to make a horse step back and respect your 'personal bubble'. As we went thru these familiar exercises with my grandson taking over more control, Abbey let out a nice big sigh. A few more stops & starts around the ring and she's licking and chewing. I point out to Landon the signs of relaxation in the horse. We stop at the mounting block to just hang out for a few minutes & Abbey lowers her head so my grandson can pet her forehead. I show him how she likes the back of her ears rubbed and she is like putty in his hands. It was so special to have this time together! My lifetime horse helping me teach my grandson how to ride and Abbey is being her smart, people oriented, best Arab self! She's as gentle as a lamb and is giving my grandson lots of positive reinforcement of his directions and cues. It was a very special moment for all of us!
Please don't under value an 'old horse'. Sometimes they are pure gold!!