Running into her eight year old year, the mare was considered one of the hard knockers on the track, racing long past her prime. I think of her when I hear the Kenny Chesney song, ‘Dancin’ For The Groceries’. She ran for her groceries. I don’t know much about her history other than after her career on the track ended, she was adopted out to a young woman in Virginia whose husband is a career Marine. When they moved to San Diego, the mare was shipped from the east coast to the west and from what I later learned, was lucky to have survived the trip.
“She doesn’t ship well.” The woman said over the phone. “Her owner can no longer keep her. Since you’re in Colorado, a hell of a lot closer to California than the east coast, we thought we could send her to you. Maybe you can get her going under saddle again. You know, brush up her training a little and then we’ll adopt her out from there.”
“I can make room for her. Y’all will be covering her expenses, correct? Vet, farrier, board, etc.? I cannot take on another horse in the midst of my ongoing litigation battle. I’m drowning in attorney’s fees and court filings right now and I don’t see any light at the end of my tunnel.” I understood the mare needed help and I also was well aware that as my ex-husband was doing his damnedest to bury me, the last thing I needed was another horse to care for.
They were right, she didn’t ship well. She arrived in April of 2013 and proceeded to colic that first night. I walked with her in the freezing cold for hours. She was stressed and I felt such sadness for her. Here she was in a strange place surrounded by unfamiliar sights, sounds, horses and humans. I imagined she begged herself the question, “What did I do so wrong that I had to leave warm, sunny California for cold, snowy Colorado?” As the days passed and she began to settle in I scheduled to have the vet out to go over her with a fine tooth comb. At 16 years of age, having spent half of her life racing, I could only imagine what we might find.
The day the vet did what’s equivalent to an in-depth human physical, I learned that aside from her endorphin addiction (she’s a cribber, not to be confused with wood chewing) she was fairly healthy. “Her stifles (a joint whose mechanism is equivalent to our knees) are smoked, Jess.” The vet said. “It’s really the only thing I can find “wrong” with her. You’ll have to gauge what type of job makes the most sense for her. We can sure try injections to see if that helps though it’s not likely. Used is used.” He patted her on her neck. I felt we needed to give the injections a try and called to let the rescue group know what the status on the exam was.
I’d worked with this group for years. They would ship me their misfits and bad boys that no one else was willing to work with, coming from all over the east coast, New Jersey, New York, Florida, etc. I have a thing for fire breathing dragons and rarely said no. I’d had a great relationship with everyone involved however something seemed amiss this time. I knew there was a massive changing of the guard occurring within the organization and rumor had it, the powers that be were not interested in what was best for the horse rather the almighty dollar and how much these horses could be sold for.
“Pinfire her stifles.” The trainer demanded!
“Whoa! What did you just say!?! You want me to have her stifles pinfired!?!?!” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Do you recognize how barbaric of a practice that is? The mare is 16! She deserves a decent retirement not to have red hot needles shoved into her stifle joints in hopes the resulting scar tissue will miraculously heal her!” I was so angry that this woman was willing to torture this mare just to be able to sell her to someone as “sound”.
“You will do as I say!” the trainer seethed.
I could feel this rebellious teenager rise up inside of me and almost repeated to her what I jokingly tell my kids, “You’re not the boss of me!” Instead I fired back, “Even if I could find a vet willing to do the procedure, which is slim to none out here in Colorado, I won’t do that to this mare! She deserves so much better than that!” I was breathing fire, enraged that this person had her own interests in mind, not what was in the best interest of the horse.
“If you are refusing to do as I tell you, then I will have a shipper there tomorrow to pick the mare up and bring her back to the east coast.” She threatened, attempting to bully me into abusing this precious horse.
“It doesn’t work that way out west here!” I laughed into the phone, “Shippers don’t just show up whenever you demand. The whole reason this mare is here is because she tries to die when she is shipped. I’ll do you one better. You send me whatever contractual bull shit I need to fill out and sign and the mare stays with me for life.”
And so, “Sorraya”, joined my herd. She’s a beautiful mare the color of rich, dark chocolate. She has the most beautiful dapples in the summer that look as if the dark chocolate has cracked and caramel peaks through. Her eyes are a deep amber color and she loves to have the star on her forehead kissed. At 21 now, she’s fully retired. I can hear the click-clack of her stifles as they pop when she walks. She’s comfortable, not in any pain and I have promised her that she is with us for life.
She’s a more aloof mare. I ponder what her whole story might actually be. I know the woman who owned her in California loved her deeply. So much so that I will send her pictures periodically. “Sorraya”, is content to stand with me in the pasture with her eyes closed, breathing deeply as I stroke her neck. She’s wise and I recognize that her journey to me was a difficult one.
She has lessons to teach around addiction and self medicating, something she learned long ago to deal with situations she couldn’t change. Her soft, quiet, gentle way of being around people will offer those uncomfortable around horses a feeling of safety. I’m not sure what her special gifting will be in the coaching pen. Knowing “Sorraya”, it will be something she thoughtfully offers when the timing is just right. She will be the most graceful and patient coach. I cannot wait to open this door for her to truly shine as her talents and calling are finally able to be realized in this work.
“Precious mare, you’ve waited a long, long time for this. I’m so very grateful you chose me as your partner and vessel to bring this work to the world.” ❤
“You are powerful, beautiful, brilliant & brave”