Updated 2007, good-bye Saoradh
A good man will take care of his horses and dogs, not
Saoradh was a 27 year old Arabian gelding, red bay with white stockings and star. His breed was unknown although it was clear he had at least some Arabian, turned out he was all Arabian), his past only a little bit known (update: rather better known now). His teeth were bad, so he had trouble eating and as low guy in the herd his pasturemates chased him before he got much in. (for those brave enough, you can see what he looked like when we found him here)
I (Saigh) found Saoradh on my birthday, just going to take a look at some horses for sale with my Dad. There was, a lovely middle aged Standardbred and another healthy looking chestnut of about the same age, but Saoradh was the one that needed out of the situation If I had any doubts, the fact that he was the three colors thought by some to be sacred to the Morrígan, would have clued me in. I was meant to find this guy, to bring him home and heal him; perhaps my search for a Stb was a way of guiding me to him, perhaps it was also a test. My “perfect” horse was right there as a temptation, but Saoradh is the one I brought home.
His name means “freedom” or “redemption” which seems fitting in many ways. I am redeeming his life, he is redeeming my heart, healing it from the pain of allowing what happened to Midnight and Trouble. I am giving him the life that I believe an owner with heart should have given the horse that gave her/him the best years of its life.
The man who had him may have had no ill will and only been extremely stupid, but the horse was starving to death. By spring he was emaciated and in danger of dying…those who saw him figured him to have maybe a week or so left. The farrier and the vet later admitted that they were sure I wouldn’t be able to save him. He has a slight heart murmur that is probably just from the starvation and hopefully will go away (update: it did).
Amazingly he shows a great deal of energy and vitality, despite how thin he is. He goes for grass and his feed (now a special feed for older horses) with gusto, before we brought him home he would run like a mad beast when he realized his pasturemates were far away (for all they abused him, there is safety in the herd) so he meant to survive. He is well behaved, but has shown some willfulness, so it is not that he is so dead that he can’t misbehave (about 20 years ago I saved a pony that seemed sweet while he was starving but only a few days of care showed a little demon beast that he needed real care in handling…but he was small enough and old enough that we allowed him to live out his last few years with better health than he ever knew and as much care from us as he cared to get).
Saoradh had been in VT, so we had to wait a few days for his Coggins test to be done. I went three times a day to feed him the senior feed, to build up the amount in case he had trouble adapting to it. His test was done the day before we did Bealtuinn 2001, and the next morning he came home. Could there be a better timing? It is the time the herds have moved and our horse “herd” was. ~:)
I had hoped to have some sort of true herd blessing at our ritual and we did. I walked Saoradh up through the woods to the ritual site, he was an angel taking it all in stride (except when there was some Outsider activity just before the ritual that upset both he and the hounds until we figured out what was the issue and dealt with it appropriately). He led the procession between the fires and had carrots for the Blessing (when we all share food or drink which we acknowledge is a gift from the Gods). While the addition of a horse into the picture on that very day made things rather crazy, it definitely added to the joy of the celebration to have him with us.
I am thankful to my Tribe for all their extra work for the holiday, and to my guests for understanding that things were more chaotic than normal as neither Aaron nor I had any chance to clean house, study scripts, prepare the temple (we were planning to get that started, but the barn and pasture had to be set up….we hadn’t thought we’d be getting a horse quite so soon, you see). And to my dad for his help in getting the horse and getting things ready for him. And I am most thankful to Macha for bringing one of Her children to me and I hope that I do right by Her and him in my care for him.
Saoradh has gained at least a hundred pounds, with about another 200 to bring him where he should be. He has lost a great deal of his coat and it is growing back in. He is showing a lot of spirit, I bet he was a handful in his prime and may well be at 25 or so. I was hand walking him from the start, sometimes Aaron and the hounds will join us, and am now longeing him. By the end of the month or beginning of next, he gets more work done on his teeth, we will see if he can eat hay again after that. I think the heart murmur is probably gone, his breathing is now normal rather than the slight strain that he had which I have seen/heard in dogs with murmurs. While he might be old, I think he really DOES have a few years left in him that we can enjoy together, and he has a lot of life to put into those years.
June 14 2001
Saoradh had his teeth fixed today, they were indeed very bad. Probably still won’t be able to eat hay.
The best part of the whole ordeal was the look on the vet’s face when he saw him, I think it took a moment for it to register that this was the same horse he saw a month and a half ago.
And he does look a lot better, although seeing him everyday sometimes makes me forget how bad he was. He has been a real brat lately too, this horse is foolish. He’s been shying at everything, more like a game than real skittishness. I think he was a major handful in his day, probably still will be…..in a few weeks I should know. While lunging he has been real lively, moving out real well.
His heart murmur IS gone but he still has an extra beat every few beats (update: this appears gone too)…most likely damage caused by the starvation. The vet doesn’t feel it will hamper him or be a major danger. He has shown no signs of problems during lunging. This guy might be old but he ain’t no plug!
July 20 2001
He’s still improving..note picture to the right. We have saddled him and tried long-lining/ground-driving him…only to find that he panics at having the lines near his back legs. Not in a “oh my Gods what IS THAT!? I gotta get away” way but a “oh my Gods not again, get that OFF ME, I’m TRAPPED, I must FIGHT!!!” way. As my father noted, it’s not as if he were a young horse never sacked out and doesn’t know what it is, he thinks he knows what it is. There is trauma here obviously. And there are a lot of thin scars all over his hind end. But beyond that we just don’t know what caused it…could have been an accident while in harness or with barb wire or something; could be some abuse he suffered. So we will work with this situation until he is calm having the lines around him…I want him to accept more things before I ride for neither of us need a rodeo at this point.
August 30 2001
About An Fhéill Mhacha, the ritual we held at Lùnasda. We held it in honor of Macha as Mare Goddess, especially thanking Her for honoring us by letting us take care of one of Her special Children. We intended to have Saoradh present as we had at Bealtuinn, with something of a central role and give him part of the offerings to Her and Her Children…as he is one. As he was feeling MUCH better than at Bealtuinn, we decided to make a temporary fence for the duration of the day, with him just coming into the temple area during his part of the ritual.
As this season is a time of horse races, we had kept joking that we were holding a horse “unrace” and that we didn’t know what that meant exactly but we were sure to find out. Well, we DID! As we got into the orchard, Saoradh started getting nervous and jumpy. I let him loose in the enclosure, figuring he’s trot about for a bit then relax. HAH! He ran around frantically ignored me when I tried to talk him down. I figured I’d let him work it out, he after all seemed to respect the fence (we have no juice on his fence at home, he will not touch it anyway). Then the next thing we know, there is the thunder of hooves, he makes a beeline for Aaron who is carrying the spears up to the temple, turning just as he gets to him and dashes by me towards home. Several of us swear we saw Someone riding at first. I followed, obviously much more slowly, praying that he’d not meet any cars as I figured he’d take the road we came up. Of course he was sweaty and out of breath standing under his beloved Cedar tree. After checking to make sure he was okay and then walking him out, I went back alone, bringing him his share of the offerings after the ritual.
There was a lot of Sidhe activity and I do believe that he was inspired. It was scary, but I have to say that his beauty as he ran through the field was breathtaking.
Saoradh continues to improve, although it is not as noticeable. We are still working on what ever is going on with him, not riding yet but soon. I am now ground driving him, although he still occasionally throws tantrums. At this point I still believe he was abused, but I also figure that at another time he was spoiled. When he throws tantrums he then anticipates either getting hit (throws his head up if you don’t let him run away) or to win. We are taking it slow. It rather amazes me how he can seem so crazed about simple things, his behavior on the longe line indicates that he is both well trained and willing to please…but everything else requires a battle. ????? I am hoping to find ways to continue things without the battles, I am sure that all he has ever known has been either fighting and losing painfully or winning and intimidating his riders…there are other ways and with all he has been through they are the ONLY ways I feel he deserves. Of course, I feel all horses deserve the gentle ways, I just wish more people felt the same way.
September -November 2001
Tuesday the 4th I rode Saoradh for the first time, with a trainer to help in case there was a “blowout”. He was relatively fine, even if we were both a bit tense. He apparently was never trained to stand while being mounted. He listens to the rider, moves out well, stops easily although at first he always wants to jog around and needs time to settle. He direct reins fine, although is a bit stiff necked, but seemed confused by neckreining…as he is so old and must have passed through many hands (update: yup, many) you’d think he’d have experienced this at some point, and further work shows he probably did but forgot and is confused by the pressure on the opposite side of the mouth.
His biggest issue was with dismounting. He tenses up, raises his head, stomps, hunches his back…threatening, it seems, to either buck or rear. We quickly realized that someone must have used spurs (why? for style? he is very go-ey, just a little kissy noise will speed him up no problem) and raked him while dismounting. He does a similar thing when you remove the saddle, or did, that he already has pretty much gotten over. He also does this if you move your heel along his belly for any reason (this wasn’t caught right off, as I said he is go-ey and I hadn’t happened to nudge him with my heels). I think he will quickly get over this as he learns he will not be hurt nor yelled at (he can’t handle being yelled at, the spurs might have happened a long time ago but the behavior might have been reinforced by later riders if they scolded him for it) when he does it. It will just take time.
I am riding with a plain snaffle and may continue even if it means I have to direct rein him (I am much more used to neck reining). He has a soft , responsive mouth despite all his issues. I will be working on some bending exercises to loosen up his neck. I am riding in an A Betta Endurance saddle but have realized that I cannot use the stirrups…after years of riding bareback I just find them both uncomfortable and a bit too dangerous to use except for mounting. My reason for a saddle at all is concern for his old back, the tree will distribute the weight; not to mention although he has gained a lot his back is not as round as the horses I used to ride so this is more comfortable for me too.
In late Sept, we had a bit of a set back. Although he might be a bit cranky about saddling, Saoradh never showed any outstanding issues with it. But as I was saddling him, he suddenly freaked out, pulled back, got loose and bolted for the road. He tried to get back to his pasture through part that runs along the road, but the bushes and trees were too thick, so he again headed up the road. The saddle was not tightened and was sliding under his belly, likely scaring him more. A woman who had been driving up the road had stopped and was kind enough to give me a ride, we found him some ways up the hill, now walking nervously. I finally got him to let me near, pulled the saddle off and hid it, and led him back home. He had cuts over his eye, his eye too had been hurt; blood trickled from his nose and his legs were scratched up. The vet confirmed that the bloody nose was just scratches just inside the nostrils (yeah, concussion had occurred to me); the eye was scratched, there was a puncture on his leg. He was hurt, but not life threatening.
Now in November, he is healed up and doing well. We had to start over with some of the trust issues, apparently in his mind I did something that caused all this (maybe I did, I have gone over and over again but I can’t think of anything I did differently). We have concentrated on ground work, working on give to pressure again which seemed to have gone out the window with him (while it was obvious he had never been taught this before, he had picked it up quickly once he got the idea). I still haven’t ridden since simply because since he has been well enough things had gotten busy here, but I have saddled him several times with no issues at all. Maybe after the winter pasture is all finished up, we can start back in the saddle again.
Wow! I thought I had updated this at some point over the last year. I’m actually remembering having done so and am wondering if I lost a “save” there somewhere!!! Anyway:
We didn’t ride all the Winter of 2001-02, with as much snow as we get winter riding is a bit of a challenge . We didn’t do much until spring and then it was back to ground work. His trust needed to be built up.
He had an exciting spring actually fairly early on, in the middle of the night, lightening hit his barn. He freaked, went running through the fence, through the herb garden fence, and then back around through another part of his fence. We fixed his fence and tried to catch him but couldn’t in the dark. He seemed okay. The next day we found he had a scraped on his shoulder but that was about the extent of the damage. I did our usual online ground work and it seemed to make him feel things were normal. I had been concerned that he might become spooked by thunder, but he never showed any sign of it.
I used a lot of Clinton Anderson’s techniques, mostly learned from his show on RFD-TV. I had used some before, but not in the proper manner, this year we worked on everything just as if he were just starting. And it was amazing! He quickly started to trust me, started to really understand what I wanted and WANTED to do it! He seemed to really enjoy our sessions.
By Lùnasda I was riding him again, at first his distrust showed when we started. I think a lot of the abuse he suffered was while being ridden and it took awhile for him to realize I was going to treat him the same as I did during ground work. We had a bit of work to do about mounting, he wanted to walk off while I put my foot in the stirrup. Instead of fighting him to stand, I jumped down and drove him in a circle (I had kept the halter and lead on for this reason) until he showed submission (lowering his head, licking his lips) I’d try again. It just took a few times of this and he figured out I wanted him to stand! Soon we were riding everyday mostly in his pasture or one of the larger mini-horse pasture (there are three, used in rotation). He is even more responsive to seat and the bit, I do not use the bit much except to bend him, one of the exercises Anderson uses.
Um, he still “hops” most of the time when dismounted. Unfortunately, he probably thinks it’s what keeps him from being hurt. I also think he may be anticipating being yelled at and/or hit (a vicious circle may have developed, he “hopped” so his rider yelled and/or hit him, which just made him hop more which probably made the rider madder…..). I mostly dismount sliding forward now (at first he didn’t hop when I did this, then he realized I was dismounting and started) so that if he does more than just the little hop my feet are clear of the stirrups. I may stop myself from dismounting fully if he hops while I still am able to, then wait until he isn’t doing it, but otherwise I ignore it, figuring any response will only serve to feed it.
He continues to be go-ey and a bit spirited. He is really a fun horse to ride now, responsive yet in no way a dud. He does not show his age at all, once warmed up.
His arthritis hasn’t changed much, certainly not worse, possibly a tiny bit better. He clearly stiffens up when he isn’t moving and exercise really does seem to help. He is on supplements for it, gets a bit of a warm up before riding to loosen everything up, and I massage him after each ride or ground session.
Unfortunately, with winter our riding has seemed to have ended. We’ve done a little ground work and that is it. I am hoping to start riding again before spring comes though, but I need to get some better boots and gloves first. Right now he’s happily eating hay (not much, still mostly on Senior feed but he does get some hay down, it gives him something to do and probably keeps him warmer) and basking in what little sun we get this time of year.
Well, we never got riding before spring…in fact, it was nearly actual Summer (by calendar time, not Gaelic time…by Gaelic time it was well into Summer) before we started riding. I’m afraid that the job that I have in order to keep Saoradh sort of got in the way a bit too much, along with other things. But we started riding in June and have been going out several times a week..not daily due to the job…since. Saoradh acted like we never stopped, he is doing so good and he started improving on stuff right off. He was still hopping when I dismounted, but after just a few rides he just stopped. He has only done it once since. It’s like he never did it at all. He doesn’t seem quite as spooky, or at least not as reactive. He starts at things, but doesn’t (so far and knock on wood) try to bolt. I couldn’t be more proud of him!
Well, it has been a long time. It should be accepted by the reader that the reason there haven’t been many updates in the two past years is that things just have gotten that uneventful. ~:) Saoradh is doing great, he’s becoming a nice little trail horse in his golden years…a bit skittish at times, but remaining responsive to me. The NH has worked great with him and proves that age is not a barrier. That this horse may never before have felt any trust with a rider is heartbreaking, but at least he’s having a better time now.
I have found out some of his history though. He is an Arabian and he’s 30 this year. His birthday is the day after mine…so we were each other’s b-day present three years ago! He was once owned by a High School classmate of mine…when we were in school (I remember her talking about him but I never saw him). He was then owned by the “trainer” that had turned Midnight into a runaway and it appears he was with him the longest..about 10 years. This may explain a lot. His various reactions to things, his appearance of being well-trained and then appearing to have had someone try to “break” him and fail could be explained by this. He may well have been nicely, if conventionally, trained but this bozo got a hold of him and damaged him greatly. Maybe he was damaged before, I don’t know, but I do strongly believe that this man must have ruined every horse he’s come near (Gods willing he isn’t near any anymore…I need to look into that).
But now he’s here…and here he shall remain. We ride everyday we get a chance, although winters are still not working out. He still likes to move fast, he will still argue with me about going to new places. His arthritis has not gotten noticeably worse and I think we’ll have a few more years yet. I am so blessed to have this horse in my life.
This is the hardest update, it has taken me months to finally actually do it. There hadn’t really been a lot to update, we had fallen into a good relationship, rides were fun and uneventful. In 2006, as my mother’s health declined, Saoradh became my therapist, helping me through her illness and eventual death. Despite the fact that she had been very housebound and I don’t remember her ever getting out and even patting Saoradh, he was a connection for us. His pasture ran just outside one set of her living room windows, so she’d see him every day until she became bed ridden. She’d comment on him, he and I would stop outside the windows when we’d go riding to wave to her. As she became more bedridden I started taking him to her bedroom window, then later when she was moved to the living room but faced away from his pasture, I’d ride to the window on the other side to wave. We did this the day before she died, at that time too week for me to see if she even knew we were there but my sister and the nurse who were with her said she did.
Shortly after, I realized that what had seemed like a slight eye infection wasn’t responding to the ointment it always did. Getting the vet out, we found out that his eye was simply wearing out. It was inflamed, he couldn’t distinguish things with it, but it was also sensitive to light. He was put on “bute” for the inflammation, along with continuing his “no-bute” that he was already on, lessening the amount of the actual drug he had to be on to work. He wore his fly mask as sort of “sunglasses” even when it was too cold for flies. We rode that fall, and he was also slowing down a bit so although he still wanted to go out the rides were short, early in the morning before the light came up over the trees. As winter came on we moved back to doing ground work, due to the ice and snow. He still had a lot of energy, sometimes trotting around his field like a colt AFTER our sessions.
That was until early March, when he started showing a loss of interest in things, began to seem lethargic. On March 17 he appeared to colic, but even after his gas was relieved, he was acting distressed. There was an ice storm, which had kept my from going to a workshop I was supposed to do in Massachusetts, but also kept the vet from getting to our place easily. We kept in phone contact, the vet did advise that it appeared he was just “wearing out” and that there was nothing that could be done other than put him down. On March 18, 2007, Saoradh died in our arms before the vet arrived.
We knew when we found him that he’d not be with us long. In fact, for the first days we were pretty sure we’d just find him dead one day. The weeks that followed it became less sure, but a possibility. When we found out his actual age, and given the condition he had been in and the life he had, we were amazed we had saved him. We had nearly 6 wonderful years with him. We got to see him turn around, first physically, then emotionally and become a wonderful, loving horse who seemed to really enjoy life. Possibly for the first time ever. We both wish we could have given him more years, but are truly grateful that we were able to give him the ones we were…and to what he gave us.
During his dying I had visions, of the horses that I knew in the past, of my mother telling me he was to come with her. I truly believe that our loved ones, human and animal, often return to us in new incarnations and I “asked” him how he would do so, how I could recognize him. I had the image of a foal and was reminded that I always said if the need still existed and I was in a position to do so that I’d adopt a PMU. I will miss the incarnation of Saoradh that I knew, but I do believe that if Saorsa is not him returned that he sent her to me. That gives me strength and has allowed me to be able to give another horse a chance she’d not have. If it were not for Saoradh, all the strength he gave me, all the trust we both learned, I probably wouldn’t be able to take this next step and if I did I would not be as well prepared.
Thank you, Saoradh, my redemption.
End All Horse Slaughter NOW!
Contents and design, except where noted otherwise, copyright © 2001-07 Saigh Kym Lambert and Aaron Miller
Photos of Saigh and Saoradh at top and of riding copyright © 2003 Marie Lambert Campbell, all other photos copyright © 2000-03 Saigh Kym Lambert or Aaron Miller