Something about her lovely nature, enthusiasm and huge potential has made me keep the faith where many others would have jacked it in. Despite all her issues, she’d never try to ditch me or be nasty. But maybe that is why I owe it to her to retire her before it gets to that stage. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told to give up. I watch her trotting round her field or find videos of her better times and convince myself that surely this can’t be it, maybe we could try a different saddle, or a certain ‘miracle’ back person or different kind of therapy might be able to fix her...but when I ride her I always know straight away in my gut she isn’t right and never will be.
It always comes back to the same thing – a whole year of intensive rehabbing, walking in hand, long lining, in-hand pole work, lunging etc – and the ridden work is great for a short period of time (by great I mean she is vaguely rideable and not unhappy), but then she reverts to the same thing. Hanging on the left rein, neck cracked to the right so you can’t take a contact, napping, jumpy about the saddle, serious lack of steering...and you have to ask yourself, if after a year of solid rehab, if your horse in incapable of being ridden round a simple walk-trot test, should she be ridden at all? Reluctantly, but inevitably, I’ve concluded the answer is no.
The hardest thing for me is knowing when to call it a day – with her there is no clear cut answer – she’s not hopping lame, it’s not been a sudden decline, but there has also been no significant progress either. There’s nothing more soul destroying than getting on a horse preparing yourself for the worst, knowing it’s going to be deeply unpleasant, but clinging on to that hope that you might just be able to work through it if she’s stronger, fitter, more topline...but deep down I know there has to be an end point, and I can’t keep putting her and myself through it.
It’s heartbreaking to know that she will never reach her potential, my little pocket rocket eventer that she was bred for and I so wanted her to be. I will always, always question whether a better rider might have been able to get her right, question whether I made the right decision – God what a responsibility - and feel as though I’ve failed her, but I do know I’ve done my best every step of the way. I'm sorry it wasn’t good enough.
So there you have it. Not my usual blog post, and certainly not an easy one, but one I take some comfort from having written too. As a lovely friend said – retired, much loved princess could quite suit her. We love you little Ruby Tuesday.