Sometimes, you can be around horses your whole life and think you know pretty much everything you need to know.
And then, there are those times... maybe once in a lifetime... that a horse comes along and leaves an indelible "hoof-print" on your soul.
Such is the story of Shoii...
In 2003, two of our Saddlebred mares were due within
weeks of each other.
"waddling" nonchalance, they contentedly munched on hay and gobbled up
grain as their bellies grew larger and larger. This was, to
them, "no big deal."
I, on the other hand, was not handling their pregnancies well at all. My days were filled with an
extra-ordinary dose of anxiety... and my pockets were filled with
extra handful's of Tums.
When Belle started showing the initial signs of labor, I plopped down on a bale of hay, sat my little "Foaling Kit" down beside me, and was prepared to wait.
Well, THAT was not what Miss Belle had in mind... at all.
Being a very private mare, she simply crossed her legs, turned her back to me, and put the whole darn thing on hold... until I left... which I reluctantly did.
And of course, I didn't sleep a wink that night.
The next morning, I rushed to the barn. There he was... a shiny newborn foal. Joy!!!
Belle and her baby were standing in the corner. She shook her head as if to say, "You just stay over there and be quiet..."
So there I sat, twenty feet away from the most amazing little miracle... our very first foal... and I was sitting in a corner, doing what I was told...
... by a HORSE.
Before long, the foal peeped his head from underneath Belle's ponderous belly and peered over in my general direction. I figured that he really didn't see me over in my "sit there and be quiet" corner. But it seemed like his bright little eyes were staring straight into mine, and I began to wonder about that I had read.
A few moments later, four wobbly feet made their way across the straw-filled stall over to me. Belle nickered softly, "Come back here...", but her request fell upon deaf little ears as he continued his journey over to where I sat.
Soon, a soft little nose was touching mine. He blew softly in my face and nuzzled my hair. My heart instantly belonged to his.
Not a word was said that morning, and I'm still not really sure who welcomed whom.
It was if he was saying, "Hi! Welcome to my stall..." and he wasn't even 12 hours old.
I had never seen... and have never since... a tiny foal walk away from his mother on the day he was born and so calmly and confidently walk right into our hearts.
But that little one had made it a point to let us know he was there to stay.
It was like Shoii was born never knowing a stranger...
... and not much has changed in the past 10 years.
His registered name became "Premier's Royal Show Off"... his barn-name became "Shoii," which is Japanese for "colorful silk."
A lovable clown, Shoii has never changed since the day he came into this world.
It is hard to be in a bad mood around that horse. His sunny disposition chases any and all dark clouds away. He has an incredibly high play-drive, which makes him extremely fun to play the Parelli games with.
He always has a different idea of "Well, let's try it THIS way...," as he shakes his shaggy blonde mane with that ever-present sense of humor.
Shoii is absolutely without a doubt THE most fun horse I've ever known. He is a Left-Brain Extrovert all the way!
Shoii is our self-appointed "Good Will Ambassador" of the farm.
With his cheerfully smiling eyes and "Hi! Welcome to my Pasture" demeanor, he makes even the most uncertain horse feel at ease with a friendly scratch on the withers...
... Or nose.
It's even the same way with people.
We've had folks come by to see our horses, and some have been nervous to go out in the field surrounded by a large group of curious, friendly equines.
Shoii is always the first one to come up, and if he senses apprehension, he'll stand a bit farther away and simply extend his nose for a "handshake."
The walls usually come tumbling down at that point, and Shoii's made another forever-friend.
Some horses just come into the world with an opinion of how things ought to be, and that is our Shoii. He is not afraid to try anything.
Most of the time, Shoii's good ol' boy, "Don't-be-afraid-you-can-do-it... Hey-watch-this.." attitude rubs off on even the most unsuspecting equine.
When the other horses have finished eating and have "moseyed" back out into the pasture, there's always Shoii... standing patiently by the gate...
waiting for our "quiet-time" together.
Just as he did from the very first day we met, Shoii always looks me straight in the eye, wraps his neck around me and nickers softly, as if to say "We will ALWAYS be friends...."
...and I know in my heart that we always will.
There's just somethin' about that horse......
May 7th, 2009
After slipping into a shallow ditch one night during a lightning storm, Shoii sustained a severe injury to hs right back knee, shattering his knee-cap, as well as tearing the collateral ligaments that hold the kneecap in place. Xrays confirmed that this was not something that was going to heal overnight... if ever.
Shortly after the diagnosis, Shoii's left leg began to show signs of stress from bearing the additional weight that the injured right leg could not. The hoof doubled in size to try to accommodate the weight, but that was often not enough to support him... leaving him almost immobile at times.
We could see that the pain and stress of the entire ordeal had begun to take its toll on a horse who up until this time, never saw a cloudy day... and our hearts were about to break at the thought of losing him.
Day after day, we tried to make Shoii comfortable with anti-infammatory medicine, medicated salves to hep with the swelling and pain, and just anything that we could do to ease his discomfort.
We filled his large stall with soft sand and fenced off a small area outside the barn that he could come and go from the barn as he pleased, and still be able to enjoy the grass and sunshine.
Somedays, Shoii would lie down most of the entire day, just to avoid standing. It broke our hearts to think that we might loose such a bright soul.
After several months, Shoii slowly began to show signs of improvement and was able to start putting weight back onto his leg.
He was once again becoming the ray of light that has brought us such joy, and has such a big heart that we know that he is on the road to recovery.
One day, while doing some of the Parelli games with Intrepido, I noticed that Shoii was intently watching our every move. I thought, "He's wondering why I'm not playing with him....", so after finishing up with Intrepido, I rolled my barrels and PVC pipes over into his paddock.
Sure enough, Shoii happily bobbed his head up and down and did his three legged "Happy Dance" that we've come to understand is his way of prancing around and "expressing" himself now. Before I could even get the halter on him, he sauntered over to one of the barrels, lined himself up, and went sideways right across it..... all the while looking right at me as if to say, "See?... I can still DO things, Mom... please don't forget about me."
With eyes brimming with tears... as much from guilt as joy... I walked over and gave our most special horse a huge hug. It was a lesson in learning that although a horse's body may be broken... most of the time... their spirit is not.
Well, it's been over three years since Shoii's accident...
...and would you believe that he is the most ridden horse on this farm?
Since the day that he let me know that there was "nothing wrong with him," I have made sure that he is at the top of my list.
So now his job is to go and inspect the farm with me, check the fences, and make sure that everyone knows that he's "Top Dog."
Not to be outdone, Shoii waits patiently...
...while I work with the other horses.
He knows after that, it is "our" time together.
Because of how his leg healed, Shoii can no longer wear a saddle due to the curvature in
his spine. His "tack" is a bareback pad and rope hackamore... and we're off on our adventures around and about the
Shoii always wants to say hi to the girls in their field, pausing to splash me with water as we wade across the creek.
Then we mosey along the
fence-row by the geldings.
People occasionally ask me, "Doesn't it bother you to ride a horse that is "crippled?"
The answer is always, "No... His leg might be broken... but his heart isn't."
"You don't throw a horse's whole life away just because they're beat up a little..."