Guest Author - Susan Hopf
Sandra –Born 1989; Quarter Horse/Welsh Pony cross mare; 14.3hands; light chestnut with flaxen mane and tail; currently retired.
Origin – western horse dealer/auction dealer. Sold to a riding camp at the age of five. Worked at camp for two years. Camp was disbanded and she was quickly obtained by yours truly.
Spent several years teaching children and petite adults patience, correct body position and what not to do with one’s hands when they are attached to her mouth. Spent several more years refining her skills of piaffe and extensions in trot and canter while learning the finer points of work in hand.
Sandra is considered a survivor for several reasons:
Many auction horses wind up at slaughter – she did not. How did she escape such a fate? I can only guess but her attractive physical features, her great generosity and her plucky attitude must have served her well during the mass confusion that is typical at equine auctions.
Many horses that serve time in children’s riding camps are damaged either emotionally or physically – she was not. How she managed to maintain her sanity while teaching countless beginner child riders is a story of legend. Sandra was very young for a camp horse. She was trained to whoa on a dime – that was about all however. Packing the 75th young rider of the summer around and around the arena she just started cantering, and cantering, then running and running – around and around – picking up speed with each revolution. The child aboard was not pleased but kept her cool to the best of her ability. Not wishing to create that stop-dead whoa the instructor – yes me – was trying to distract the little mare from her mission – which had yet to be determined. No intervention seemed to dissuade Sandra from her run. Well as you can guess she eventually grew tired and with no provocation from anyone stopped dead all on her own – the rider stayed mounted – but only for a moment – the little chestnut mare hopped forward for one more stride and plop went the child. She was fine, stood and looked me square in the eye and plainly stated, “Well that was something wasn’t it?” Yes indeedy that was truly something. Sandra learned a valuable lesson that day – sick of your day-camp job? – just run and run and run and run until all of your little riders fall off and you earn the right to be retired from that thankless job and land a nice cushy gig with only one or two riders to deal with in a week instead of 20.
Sandra's latest test of her survivor status came about as her front fetlocks began to drop. Chronic suspensory issues would have been a bad enough diagnosis but it was only a symptom of a much more dire disease process. Degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis is a chronic condition found in the connective tissue of several breeds of horses. There is no cure and it is progressive. Sandra became very painful as this condition took hold. Horses with this condition lose their ability to support themselves and you often see them sitting on a pile of rocks or as in Sandra’s case on her water bucket. She lost a great deal of weight and spent her time lying down if she could not rest against her bucket. Treatments are not always successful but with diligence and very slow rehab we were able to make her comfortable again – this is not typical of horses with this dreadful disease. It took a year and a huge helping of TLC but she is now back to full weight, runs with the other horses and is as happy as ever. I still wince when I look too closely at her dropped fetlocks but that is the only evidence, so far, of the disease process. And when I look away and back into her big brown eyes I am glad that she decided to, once again, beat the odds and survive.