Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals

Horses

Blaze

Blaze is a 25 year old Quarter Horse who has been living with us since 2005. He has multiple health problems basically all related to a hard life playing polo. Red

He made his way to our place after my friend’s parents sold their property and she had nowhere to keep him. He is brilliant with children and all my kids (indeed half of Bilpin School) have had rides on him. However about two years ago he developed arthritis in his hip – so bad that you couldn’t even pick up his foot to clean it out or trim it. It did settle with medication and our farrier – Jeff is the only person he will let pick up that hoof. Poor Blaze’s shoulder and hip are much worse in winter and we basically just nurse him through the cold months and celebrate with him when the temperature turns warmer. It is ironic that his rug which protects him from the cold also restricts him and provides a constant source of irritation. He displays his obvious displeasure whenever I put it on him or adjust it. Generally Blaze is quite crotchety in winter but I can’t really blame him for that. I know that when I have aches and pains I am not the nicest person to be around either.

He also is not particularly trusting of men, which leads me to believe that he has had some bad experiences. Despite this he has never bitten or kicked and I trust my children to be around him most of the time. There are occasional days where I won’t let them into the paddock but this is usually due to weather (extreme wind) and then all of the horses are off limits.

Blaze is 15. 2 hands and is a beautiful deep chestnut colour. He really is a stunning animal and seems to know it. In fact he can be a bit of a tyrant and is slightly chauvinistic. He gets on very well with Summer and Kitty (the ladies) but detests Duke, another gelding

It is interesting that Blaze is the youngest of our horses (except for Kitty the Shetland) and even though not the largest, is most definitely the ‘boss’. He finds it especially difficult when the other horses go out for a ride and he can’t go. After all, the leader shouldn’t be left behind.

Blaze will live with us as long as he is still comfortable, ruling the roost at our ‘Shady Acres Horse retirement village’.

Summer

Summer is an amazing, beautiful, sweet lady and I love her dearly. She is a 29 year old cross Arab mare who is a stunning palomino (gold with a white mane and tail). Summer was loaned to my friend as a friend in retirement for Blaze and came to our place at the same time. Summer is a 14.2 hand, retired show horse who in most horse circles would be considered fairly useless and would probably be dead by now, sold for dog meat.

Luckily for her and for me she is not.

Goldie

Each morning she greets me with her cheerful face and waits patiently for her breakfast, unlike Blaze who obviously thinks I need some major ‘encouragement’ to hurry me up. She is a dream to rug, groom and ride and to see her trotting around the paddock is like poetry in motion.

Summer is definitely the lowest of the pecking order – even Kitty the Shetland can steal her food. Summer doesn’t have a dominant bone in her body but she isn’t fearful or nervous, just nice.

Not a day goes by when I don’t wish that I had met Summer years and years ago. I realise that our time together is limited and I cherish every day with this lovely lady.

Summer goes to Pony Club every second weekend and enjoys every minute of it. She loves to show off with her dancing trot (as Kelsea and Kyle call it) and is a bit of a prissy – she won’t step in poo and will do a little side step around it.

Kitty

Ahh Kitty. Every now and again an animal comes along that is just plain special, who can make you smile just by thinking about them.

Kitty is one such animal. She is a 13 year old, black Shetland pony.

Kitty

Now most Shetlands have a pretty bad name, in fact every Shetland I’ve ever met has been stubborn, nippy and some downright nasty. I really had no desire to ever own one but Kitty was offered to us on loan by a friend who didn’t need her for a couple of years and she assured me that she was delightful.

She was right.

Kitty is an angel and she loves being cuddled and kissed. She is a pleasure to saddle up and leads better than any dog. Kelsea my daughter is gaining her confidence in riding in a way I never dreamt would be possible.

Kitty reminds me of an oversized Labrador in more ways than one. In fact her only bad trait is that she is an absolute glutton (you will notice even in the photo she has food in her mouth). Within a couple of days of her arrival, I had renamed her “Gutzoid” much to Kelsea’s horror (she prefers to call her “Babycakes”). Kitty is so totally obsessed with food that she has to be locked up in a little pen to stop her harassing the bigger horses or in the case of Summer– eating her food. She inhales her food at a frightening rate then worries the others constantly. It is funny how when I let her out of the pen, she doesn’t head to get a drink of water but straight to their troughs to clean up any leftovers.

It is also funny to see how willing she is to trade the small amount of food that she gets in her pen for her lack of freedom to harass the others. It is similar to the instant gratification need of small children. You know how if you offer them one piece of chocolate now or three pieces in five minutes, they will always choose the one piece now. In fact she is so eager to get in her pen, she stamps the ground and bangs the gate until we open it. Of course being a Shetland, obesity is a constant danger and we have to keep a close eye on her weight, luckily however she’s not too bad although I don’t know how she’ll go when the spring pasture comes through.

We are incredibly lucky to have Kitty, she is a great teacher for my children and a wonderful character to be around. Not long after I fell in love with Kitty I began to worry about what would happen to her in the future, when the children had outgrown her. I thought about her ending up in a pony hire business being dragged around day in and day out. I knew that my friend would never sell her to someone like that but what about the people that bought her from those people? (visions of Black Beauty were running through my head). I mentioned this to my friend who offered to let me buy Kitty which I did. Finally I felt at ease knowing that no harm would ever come to this gorgeous, sweet pony and that I could love her completely and never part with her. You know when you hug Kitty she nuzzles into you and the harder you squeeze the more she likes it. I hug her a lot.

Duke

Duke is another retiree who is living out his days on our sanctuary. He is a 16.2 hand, dark bay, thoroughbred gelding. Duke recently retired from the NSW Police Force where he had worked for 12 years.

Duke

Duke is a wonderful example of the complexity of animals’ personalities. The opportunity to own Duke came through a friend who is a Mounted Policewoman. She explained that he was due for retirement and how he would be perfect for me as he was exceptionally schooled. A letter to the Police Department and a few weeks later, he was mine.

I had developed a picture in my head of what he would be like but from the moment he arrived it was clear that I was wrong. I imagined that he would be a laid back, totally relaxed, bombproof horse after so many years of active service patrolling the streets of Sydney. While he is bombproof to a certain degree, he has not been totally relaxed. His enforced retirement came as a total shock to him and it has taken him months to unwind. I suppose he was highly institutionalised and to suddenly take him out of that environment and put him in a paddock with horses that he didn’t know, evoked a similar reaction as what many human retirees experience – shock, bewilderment and grief.

He also was quite emotionally distant and didn’t like to be patted. He would let me pat him once or twice on the neck, then move off –away, just out of reach. This surprised me because I imagined that he would be so used to humans but when I thought more about it I realised that as a police horse I’m sure many of his experiences had not been that pleasant. For example these horses are used in crowd control and riots One day when saddling him up, I grabbed his headstall and he responded quite violently, jumping backwards and throwing his head in the air. He did this repeatedly until I had calmed him down. I realised that people had probably grabbed him like that in riots with the intention of unsettling the rider.

He also did not have an ‘owner’ for the12 years that he was in the force. The horses are ridden by all of the officers and even the grooms would have changed quite a bit over that time. I suppose you could say that like some humans he was ‘married to the job’.

It has been a slow process but we are getting there. Duke will come to me when I call him for a pat and sometimes even a hug. He is an amazing horse to ride and has taught me so much already. I think he is finally beginning to understand that this is home now and that I am his human and he can trust me. Duke won’t ever have to leave so that trust will never be broken and together we can explore Bilpin and Berambing for the rest of his days.

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