Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Aging Gracefully

Originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
Fares el Gebel means Mountain Horse or Desert Horse in Arabic. Fares has seen them all at this point. Christina bought him roughly six or seven years ago, and at the time she was told that he was only about nine or ten. According to the people who sell horses here in Egypt, they are all about nine or ten years old, if they aren't four. My Nimbus who died last year at about 30 was supposedly only nine when Betty bought her, but she was at least fifteen when I bought her from Betty six months later. Amazing how they age when an honest vet looks at them.

Christina is Italian married to an Egyptian physics professor at the American University in Cairo. She's the mother of two girls and active in charity work in Cairo, so she doesn't have a lot of time to ride, but she wanted a horse that would be reliable and happy for desert rides. Fares was all this and more for her until recently. About a year ago he began limping after only an hour or so in the sand, so she had vets look at him. Their verdict was pretty dismal. He was older than she thought and x-rays showed severe arthritis in his front fetlocks. Some people told her to sell him as he'd never be good for desert riding again, but that was not Christina's way. Some of the veterinary recommendations would have been extremly expensive and no matter where in the world you may live, most physics professors are not millionaires.

Talking Fares' problems over with me, I suggested that she bring him to live with my horses in the paddocks where at least he wouldn't be cooped up in a stall all day. My horses live outdoors 24/7, an arrangement that has been very good for us over the years. Having arthritis myself, I know that movement of the afflicted joints is the best medicine in the world. Living in a box stall, no matter how roomy, simply didn't give Fares enough room to exercise himself to keep the fetlocks moving freely.

She brought him to me and we gave him a four month rest period, took off his horse shoes so that he had more traction in his bare feet, and wonder of wonders..she had a horse who was sound as long as he didn't spend much time in the deep sand of our desert.

At first he was extremely leery of the countryside demons. Mud in the trail? We Arabs don't do mud, lady. Water pumps might eat us. Donkey carts are dubious. Riding for the first few months was an adventure for Christina. But Fares being a cagey old dude, with emphasis on the old now that an honest age estimate put him at roughly 24 years, a venerable age for a horse in Egypt, he caught on quickly and now hops the little irrigation ditches like a pro...even the ones with running water in them. Our horses don't have much experience with running water since the canals really aren't suitable for swimming. They all seem to have the idea that Arabians are made of date sugar and will melt if their feet get wet, although on a hot day every one of them will be grazing right under the water sprinkler in the summer

Kareem Shehata (www.indigofire.net) took this lovely photo of Fares when he and some friends came riding with me. The young lady on Fares had almost no experience riding, but he took excellent care of her out on the trail. This is one of the characteristics that I so love in the Arabians.

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