Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Farewell To A Warrior

We lost a good friend yesterday morning. Aybek, my friend Cristina's little black gelding, died of a brain hemorrhage just after dawn. It was sudden and painless, as we could all wish for our horses, but the timing was way off. He was only about five and a half years old. We know more or less when it happened because the water buffalo gave birth to a daughter in the early hours of the morning and the grooms were running back and forth to check on them next to the horse paddock. Just about dawn they gave everyone some hay and all the horses were happily chomping away, but an hour later when they checked Aybek seemed to be taking a nap in the paddock. A nap at this hour would be sufficiently odd that they checked and found that he was dead. No sign of rolling or thrashing, he simply lay down and died. Cristina is in Italy on holiday with her family as is usual in July, so we arranged burial in the gravel pits.

Aybek was named after a famous Mameluke warrior by a neighbour of ours who was dispatched to rescue him from a Red Sea resort when his European owner had to leave Egypt suddenly. He was a tiny two year old black stallion at the time, so he was left to grow, hopefully, into his name. He never got very tall, being just 14 hands, but his conformation was lovely. He was a very nicely put together horse, just a bit smaller than average. The neighbour moved him to my place when he was about four and we gelded him, which was a very good thing. While he may have been small, he was a mighty warrior and was constantly challenging all the other horses to battle. Aybek was the perfect example of how a nice stallion can become a great gelding. Cristina, who isn't such an enormous person herself, began riding him not long after he'd recovered from the surgery.

Aybek proved to be a remarkably calm youngster. We worked him in the countryside at first to give his muscles and tendons a chance to toughen a bit. He never spooked at the scariest of things along the way and would cross ditches, step over the feed pipes to running diesel water pumps, and even walk past camels who were rising from rest in their strange stair-stepping fashion as long as an older horse showed the way at first, and later he would lead the way past. Cris had never trained a horse before, but her patience and firmness and obvious affection for her little guy was just the trick and he gave her all his trust in return. Training him to allow other horses to walk along behind and next to him wasn't always easy but he had learned to allow others in his space and could be counted on to behave politely when the trail got crowded suddenly, a far cry from the mighty midget warrior who had to take on the world when she started. It was a wonderful thing to watch the two of them growing and blooming with confidence and ability together. They had a true partnership.

One of the things about working with horses is the fact that they are significantly bigger and stronger than we are, even the little ones are. It isn't very easy to force a horse to do something that he/she really doesn't want to, so a rider really must rely on the willingness of the horse to cooperate with him and to help him achieve his end. Finding a horse that you can truly trust and who trusts you is a gift. Cristina and Aybek had this gift. She will have another horse to ride, but what she built from the ground up with Aybek will never be surpassed.

copyright 2007 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani

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