I first spoke with Anna in the New Year, her photo shoot had been a well executed surprise Christmas present to her from her boyfriend Stephen. We made plans for the summer, around her birthday in June.
She went on to tell me a little about her horse Benji, her 16hh gelding, who at that time was on box rest since just before Christmas with a tendon injury. We made plans for the summer, booked a date and I wished her well until I was in contact with her closer to her shoot date.
Towards the end of April Anna made contact with me with some difficult news. Her beloved Benji was still on box rest. Despite numerous vets assessing and working with his injury there was little they could do to help him. There was a substantial amount of calcification in place around the tendon, it was rock hard. They discovered it was actually a new problem for an old injury sustained before Anna bought him. He couldn’t even be turned out to be given the chance to come right naturally, each vet said it wasn’t a viable option. There were very long term trials to consider but no-one was confident at all that these would work. At this point her gorgeous ex hunter had been on box rest for nearly 6 months and the discussions of a further 6 months with no guarantee were difficult to swallow.
After much soul searching, tears and continued consulting it was agreed that Benji’s time had come and Anna made the extremely courageous decision to say goodbye. However, like many of us who have been fortunate enough in these situations to have some time (he wasn’t in immediate pain), she wanted to create some wonderful final days with him. When Anna contacted me about the situation I was devastated for her but completely admired how she was coping. Such a brave lady. I’ve been in a similar position a few times, including with my beloved own first pony. On the outside they frequently still look magnificent and this can often make journey even more difficult. Learning to put your own needs and feelings to one side in order to protect the needs of your horse is, in my opinion, the single biggest process you’ll ever go though as a horse lover and owner.
We moved the photo shoot forward and one Friday morning I headed to the beautiful yard where she keeps Benji just on the outskirts of Christchurch in Dorset.
I felt incredibly privileged to be part of their story together.
I was met with a beaming smile from Anna, an incredibly handsome Benji, an anxious looking non-horsey Stephen and more wind than you’d find in Holland!!
Benji, an Irish Draught X, and Anna first came together nearly 3 years ago. His life had been mostly one in the hunting field and as Anna described him as basically a ‘point and run’ kind of guy. Initially she couldn’t ride one side of him and he frequently terrified her. However she persevered and worked hard on his flatwork and as a result their ridden relationship improved. Together they managed to get to the Dressage arena and her marks started to reflect the time and energy she had put into refining his paces.
Spending time with Anna and Benji was both hilarious and heart warming. Grumpy in his stable – or as Anna calls it, his ‘bubble’ – he’s a gem once outside of it and makes no effort to pull the grumpy faces you’d see within it! The wind wasn’t our best friend at all that morning and certainly put the devil up his tail at times, something that a horse also just keen to ‘just been a horse’ and eat grass found tricky to cope with.
Temptation and wind, an explosive combination at the best of times, however, Benji was clearly trusting of Anna and just wanted to be with her. Whenever she moved, he moved with her. To be honest, they drew strength from each other.
My time with all three of them was entertaining and enlightening. We laughed at him and enjoyed him having some quiet grazing time too, but of course for all of us it was also a little difficult. It’s never easy to work in situations like this and my admiration for Anna that day was enormous.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow…” Helen Keller
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