I think there are horses that you love, and there are horses you fall in love with.
This is Sly, aka “Sylvester Rap,” an Appendix that remains one of the most special horses I have ever encountered. By the time I met him, he had a long career behind him in nearly every discipline and was the consummate dressage schoolmaster. He had the chops and the gaits to go up to FEI level, but his heart was stronger than his body and he just couldn’t stay sound.
I leased Sly for two years and he taught me more than I can say. It was after he finally went irretrievably lame that I decided to adopt Tristan. I still worked on rehabbing Sly even as I started Tristan, and in the first few months when my relationship with Tris was still rocky, it was Sly’s shoulder I went to cry on.
Which is not to say that Sly could not be a mischievous, naughty, and spunky little brat. He was the horse that could buck for the joy of it – he could perform the most incredible acrobatics above ground while keeping you perfectly centered and balanced in the saddle – or he could buck to dump you. And when it was the latter, you were gone within a stride or two. End of story. He was the epitome of the push button horse whose buttons were very particular and very difficult to find.
He is unfortunately also my lesson in “better a day too early than a day too late.” He was let go too late, and the memory of watching him try to canter to the gate from his corner of the pasture, eyes still bright but body clearly failing by the day, still brings me to tears.
Even all these years later, I miss him.