Sandi was euthanized today, March 26, 2015 at the age of 31. He gave so much to so many in all the years he lived at MRF. This was after a career teaching students at Morrisville College. In this blog post from 3 years ago, Sandi was celebrated while still alive and well. It's how I will always remember him.
My friend Lisa Eklund, (www.journeytowardsamindfullife.com), Assistant Professor of Equine Science at Morrisville State College worked with a school horse named Buckley, who she was certain had earned his PhD. She commented about his intelligence and how, as her teaching partner, he always knew exactly what his role in the lesson was. Sadly, Buckley passed away a few weeks ago leaving a void in the hearts of all those who loved him. Lisa's Facebook announcement received many thoughtful comments about all the wonderful qualities that made Buckley a popular school horse among the students.
In the past, I too have received heartfelt memories and condolences after announcing that one of my horses has passed away. Although my grief was comforted, I question why I waited until the horse died to share how wonderful he was in life. Why not celebrate his gifts while he is still very much alive, keeping the grief factor completely out of the picture? Therefore, today’s post serves two purposes. One, to remind us all never to take the wisdom and experience of a school horse for granted and two, to introduce one of the best of the best while he still resides on my farm.
Sandeman’s Port is just a school horse. He’s the one that anybody can ride because he is safe and programmed with push button accuracy to navigate around the ring with the most novice riders. He is so easy to ride that even if the rider falls asleep at the reins, Sandi will continue unfazed with the instruction never putting the rider in jeopardy.
Sandi was probably close to 20 when he arrived at Moose River Farm seven years ago. Only fifteen hands, (small for a Trakhener gelding), he is built square with a sound limb at each corner. His solid athletic physique makes him quite balanced and comfortable to ride. Sandi has three gears, (one per gait), that maintain a constant speed on the least amount of contact with the reins and leg. Children always want to hear the story about Sandi’s right eye which was removed several years ago after it was ravaged by Uveitis and Glaucoma.
For many youngsters, Sandi is the first horse they not only encounter up close but get to ride as well. He is the one who they groom, pick feet and tack up for the first time. Sandi graciously sports one of the coveted bright neon pink saddle pads without protest.
As a riding instructor, my school horses are my co-teachers who fill in the gaps with instruction that I just can’t convey through words or reassurance. Sandi and I teach together like an old married couple who still garner respect for each other. I know exactly what he is thinking and since he has memorized the objectives for each lesson we are both confident that our rider will achieve success. This is important for young equestrians who sometimes become a bit overwhelmed by so many directions to follow at once.
During breaks throughout the lesson, Sandi will often amble over to me and stop. I react by wrapping my arms around his neck and rubbing his face with my hands. I want the rider to see that he is not a machine, but a living, breathing being who seeks out pleasurable interactions with people. After a minute or so, I ‘shoo’ him back to work, via the rider’s steering skills.
Anybody who trains horses at any level owes a debt of gratitude to at least one school horse. You know the ones I mean. They are the horses who provided us with our first lessons in steering and our first bouncy strides of the trot. School horses are sometimes overlooked in terms of value, because they may be older, losing their buff and youthful topline, or appear to be dull in temperament. The truth is that all of these qualities are what make good school horses worth their weight in gold. So next time you’re about to refer to ‘just a school horse’, please reflect on your first lesson, your first horse, your first experience at the trot, how safe you felt, the magic of the moment and all of the horses you’ve ridden since that wonderful day. Just a school horse? Indeed!
Sandi boosts confidence and provokes smiles.
Good boy Sandi.
Sandi accommodates beginners of all ages.