(Oct. 1987 to May 2007)
In May 2007 my life was turned upside down.
Sadly, my very special horse Manny, went to ‘horse heaven’ after a long period of illness which I suspect was a the result of a recurring cancer.
He came back to full health after colic surgery in July as you can see by this photo above taken in November 2006 . But he started to decline again in February 2007 and although his spirit battled on, his body failed him.
I was there when Manny was conceived and then born in 1987, and still with him when he took his last breath on May 19th, 2007.
As part of my grieving I found it helpful to recall the good times we had together. They led to all the wonderful things he taught me which I wanted to share so you can recognise those special moments on your horsemanship journey too.
Horse are our greatest teachers when we take the time to form a true partnership and listen to what they have to say.
Manny Taught Me…
Manny was my greatest teacher.
First he taught me that I had a good eye for selecting his dam, Candyaan, as an ideal mare to breed to his sire, Mandala Royale. Manny was their first foal and they went on to produce 9 full siblings, all lovely 7/8th Arabian horses.As a foal he taught me young horses need good handling to be able to cope with the human/domestic environment.
He showed me how sensitive and aware horses are by not allowing himself to be caught when I wore gloves in the paddock for the first few times.
He showed me how patient horses can be when taught not to fight pressure by standing for hours caught in wire/blackberries/hay net waiting for me to come and free him.
He showed me I had to improve my horsemanship skills by turning into a frustrating four year old who jigged and jogged and got uptight about being ridden. That started my journey with natural horsemanship.
He taught me an endurance horse first needs a good solid education to be controllable on endurance rides amongst other horses.
Manny was my consoling friend when I sat under a tree in his pasture, upset and feeling scared during difficult times in my marriage. He would come and ‘hold’ onto me ever so gently with his lips, making me laugh and giving me comfort.
He taught me to be gentle with such a sensitive horse – I had to be smarter and braver for him, not harder on him. He taught me most horses are just scared and sensitivity can be mistaken for running away.
He taught me a lot about impulsion and how we cause the horse to be impulsive by being that way ourselves.
I learned to be lighter with my requests and signals, to reach the ultimate lightness with our communication – by thought alone. Less is more. I learned to use my energy and focus after my thoughts to communicate what I wanted.
He taught me to listen to my intuition and to believe in what I heard. He was able to tell me one night that I’d left the hose going in a water trough while his was dry.
And I’m so glad I listened to my feelings about going to check on the horses in the morning instead of later in the day, when I found him lying on the ground with all 4 legs caught up in the fence after rolling too close to it.
I now know to go check on the horses in the night if I hear unusual activity such as when galloping alerted me to a newborn foal rejected by his mother and found his way into the paddock with all the riding horses and the only other mare and foal.
He taught me that love is unconditional when you give it freely, no matter what happens between you.
He taught me that frustration gets me nowhere – it’s better to walk away from it and come back when I’m feeling calmer and thinking again.
He showed me a horse will try so hard to please, even when we make mistakes, always forgiving us but never forgetting.
He taught me that horses need lots of variation, stimulation and not much repetition. Going over and over something that he knew was boring resulted in ears back and a sour expression.
He taught me horses will offer new movements they have recently learned in response to whatever you ask them to do, because they just wanted to please.
He taught me to look at other methods like clicker training when a horse needs more incentive or to overcome great fears.
He taught me to respect pair bonds – he was best friends with Lucky from one year old and they were never separated for more than a few hours.
No matter how much educating I did to ‘wean’ him away from Lucky, he was never happy unless they could live together. Lucky was leader and Manny was always second in the herd order.
He showed me that horses hate confinement and get stressed by travel, even when they are used to it.
He taught me that the bond between a horse and his trusted human can be as strong as that between two horses. If I took him to an event alone, he called and fretted for me if I went out of sight.
He taught me that with diligent nursing and research into medical options, a horse can survive major colic surgery and return to ultimate health. He taught me never to neglect a regular worming routine – he would always develop a cough when overdue for a wormer.
I learned from him that every horse is an individual and must be treated and educated accordingly. Manny had a cheeky personality, smart enough to get into the feed shed and feed bins and to open gates.
He taught me that a horse needs a much higher level of education and trust than the level at which you expect them to perform under pressure.
He showed me that not all horses will enjoy or tolerate physical collection and show or dressage competition. Horses for courses and courses for horses.
Manny loved to trail ride, chase cows, do obstacle courses, jump a little and play at liberty. He taught me that some horses don’t enjoy being used to promote our ego or our knowledge – he hated the stress of Agfest after the first time there in 1996 and showed more stress at each Agfest after that until I ‘retired’ him from going there in 2005. That lesson took me 9 years to learn!
Manny taught me that all horses are special in their own unique way.
Van Morrison songs bring back memories,
Memories of when we danced together at Agfest.
Your lightness, willingness and try,
Wanting to be in harmony, with energy,
Like the thunder and lightening that was in the sky
– the night you left this earth.It was a spectacular, un-seasonal storm, light flickering in the distance
And thunder rumbling around the hills,
Nothing scary, just the feeling of a greater energy
That would transport your spirit to the heavens,
Where you can be a special horse angel.The connection we had was through the mind, in the end so refined.
I miss all the things we could do together,
The lightest moves at the slightest suggestions,
Sideways, backwards, up on the pedestal, shaking hands, spinning,
Turning, stopping with nothing, flexing, canter departs,
It all felt so good and looked so spectacular.You made me look like a star, but it was all your hard work,
That trained me to do the right things, to back off, use light phases, use thought first,
Use rhythm, use focus, have great timing – you taught me well.
But it was your try, your consistent softness, your character,
The way you held my finger in your lips when you wanted to show me love..
All those memories bring a flood of tears when I realise
I’ll never feel those things with you in the physical sense again.I know you’re with me when I’m teaching other horses.
That knowing has made me far more considerate, not in so much of a hurry,
Lighter and softer with all the horses I touch.
They all need the sensitivity I gave you, and that you demanded.
But none will replace you – or that mind connection we had.
I could hear everything you said – I just didn’t realise it at the time.Mr Manny, I miss you so much.
I’m sorry I put you through such a slow death,
I t was so hard to let go of such a special being.
Please forgive me.
I know you have.Yours gratefully, Cynthia.