This weekend Salina is having her 28th birthday, and helping me begin a series that looks at living with the senior horse.
The lovely Salina came to live with us when she was 23 years old. Late one night I was browsing online and came across a photo of her. The moment I saw her face, her slight tilt of the head as she looked directly into the camera lens, I thought "therapy horse."
Salina is a black Hannoverian mare who was imported from Germany as a brood mare. She has one white sock and a very fine crescent star. Salina also has one eye, and when she came to us she had fairly severe arthritis in both knees. But with regular but light work, no stalling, and some supplementation for her joints, she was able to teach us a few things about riding before we retired her completely at age 26.
Salina carried us through our first dealings with a hoof abscess. She taught me about mares and that being centered in my own body and self is the key to success when handling her. She taught me about mirroring and partnering and how both horses and people as they age can have bad days, bad weeks, and that there's nothing wrong with moving slowly when you need to do so.
Salina is why we were led to Rafer Johnson and Redford. She taught me to listen to my gut when dealing with the vet. Sometimes what I know about my horses is more relevant than the vet school knowledge. She taught me about the power of the maternal instinct, and on a daily basis now, she is my partner on November Hill, keeping her eye on everything in the neighborhood, pricking her ears to show me where to look when there's something I need to see.
Salina has come to my bedroom window in the middle of the night to wake me up when something was amiss. She stood by Rafer Johnson's stall when his leg was broken and kept him company, and in my opinion, her presence is why he healed so quickly.
Salina soaks her own hoof when she has an abscess brewing, takes hand signals from her blind side, whinnies a beautiful song in concert with Keil Bay for breakfast, and constantly mirrors the humans around her.
Salina led me to learn more about equine nutrition, and she taught me how to properly give paste wormer and other medications from tubes. She has done more to lead me in the right direction when it comes to working with and living with horses than all the books I've read, all the lessons I've taken, and all the geldings put together.
Salina has been a therapy horse. She has guided a number of clients through stuck places. But even more than that, she has been my therapy horse, my teacher, and my guide into middle life. There is no way a tray of home-made horse cookies and some apples can acknowledge all she gives to us here on November Hill.
Over the next few weeks I'll be working on a series of posts about some of the things I've learned as a result of seeing that late-night photo and making the decision to bring Salina to live with us. I'll also be writing about the difficulties of living with such a beautiful spirit as she moves closer to the end of her life. It's very possible Salina's next big lesson for me will be teaching me how to say goodbye to a wise and wonderful and magical goddess. It won't be easy, but I know it's a lesson I have to learn.
Happy birthday, Salina. We are so incredibly grateful for the years and the lessons.