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I really truly hate goodbyes. I'm not talking about selling a horse and waving it off - I'm ok with that. I don't mind saying goodbye to a dear friend at the airport if I know our paths will cross again soon. And I don't mind leaving a great town or city if I know I am free to return there again someday. It's the permanent farewells I struggle with. The kind of permanency that goes with saying goodbye at the graveside to a mate or family member. Or holding your horse's head in your arms one final time as the vet's car comes up the drive...
This week I laid to rest another champion stallion. A small horse with the gentlest nature and the biggest heart. He had lived 27 years on this earth - his last 17 with us at Raglan. In our 7 years competing together he won every trophy imaginable at Advanced level. And in his 10 years of retirement he spent many hours dozing as he looked out over the Raglan Harbour. This week I got to say goodbye to the horse that launched my dressage career - a horse so dear in my heart - Belmont Golden Boy.
For those of you who read my blog from the International Society for Equitation Science conference in Scotland last year you may well be thinking I'd give this year's conference a wide berth, but boy am I glad I didn't. I have attended five ISES conferences in the past in USA, UK, Australia, Ireland and Holland and this year it was to be hosted back in the US of A at the University of Delaware. I'd never been to Delaware and I was keen to go back to New York as my good friend Melanie had recently moved there from Auckland and I thought she could use an injection of Kiwi in her life for a week. So I tagged a USA stop onto the end of my mare buying trip to Portugal and landed at JFK to the welcoming face of dear Melanie.
I write this blog thru tears, both of sadness and appreciation for a wonderful wonderful stallion that has just passed on to yonder pastures. When I woke up this morning here in Portugal I checked my phone and there was a text from my wonderful vet Noel Power to say that Donnerwind had suffered a torsion colic and had to be destroyed. He was twenty two and had had a long good life, but still I feel he left me too soon and I am pained that I never got to say goodbye.
It's not every day a full time rider such as me is offered a holiday to a destination that involves not one solitary horse to assess, ride or train. So when my generous supporters Erin and Warwick Mortimer invited me to spend a week at their luxury villa Te Manava in Rarotonga I jumped at the chance. Although I have seen much of the world, the Pacific Islands have never crossed my travel radar - so it was with great excitement I agreed to come.
Friday at the Horse of the Year show started pretty much how Thursday had ended - busy! I had requested an early draw in the Inter 1 class because Kevin Hansen (HOY organiser extraordinaire) had asked Ali Baba and I to appear in the middle of town at midday for the street parade and display in the civic square in front of the mayor. This was a new concept for the HOY show - to bring the show right to the people of Hastings. So there was a street parade with what seemed like all of the school children in Hastings attending. The parade ended in the Civic Square with Mark Todd being the guest of honour, and a good turn out from both young and old alike who were entertained by Vicki Wilson's bareback display, Harold The Horse and of course Ali Baba and I in our Portuguese costume and saddle.
Every year Kevin Hansen, his lovely wife Sue, and a huge band of helpers put on what can only be described as an incredible spectacle - the Horse of the Year Show. And every year it gets bigger and better. It's not just a horse show - it's a chance to shop-till-you-drop, to catch up with friends from around the country and indeed the world. All my sponsors are there and it's a great time to be with them and support them for the support they have given me. It's a chance to socialise, to show off your horse, and oh yeah - the little thing of actually competing.
Every three or four years the NZ National Dressage championships heads to the South Island to be hosted at the wonderful facility that is McLean's Island - I will let you in on a secret - It's not actually an Island (no passports required) but instead it's on a riverbed. Confusing!
Ever since I began competing in dressage I have supported the Nationals in Christchurch. I think it's been my 5th trip south so far. The hospitality of the Southerners is undisputable, and with my best mate Celine Filbee in charge as Event Manager I knew it would all run smoothly and be a lot of fun.