Friday, May 30, 2008

They Can be Gone so Suddenly

The news that three-day eventing super pony Theodore O'Connor was euthanized following an accident really disturbed me. That's not because I'm a huge follower of eventing, but because he was a small horse-- only 14.1-- that had become larger than life due to his competitive spark and his successful performances in world class competition. Despite having spent much of my life riding warmbloods that towered above me, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the smaller horses that neglected to realize that they were shorter in stature than their peers. Teddy suffered catastrophic injuries to a hind leg after he bolted, slipped and fell. Just like that, his fate was sealed due to a freak accident.

Teddy's fate was on my mind today while I was leading Wally down to the large arena near my house. He'd been idle since his two big trail rides over the holiday weekend and needed a longe before I hopped on. Wally being Wally, he started revving up like Secretariat going postward in the Belmont Stakes. I could hardly control him as I led him down the short path to the arena. Keep in mind that I inherited this behavior problem; I didn't create it. But it takes all of my physical strength and determination not to allow Wally to overpower me and begin whirling around in circles on the bridle path. Even more so today, with the spectre of Teddy's accident fresh in my mind, I realized that if Wally should bolt and get loose, he'd be dragging the longe line as he galloped... where? Into the street? Across my neighbors' lawns? Would he crash into the split-rail wooden fence that lined the bridle path? I held so tightly to that longe line (and the stud chain which, as you can imagine, was being used to its fullest measure) that I strained my bad arm. But it was worth it. I knew that should Wally get loose and run amok, he could also end up mortally wounded. Teddy's tragedy reminded me that even at the best barn, with the most experienced handler, a rambunctious horse can get itself into trouble. And unfortunately in the horse world, there are rarely any "do overs."

In yet another instance of bolting off, I found a link to this news story on Horse Channel's homepage. According to the report, a bay Arabian gelding named Charlz bolted while on a trail ride and unseated his rider. He galloped off into the forest and hasn't been seen since. Lost in the Forest?

I remain confident that Charlz' story will have a much happier ending than that of dear, heroic Theodore O' Connor. Yet the potential is always there for one of our beloved horses to bolt off into oblivion, despite how hard we hold on to the reins. Or the longe line.


Anonymous said...

Teddy's death is a tragedy. I'm not saying that one sport is better than another, but regardless of what sport he participated, he was definitely an ambassador for ALL equine sports and for the underdog. He had charm, sparkle, and the tough grit a little horse needs to have to make it in the big world.

I never saw him in person, but watching him clear those huge, scary XC fences on youtube was a huge rush for me. He made it look easier than some of the warmbloods.

RIP Teddy O'Connor

Anonymous said...

I cried and called my best friend when i saw teddy was euthanized. He was quite an inspiration to me because i have a personality like him. i'm short but i have alot of heart as my dad says. I am freaking myself out becaus my freind said some guy was following her and her instructor on the trail in a black trench coat. kind scarring me.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh. I hadn't heard about Teddy until now. I can remember reading about him. I got woke up today by my husband telling me my yearling colt was in the highway and had almost been hit. What am I going to do with him? He is too smart for his own good. He can open any gate. Sometimes no matter what we do, accidents can and will happen.

Cindy Hale said...

Absolutely, no matter what you do, accidents will happen with horses. That's something I remind myself of every day. In just a split second, tragedy can strike! Perhaps that knowledge is one of the reasons why we treasure our horses so much.

Anonymous said...

Teddy was my horse hero. Me and my 14hh Mustang get a lot of negativity by people with larger horses, but Teddy showed the world that even a pony can do what large horses have trouble with. Me and my horse aren't as good as Karen and Teddy, but it always helps to have an idol. He will be missed by a lot of people.