Horse & Pony Feb-Apr 2017

Knowing when
    We have a good dog. The kind of dog who comes around once in a lifetime. If you’re lucky. He’s the dog who hears his name no matter where he is on the farm and comes running, lies by the barn door until chores are done, carries the paper up the lane each morning, shares his food with the kitten, and quietly requests a brief belly scratch every evening – if it’s not too much trouble. 
    He was the last puppy, a leftover, in a final litter of Bernese-Labrador crosses. The five-month-old quiet, gangly pup who we named Dodger had very big shoes to fill. We brought him home after the death of Chester, the elderly and by then blind Shepherd cross that I ran over with the horse trailer one terrible hot day in July (ALWAYS check under your vehicles on hot days before you drive away). Chester, the tiny unwanted puppy who arrived randomly one day tucked under my husband’s arm, grew to be pretty close to perfect himself.  
    Dodger will be 12 in February. Old for his breeding. He’s thin as a reed now, but happily gobbles up the homemade food prepared for him since he started to fail. The last few months, family conversations are peppered with: “Did he poop okay?” and “How did he seem on his walk today?” Two years ago Dodger finally mustered up the courage for trips in the scary truck, and found out just what he was missing, walking Fort Edward or the dykes with Bob and Lucy – also much loved but neither with “goodness” as their strongest trait. 
    Each day we wonder how many more walks there will be. Will we know when he is ready to say goodbye? It’s the hardest decision we make as animal owners, but the extra attention, care, and time spent with an elderly pet is a gift. Perhaps when the day comes he’ll know how special he was to us?
    But enough about endings, this issue is about beginnings. Being on hand during the birth of a foal is unnerving to say the least. Hearing the first little nicker from a delicate whiskery nose brings a special mix of wonder and relief. In Vets View, Dr. Helen Douglas has advice on making foals happen, while acknowledging it’s not for the faint of heart. Susan Sellers sat down with established breeders to talk about the importance of “The Good Mare” in the foal-making equation. Jana Hemphill caught up with Ruth Hanselpacker for 24/7, and confirmed that like everything else in life, success in the field requires a lot of hard work. And what horse breed best meets the needs of a mother and daughter team with varied interests you ask? Sandra and Samantha Symonds have a convincing case for the versatile Quarter Horse in Judith Scrimger’s “Sharing the family Quarter Horse.” 
    Also in this issue, Alison King caught up with our very own Atlantic Canadian Paralympian Robyn Andrews, to talk about the challenges on the long road to Rio. And speaking of Olympians, dressage greats Debbie McDonald and Jacquie Brooks were both in Nova Scotia recently for clinics. Susan Sellers and Judith Scrimger share their auditing experiences. Scrimger also checked out a trail class clinic and learned that success is really not about the obstacles. Around the Region and the Provincial Reports will bring you up to speed on what’s been happening. Teresa Alexander-Arab wraps up this issue with a story about the importance of teamwork (and owning a good broom).
    The sun is shining briefly on this cloudy wet afternoon. Dodger is quietly reminding me it’s time for a computer break, and a walk.