Sugar is an old horse. I don’t know how old, but I am sure he is much older than the age the woman who sold him to me said he was. He performed pretty decently when I got him. A couple of months into my ownership of Sugar, and after having him checked for a slight limp in his right leg, the vet confirmed that he had arthritis and that he should not be ridden too hard. That was still fine with me. I didn’t ride him much, he was my “back-up horse” in case my mare was acting too mare-ish for me to ride her. We did backyard rides, and we did the trails a few times, but his limp was getting worse rapidly. Soon he was only ride-able off and on, and finally more off than on. An x-ray confirmed that he had severe ringbone.
Needless to say that I felt a bit jibbed, even though by then I had admitted to myself that I had not followed horse buying rules, which include having a vet check out a horse’s health before a purchase. What to do with Sugar? He was starting to cost me more money than my main riding horse because he needed medication and supplements. He was basically useless. But wait. Really? Had I reduced my horses to their sheer utility for my horse riding pleasure? It was time to step back and re-examine my values and to see Sugar for who he was.
Sugar was a companion to my mare, who stopped eating the wooden fences and fence posts because she finally had another equine by her side that distracted her from her nasty habit. She followed him around a lot, even though he was somewhat bossy towards her. This gelding had quite a personality. He was hard to catch but easy to lead, quite gullible when a bucket of alfalfa pellets were put in front of him, and he made a deep, funny “laughing” sound when seeing me approach with a carrot or an apple. He would even smack his lips to show that he was ready for a treat.
Sugar was also very handsome. If his white coat wasn’t muddy from roiling on the ground, he could look vey stunning. His winter coat came in soft and fluffy, and in the summer some subtle dapples surfaced like little freckles on a young girl’s face. He had strong hoofs, even though he kept wearing the right front down unevenly to compensate for his arthritic deformation. I sometimes wondered if he was in pain a lot, but I don’t think so. He had good days and bad days but always a good appetite. On some days he almost forgot that he was impaired and charged down the field in the morning when let out to pasture. He still had a lot of energy.
A few kids got to ride him. The lightweights on his back would not bother his leg. Kids loved Sugar with his soft coat and friendly attitude. He could show resistance when an adult rode him, but he never behaved badly when little kids were on his back. Seasons were passing and Sugar was so much part of our family that all thoughts of being jibbed by a bad horse buy had long dissipated. Sometime I stood in the paddock next to Sugar and did nothing but feel his presence. He taught me how to love a horse for who he was and not for what he could do for me.