Zarif came to me when I was 19 and he was a 9 yr old stallion and he was far from the horse of my girlhood dreams. He was skinny, a stallion, aggressive, pushy, green, and my very first horse that I owned outright. Given to me as a present from my first husband.
Over the next 6 years I rode him, took lessons on him and became interested in Dressage and Jumping. We started showing in little open shows at training level, always steady always forgiving of my little mistakes. We quickly progressed and did pretty well. When he was 15 or so I decided to have him gelded so he could have friends and a more full horsey life. That was also when he started showing a bit of arthritis in his hocks so instead of pushing further in dressage and having his hocks injected we switched to english pleasure and western pleasure.
He taught my 5 yr old son to ride (he is now 21 and in the navy) and he taught my daughter to ride (she is 11 now and has been riding him on her own since she was 4). He ran barrels and poles, sorted cattle and did trail class for my son, he tried with all of his heart to be a jumper for my daughter but by the time she was 9-10 he was in his 30s and even though he would jump a fence for her, it was just too much for him. My daughter was happy to ride him around the barn or jog him around the arena or even play chase with him in the round pen. Many times I would hear her laughing and I would look out the barn aisle door to see her running across the arena with him trotting behind her willingly with no lead rope or halter.
I believe that he has stayed sound, well muscled and healthy because of my willingness to always listen to what he needed and to never put my needs and wants over his. Zarif has been loved all of his life with me and he is still deeply loved. Now because of my circumstances I again have to look beyond my own needs and wants and think of him first. He has given me everything, won countless ribbons, carried us over hundreds of miles of trails. He was always there for me and the one thing that I had always promised him is that I would be there for him till the end but I have to break that promise because I am afraid that my situation is going to get worse before it gets better and I do not want to be in a situation where he is going to suffer because of it. I initially thought of putting him down only because I was afraid that once he was out of my hands his future with someone else would be uncertain and that made me very afraid for him.
I have talked with my daughter and explained that if we both agreed on a place for him that was a forever home that we would let him go there. Somewhere he could live the rest of his life where all he had to worry about was making sure that they would understand his love of rolling in damp dirt (freshly watered arena dirt being his favorite) and that he had his own place to stand in the sun for his naps. Some place where kids could visit him (he loves children, especially girls), brush him and feed him treats. Some place where when it is time they would kindly release his soul and always think of him before thinking of themselves.
Peace, Love, & Horses,
Melissa C. Austin