Philosophy 16th July 2023 17 Comments
The other day I was just hanging out with Magic. He was soaked through and, unusually for him, wrapped in a cosy fleece rug as he’d come in cold and shivering. Not what you expect in July, even in the UK!
After getting the phone call that every horse owner dreads “Don’t worry too much, Jo, but Magic’s not quite himself”, I’d gone straight to check him over and make sure he was OK.
After reassuring myself that he’d already been well cared for and really had just been cold, I stood listening to the steady rhythm of his munching as he tucked into a large haynet, (one of my favourite sounds), then started crying into his mane. I’d also just got the news that yet another of my friends had died.
In the last few weeks, three amazing horsewomen of about my age have left the planet. All of them well before their time. All three made a significant impact in the horse world, improving the lives of countless horses and their people.
Birgit Jacobs was one of my three most influential riding teachers. As the daughter of one of the great German classical riding masters and great friends with Johann Riegler, former chief rider of the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, she grew up immersed in the culture of classical riding.
Birgit was one of the first people to qualify as a licensed teacher of Philippe Karl’s School of Légèreté (lightness) and brought together the best of the German and French schools in her teaching.
She loved my horse, Magic, rode him several times and recognised him as the highly sensitive and kind horse that he is. Although she despaired of my sloppy, not-very-circular circles, we laughed a lot in our lessons. “Concentrate Jo, ride German circles!”, she would say before we both dissolved into fits of giggles.
Then Antje Matthes who Derek and I first met early on in our quest to bring Philippe Karl to the UK. She was the driving force behind the founding of APPEL, the Association Pour la Promotion de l’Ecole de Légèreté, which has done wonders worldwide for the cause of this brilliant, horse-friendly, old French approach to riding. My German isn’t good enough for us to have talked in any depth about horses and riding. I count that as a missed opportunity but I know our hearts were in the same place.
And now Jayne Hunt, who I first met in 2005 on an Equine Podiatry course. We were both there because we had horses who were struggling with very poor feet which traditional farriery and shoeing had not been able to help.
We had a lot in common and I have many happy memories of rather rowdy evenings after long days spent studying hoof theory, dissecting interesting (and usually smelly) cadaver feet and discussing then very carefully trimming our first actual live horses’ hooves.
We both went on to qualify as Equine Podiatrists and build up our own podiatry businesses in the South West of England. We even shared the work at a particularly forward-thinking riding school where they decided to “go barefoot” with all their teaching horses.
Jayne then moved into teaching and trained many more professional podiatrists whilst I established the Holistic Equitation Centre together with Derek and taught riding alongside hoof rehabilitation and care.
All three women were brave, intelligent, immensely kind and a great inspiration to me. I’m shocked that they are all gone so suddenly when they were doing such wonderful work for horses.
What’s going on, Universe? The horses of the world need more people prepared to speak up for them, not fewer.
As humans, we all owe horses so much, not just those of us lucky enough to have shared part of our lives with them. Until very recently, horses and donkeys were our transport and our power – our motorbikes, cars, tractors, lorries and trains. They still are in some parts of the world. Along with dogs they enabled our ancestors to make the transition from nomadic hunter-gatherers to the sophisticated, complex beings we are today.
Don’t we owe it to them to make their lives as pleasant and fulfilling as we possibly can?
This week has been a strong reminder to me of how important it is to value every moment we have on this planet and spend as much of it as we can with our loved ones and of course, our horses.
I believe we all owe it to Antje, Birgit and Jayne and many others that I wasn’t lucky enough to meet, to continue their wonderful work. I know there are lots of you out there who feel this way too but that many feel isolated and outnumbered.
Together, we can do this!
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