Today would have been Blade’s 12th birthday.
I may have lost the physical entity that was Warrior’s Blade, but blessed beyond words to see him as he was. I have some wonderful memories that will stay with me for my lifetime.
For his birthday I want to take some time to remember him and share with you some stories that you may not have known.
Blade had a rough start in life; he was born with a limb deformity. His front right leg was badly misaligned…twisted from what I understand (I was not there). The vets and staff took great care of him in trying to fix it through a surgical correction called transphyseal bridging.
During the transphyseal bridging process the vet placed a pin in the upper growth plate of his canon bone. The pin was intended to slow the growth and allow the lower growth plate to speed up and thus straighten the leg. Once they were satisfied with the correction they removed the pin. The cast removal had also taken some skin with it so he forever had a white-haired scar on the inside of his leg by the time I met him seven years later.
Blade grew up and from what I’m told he was an obnoxious young man until the day they gelded him. He was trained for the racetrack and on July 16th, 2011 debuted in race 5 at Suffolk Downs. The poor guy didn’t stand a chance, finishing 32 1/4 strides behind winners Cold Shot and Get Back Jack. On July 30th he came in 64 lengths behind Donna’s Glitter. On his forth race September 6th he broke from the gate first, led the field for the first quarter. By halfway he fell to second and finished the race 7th in a field of 9. His final two races he continued to start well. He launched from the gate and ran strong in the front for a half mile but ended the race so slowly he was recorded as “did not finish.”
Jack, Blade’s original owner realized he wasn’t cut out for the races. After six failed starts Blade went to live in Connecticut (I think?) for a couple years where he trail rode. In a year or two, he returned to his birth home in Fort Edward, NY where he lived a few years waiting to find me.
In 2015 I was on top of the world. I had an excellent career started as a salesperson with a chemistry-based consumables company. When I wasn’t traveling I taught kickboxing-style classes, taught a couple private clients, and assisted with krav maga classes. I was helping with our women’s self-defense class when one of our students reached out to me about horses. I hadn’t ridden horses in years…I loved them, but they were on the back burner during that phase of life. They told me about this horse that was looking for a home and showed me a picture.
I’ve been offered horses in the past. I have worked to ride my entire life up until that day. I worked to ride when I was 10. I worked to ride throughout college. Hell, I still work to ride today. I know the work and money required to have a horse and I’ve been able to (sadly) turn them down because of it. Something about Blade drew me. It was just a photo but I had a feeling in my gut. It kept nagging at me for a week or so.
I met him.
I spent an hour with him. I lunged him and he offered me join-up. He followed me around the ring off the lead. When I returned him to his paddock he looked back at me and watched me leave.
Then I returned and rode him.
I took a few more lessons on him. At this point he saw me and eagerly walked over, happily leaving his two pasture mates.
I made plans, called a friend, and brought him home on July 3, 2015.
Our life together began with a hoof abscess that very weekend. I learned how to soak and wrap a hoof.
The July heat and the stress of moving also gave him ulcers. We treated him for those too.
A couple months later we moved barns due to the drama at our first farm.
Our new farm was home for a few years and that’s where we developed our strong bond.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows.
Blade took pleasure in making me earn everything. He also had a new “neurosis of the week.” Sometimes he hated his ears touched. Other times he loved it. Sometimes he didn’t mind a bath. Other times the hose was a snake that would surely swallow him whole.
He was known to be the messiest horse at the barn and his stall was always filthy. If we didn’t clean his stall properly he’d tell us so with a tactfully placed manure pile in one of his two water buckets. He’s also pooped in his food bucket on the floor as if to say, “it’s high time you scrub this bucket clean, mom. I deserve a clean food dish”
One of Blade’s vets once told me he was the most expressive horse she had ever met. I believe that to be true. He always told you how he felt about something. For example, he was especially opposed to rain. When it rained on summer days the horses still got turn-out….and Blade disliked that most. He would stand with his head hanging feeling sorry for himself. Meanwhile, his mustang pasture-mate loved the rain.
I artfully overthought and over-managed him at the beginning. An overbearing helicopter mom with good intentions I had a spreadsheet made of the feed options and spent hours (more like days/weeks) of research deciding how to best feed him. I made supplement containers for the multitude of supplements he received.
I also made a lot of mistakes that you don’t typically learn until you make them yourself.
I once “safety tied” Blade to a gate one afternoon to groom him. Something bothered him and he pulled back. The gate moved slightly toward him. I tried to reach the safety release but it was too tight and Blade decided he wasn’t having it. Before I could blink an eye he ripped the gate with the 4×4 it was attached to out of the ground and proceeded to haul it like a kite throughout the barnyard.
He crashed through another gate into a paddock and tore around the paddock in a panic. There was nothing I could do but try to act calmly as I watched my beloved horse try to kill himself with the metal gate chasing him. I finally talked him down and he stopped long enough for me to approach and remove his lead. I assessed and to my relief the only damage was the obliterated gate and fence. Fences and gates can be repaired and I called the barn owner right away.
The barn owner came and I helped him make the repairs. He was surprisingly relaxed and forgiving about the situation.
From then on I never tied to gates and always used baling twine or a tie blocker ring.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes.
He has forgiven me for all of them.
Another story I remember rather fondly came while I was free lunging him in the outdoor arena. He loved to run and the ground was flat and sandy for him to do just that. He’d practice his “starts” by starting at one end; he got to top speed and halted fast at the other end. Then he’d take off from the other end. He held his tail high and pranced with such pride you’d think he was Shêtân the black stallion.
We had a small pony mare at the farm named Lulu. She was a stunning blue roan and Blade loved her. One day while he was running free I watched in astonishment as he galloped straight for the fence, did not slow, and launched.
Blade hurdled and cleared the 50-inch top rail of the outdoor arena with ease. On the other side, Blade ran to accompany his little Lulu who was in the adjoining paddock.
I rode him in lessons with my trainer for a while. He loved to do canter poles. He even tackled the more complicated setups on the first try.
One winter Blade slipped on ice. I watched his legs swing out from under him and he landed on his side. He got up but wasn’t 100% sound. We gave him stall rest and the vet came out in the next couple of days when he hadn’t recovered.
Without any costly procedures (they wanted to use their new bone scan machine but that meant a trailer ride and a few days in the hospital) we decided to keep him on stall rest and revisit in a month. We suspected a possible fracture to the hip, and the hind end is a difficult area to image given its mass. He was mobile and the prescription for such an injury was stall rest.
Blade spent a month inside and after a few weeks was able to get hand walked. I purchased a Back on Track sheet and in another week the vet was satisfied with his progress to allow supervised turnout in a small round-pen. Blade was thrilled.
Eventually, he was given the clear to begin walking rides. Then trot. Finally, we were back to full riding.
All was well…Blade continued his usual antics.
Blade spooked at the object he had passed 10 times prior often. He also chose random objects to suddenly spook at…I think for the fun of it. My trainer often gave me kudos for my sticky seat. When Blade spooked it was a 180-degree turn. When I did fall I often landed on my feet.
He once spooked when another horse knocked the rail it was jumping with its hoof. The hoof didn’t hit the jump hard enough to knock the pole down but it made a noise…and Blade was displeased.
A couple years in we went through a phase. Blade began to buck…not a physical issue but a behavioral one. For about a month I’d fall at least once or twice every ride. It came to a point when I didn’t even want to ride anymore.
Blade also made me chase him in the field, once for an hour or more. He lifted his tail in happy rebellion. It was a game for him.
I began to reconsider being his owner. I searched for avenues to unload him. Maybe give him back? Offer him to a rescue? Ask a non-riding therapy program to take him?
I learned Clinton Anderson’s groundwork and that saved our relationship going forward.
I taught him to lunge with respect. To back up. To yield the hindquarters. The real magic came when he yielded his forehand to me. The day I taught him that was the day I truly earned his respect and our relationship became a permanent bond.
He was better in his lessons. Still played the “catch me game” in the field but not as badly. He was normally happy to see me.
As time passed, however, it became evident that his body wasn’t tolerating being back into full work. One day during a lesson he began to hop, buck, and flying lead change. This time his bucks and hops were not behavioral…they were physical. It was clear to us he could not get comfortable at the canter.
I began riding my trainer’s horses while Blade became a companion. It was difficult for me but necessary since his body could not handle my increasing level of riding.
While Blade was a companion horse I began to learn liberty with him. It wasn’t long before I had Blade trotting and cantering circles around me without a lunge line.
This was also the time I taught Blade to hug, to kiss, and to bow.
We did things together regardless of his ability to ride.
After about a year I began to get on him for 20-30 minute walk/trot rides. He handled it well. I often got on him bareback and practiced my seat.
In 2018 I moved Blade home. The 24-hour turnout on an incline significantly improved his overall physical comfort.
That summer Blade cantered sound for the first time in 18 months. I never had an issue with his soundness once he came home. He even returned to canter poles….his favorite.
Blade loved being home. He loved to see me every day. He still played the chase me game. He would run to the opposite end of the paddock, stop, and stare at me. I finally learned that when he turned toward me he was looking for an invitation. He didn’t WANT to be CAUGHT. He WANTED to be INVITED.
It took me 4 years to figure this out.
When he turned his head toward me after his initial flee I would stop. While still facing him I would back up and draw him in. He would begin walking toward me and I’d turn around and start walking away. Before I got to the gate Blade would be by my side.
At the end of 2019 I brought Tiger (R Tom Cat) home. Tiger, as you know, is an exquisite, handsome, and sound thoroughbred. He competed in Kentucky. He came trained already for jumping. I built jumps and jumped him once or twice a week at home.
One day I chose to take Blade for a ride. I still had some small cross-rails set up….maybe a foot high tops. Low enough to step over for sure. In a fleeting moment, I opted to turn Blade toward the cross-rail and see how he’d react. He trotted right over the cross-rail as if he knew how all along.
Wow. That wasn’t so bad.
On the next go-round, I had planned to travel right past the rails. I didn’t want to push him and didn’t have any crazy ideas of making him a jumper. Blade tried aiming himself for the jump. He wanted it. He listened to me and we skipped it but I let him take it another time after that. In the weeks following Blade started doing small jumps. Verticals and cross-rails no higher than 18.”
I have never seen Blade more proud and happy….and he felt great.
Tiger pulled a shoe the week of our first hunter pace together. On a whim, I chose to take Blade bringing zero expectations for him besides a nice trail ride. Blade happily took every log jump along the course (and I chose not to jump any brick walls) since they were low and unthreatening. At the photo jump I had no expectations. He was historically spooky and the jump, of course, is a “looky” jump.
Things were going well so I figured we’d give it our best try at the very least.
First attempt. Refusal.
Second attempt. Refusal.
I pulled to the side, let him watch the next group jump it. Gave him a pep talk. We cantered toward the jump and right as he started thinking about refusing I told him “No, you can do this.”
Blade continued forward and we took the jump. Halfway over he threw his front legs forward and saw the scary items below him. The first photos were beautiful. The second half hilarious…and after the jump?
Blade was on top of the world. I was proud. He was proud. I leaned forward and cheered him on.
NEVER EVER had I dreamed I’d be able to do this with Blade and WE DID IT.
AND BLADE LOVED IT.
Blade was incredibly smart, sensitive, and had an enormous heart. He gave me everything he had and did it passionately. He wasn’t exactly gentle but he was kind.
Our last couple of years together transformed both him and I for the better. Those last few years we shared the same language without speaking a word. I am not the same person I was and he was an entirely different horse than the one I adopted in 2015.
Black Beauty was my favorite book growing up and I adopted my first horse…my own black beauty.
I became a better rider, better horseman, and better human for Blade.
I followed my dreams and continue to look to the stars as I reach my goals.
I was a horse lover my whole life…I began riding at 10…I worked to ride before…but Blade was the true catalyst that started my life with horses.
Folks, follow your dreams.
That’s the motto that joined us on every ride and it will continue to be a part of us as Tiger, Nahe, and I embark on our future path.