Our gentleman Thoroughbred “Murphy”…
He’s a little long in the tooth, and his days on the racing oval just a dim memory from the past. But, he’s the “senior” horse at Higher Trails, being the first equine partner to arrive.
On arrival at the ranch, Murphy soon made his presence felt. Not content with the size of the holding corral, he figured out that a couple of good pushes would open the slide gate and give him full access to acres and acres of lush grass in the lower pasture. We can now look back at every mischievous horse event and see Murphy’s hoof prints somewhere in the background.
But he loved to work. As the elder statesman of the herd, he has packed supplies up to Line Camp and did the dozens of little tasks, such as dallying a reluctant newcomer horse across the creek, or hauling water up to the north pastures. For a gelding once considered a top race contender, these jobs might have seemed mundane, but for Murphy, they were labors of love.
You see “Murph” had an injury on the track. During one particular race, he “bowed” his right tendon. For most horses this was a career-ending injury, and it should have been for Murphy as well. But his owners thought they might be able to squeeze just one more season out of him, and so had a painful and highly questionable procedure done. It’s called “pinfiring.” This is, to my thinking anyway, a barbaric and painful practice. It involves the insertion of hot pins into the front of the shin. The belief is that it speeds healing, although most veterinarians disagree with the concept and with the supposed benefits.
What did occur was that Murphy became very wary and afraid of people, particularly when they tried to examine the affected leg. Murphy had both his forelegs done in this manner. And even after enduring this practice, he never had an extension to his racing career. He was extremely anti-social and would throw himself over backwards rather than allow a person on his back. When tied he would rip the post from its mountings and race through the field pulling a hitching rail behind. Through patience, love and gentle handling, Murphy became leader of the herd.
Although he is no longer required to haul a pack, he still enjoys being around teenagers. He is one of the most amazing horses I have ever had the joy of working with. He gives from the heart.
Late last summer, Murphy showed a side to him that, had I not seen it myself, would have called the teller a liar. You see – Murphy cried.
During one of the EAL exercises, one of our youth was making an incredible connection with Murphy. She moved to the center of the round pen, and the horse, with his head on her shoulder, followed close behind. I had the young girl kneel down in the dirt and, putting her hands on the scarred legs of the horse, told the story of Murphy and the pain he had endured in the past.
The warm breath of the horse, and the ache of the tale, broke through the toughness of the teen. She began to cry. I looked up into the face of the horse to see the most wondrous sight – big tears rolling down Murphy’s face. The young rider completely broke down, threw her arms around this huge horse and sobbed, sharing the pain from her own past. This was a true awakening of the heart by the youth. The teen is now back with her family. Murphy is still at the ranch – healing broken hearts. We salute you old boy – your tears wash the windows of the soul.
Higher Trails! (Higher Trails is in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada)
Note: Murphy became increasingly blind and his arthritis increasingly severe. To our loss, the wrenching decision was made that he had to be euthanized. He was 30 years of age.Pin It