Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Luck of the Irish

Shorty, aka Spicy Devil, was born on March 17th; St. Patrick's Day, in 1998. As an 11 year old, he is becoming quite mellow and content. He wasn't always a happy camper, but his tastes have become somewhat epicurean of late. It is hard to imagine the horse that begs for cookies and looks longingly at the empty lick-it holder was once a performance horse of any sort. He fills the role of pet pony perfectly. In short, Shorty is a lucky, lucky horse.

But what does the phrase, "Luck of the Irish," really mean? A quick internet search reveals that the phrase has uncertain origins. Many believe that it was coined during one of the many time periods where Irish people suffered great tragedies and catastrophes; the potato famine, war, and mass colonization from foreign invaders are the cause. The Luck of the Irish refers to the perseverance and determination of Irish people to suffer all hardship and toil and still remain a strong group of people, culture and heritage intact.

In a sense, this is very fitting for Shorty, my St. Patrick's Day horse. Five years of hard work, where he popped splints, broke seasamoid bones, developed ulcers, and wore down his stifles and knees so badly he struggles to maintain a comfortable canter, especially to the right. And yet, Shorty can be a very loving and trusting horse, but only a few select people. His self-preservation levels are set high enough to cause him great distress from a single pet given by a stranger, or even from people that feed him on a daily basis (his old owner, for example). Shorty has a very interesting personality and a great deal of intellect.

Many people expect Thoroughbreds to spook. A group on Facebook, with over 500 members, is titled "When People Ask to Ride my Thoroughbred, I Ask if they Value Their Lives." However, a horse that has lived in a high stress environment, once shown that the world is not out to get him or her, can be a very safe and reliable horse. I love the moments where Shorty sees something new and stops, extending his nose to sniff the air in curious wonder, before dismissing the disturbance and moving on. Just today, my boss and his son zipped past me on mopeds as I was taking Shorty out of the outdoor arena. Expecting some kind of reaction, I tensed on the rope, bending my knees to avoid being pulled over by 1,000+ pounds of scared horse. Instead, Shorty raised his head, snorted, and looked at me as if to say "What? Can we go back in? It's hot out here." Had he spooked, he likely would have injuried himself and me in the process, maybe even taken out the moped riders.

And there you have it. The Luck of the Irish manifests itself in the most unlikely places. In this case, it is alive and well in a content Thoroughbred that constantly questions that world around him, and that's why I love the little guy.

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