Tuesday, January 5, 2021


Rest in peace RLB Indiana Jones, March 12, 1994 to Dec.12, 2020.  Indy earned 2002 Sport Horse of the Year in Dressage in the National Show Horse Registry, the first of his breed to do so as noted in the records of the American Horse Show Association. 

 Below, showing with his primary trainer Christy Monfort astride in a dressage show. (Other trainers were Tricia Hamilton and Claudia Roberts. As a result, Indy knew far more dressage technique than I ever would.) That one year I could afford to show him, Christy would win the first prizes, and I'd add a few points with my second places in the less complex dressage classes. Otherwise, I rode him on the trail in dressage saddles, unlike most of the Western buckaroos in our native Southern California. In the following pics, Christy is riding him correctly, I am the other one (and yes, uncooperative thyroid plays havoc with weight variation over 23 years of documentation.)(All photography by me except the ones of me, by Kurt Ingham, Christy Monfort, Kathleen Hellman and Liz Taylor.)





I bought Indy (Indiana Jones, so named because he was an adventure to ride) when he was three years old, a grey tobiano pinto National Show Horse whom I knew would lighten, as do all greys, into pure white. His coloration not remaining visibly pinto is probably the only reason he was affordable to me. So we were partners for twenty-three years together. He always was a bright eyed and friendly as this headshot implies. He was a "sosh" (social) and liked nonstop company human or equine: luckily I could afford to keep him in a riding academy's large dirt pasture with shelters and with two other horses with whom he loved to play.

Also below with pics of Indy's darker coloration when young, a pic of Indy as a foal, and his famous American Saddlebred sire Rhythm Commander. National Show Horses are a recognized breed, made up of part American Saddlebred horses and part Arabian horses. It's a good nick (cross breeding success) and breeds true. Arabians give endurance, athleticism and very amiable, people-loving natures (they had to be sufficiently calm and friendly to share a Bedouin's tent in a sandstorm in the desert): Saddlebreds also give athleticism, showy trotting action, guaranteed comfortable gaits, friendliness, larger size and two extra gaits that come naturally with training to encourage same. I could make Indy slow gait on the trail when he was anxious (Arabian trait)(and euphemism for frightened) and the few times I rode him at a rack (the faster version of the gait) it was thrilling.


On the trails bordering the hills of the Angeles Forest, and at right, with my better half on a friend's Arabian. this northeast section of Federal parkland has endless, lovely trails from easy ridin' ones to "I'm never coming here again!" hairy (nobody likes cliffs this steep) ones. Unfortunately it remains a target for arsonists and mentally disturbed homeless who make cooking fires in the 80mph winds of our hot Santa Anas. We had to evacuate for huge wildfires six times in the last ten years. One of these fires burned down our stable and all of our saddles and tack, but no one cared because all the horses were saved.

Right, us in a lesson
What we ended up doing the most as he got older, whiter and a trifle less frisky and I got more and more painfully damaged from life: hacking around our beautiful boarding ranch bareback (above). People who don't ride have trouble understanding the relationship between rider and horse. I simplify it for them thusly: a) it's as if your dog had lived for 25 years with you instead of half that and b) horses are halfway between a pet and a sports car: there is mutual love, but there's always a performance issue at hand. Actually, it's more like the sport of sailing (were the sailboat alive): a lot of fun for a lot of prep and post work, and a great deal of unpredictable forces of nature changing what one does all the time. It makes total sense to me that Poseidon was considered the god of both The Sea and of Horses. 
Horses, like people and dogs, do not die easily on their own, so when Indy colicked badly for the third time in his life, the vet said that unlike the other two times, his vital signs and heart rate now were so bad that there was no other choice. Unlike illnesses with people and dogs though, one has to make this life and death decision within seconds of diagnosis. The vet thanked me for being a loving owner to him, saying, "So many horse owners wail 'I'm not ready, I'm not ready!' whereupon I have to firmly remind them it's not about them, it's about the horse. They are in terminal agony." In this short conversation, I learned that painkillers only last for about five minutes when the patient is that badly off. If  the horse is still standing, everyone has to run away from his side the second the veterinarian gives the injection, because the 1,000 pound horse falls over immediately.  
I stayed with his body for two hours waiting for the truck that takes horses to landfills, the only option in a densely crowded metropolis like Los Angeles. (this ranch is the only 600 acre private boarding facility therein, and it abuts the public trails of the Angeles Forest for endless riding possibilities.) I looked at all the surrounding majestic hills and marveled that Indy and I actually had ridden over all them, and on both sides of the highway, with many wild rides with trainers and other friends, plus too many to count oddball to scary adventures.  I avoid funerals, but this experience taught me the importance of vigils: thinking about all the good in the deceased's life to try to block the pain of losing them. I cried on and off for the entire two hours, which didn't get it out of my system like I wanted.

Someone from the boarding barn fortunately reminded me before I left that up until that last terrible morning, Indy was happy and playful for every day of his life. That helped. What also helps is an amazingly poignant passage by novelist Irving Townsend. Usually only the first three sentences appear online, in reference to grief of losing a dog, but the complete words were written about losing a horse:
 “We who choose to surround ourselves with lives more temporary than our own live within a fragile circle, easily and often breached. Unable to accept its awful gaps, we still would live no other way. We cherish memory as the only certain immortality, never fully understanding the necessary plan."
"The life of a horse, often half our own, seems endless until one day. That day has come and gone for me, and I am once again within a somewhat smaller circle.”
 – Irving Townsend “The Once Again Prince”
Good bye, Indy...

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