The Black Diamond: Inspiration from Ranger
I am sure you all have had something in your life that you thought had so much more potential than met the eye at first glance. Like an old car or motorcycle that needed some fixing up to be a bad-ass ride. Something used that would end up being better than one you could have gotten new. You could just feel in your gut that all it needed was some TLC to make it shine, that it would surprise everyone who only saw only the black and not the diamond that lay beneath.
The same kind of phenomenon exists in the horse world, something that all horse people understand to their core. It is so profound to experience when it happens each and every time for each and every one of us. It never seems to get old, it never seems to be any less exciting, it is never taken for granted. From horse to horse, person to person – we all believe in it, we all feel it, we all share this common thread from the magic of horses.
This holds especially true for those of us who are a little less fortunate and can't afford the genetically engineered sport horse. Even for the some who can, there is that vision we share when we look to the inside of a horse to unlock the potential.
At first glance, that special horse may look just like a backyard guy hanging around with a rather large head, a short neck, a big chest. He might be overweight, not fit, downhill. He might be upright in the shoulders, straight in the hocks, base wide, base narrow, cow-hocked, bad footed. The endless list of conformational flaws for the less-than-well-bred prospect.
But at second glance, we see something else. We see a black diamond. And as we begin to dust it off and look a little closer, it begins to reflect its inner light. We begin to find reasons that have nothing to do with how he is made, how he moves, or his potential for sport.
Maybe we begin to unlock his body and he proves the list of flaws to be useless. Maybe we just see his mind, his heart, his calm nature, his gentle soul and his inner tranquility that are worth their weight in gold. Maybe we see him yearning to be loved, to have the chance to be that "special" horse rather than the spare. Sometimes he may simply call to your heart and ask you to take him home. And so it is for many of us. It is my joy to share this life with horse people. May we always hear that relentless inner voice calling to us. May we always see the potential in every horse – the goodness, the greatness of their gifts and talents – and hold firm to the knowledge that such beauty lies beneath all the imperfections.
It is from there that the less-than-perfect people and less-than-perfect horses learn and grow, where the day to shine is every day and the best surprises are discovered within ourselves, for ourselves. It is where the need to prove anything to anyone simply vanishes and you stand alone in glory with your special horse whose light on this Earth warms your heart. It is nice to know what we know, but it is even better to know what we don't know. What we need to know most lies hidden there. Instead of caring about the blind who do not see, let it be enough for you to see the diamonds beneath the ordinary black.
Dayna Fiore RN, MT, Hoof Care Practitioner, lives in Northwest New Jersey where she has a small horse farm with her husband, Dave, and their two daughters, Briana and Michele. She has owned and worked with horses for the past 23 years on a pleasure basis. After many years of education in science, nursing, massage therapy and barefoot hoof care, she has developed an approach to heal and care for horses both physically and spiritually. She has a growing hoof-care practice called Horsedance Equine and aspires to continue her education in hoof and body while utilizing various training methods for rehabilitation and boarding on the farm.
About Ranger, the inspiration for the essay above:
Ranger is an estimated 10-year-old, unpapered Quarter Horse. He ended up at a local horse dealer as a five-year-old and was bought by his previous owner as a spare trail horse for her friends to ride. He was to live on her farm with her two other horses.
When she got into motorcycles, she decided to move him on because she just didn't use him much and was paying people to ride him to keep him going. She had never sold a horse before and was stressed out about it, but we promised a forever home.
He had been sitting in her pasture for months, mostly well cared for but his hooves were overgrown and he was out of shape. His eye had such character and quality that I instantly fell in love with him. He was a little stiff and short-strided and I somehow suspected Lyme disease. She was a little offended, but the titer came back positive and we decided to treat him at home after I purchased him.
His price reflected my enthusiasm – especially considering that he had Lyme – but he was worth gold to me simply for his mind and deep soul. We openly joked that the former owner thought I was "neurotic and over the top" and she almost didn't sell him to me because of my alternative views on issues I thought of as routine. Funny how disconnected she and I were in our philosophies. I never thought I was “alternative” just because I had studied bodywork, saddle fit, hoof care and various training methods. Ranger looked like a good project to me and she thought I was nuts! It was kind of funny.
We treated him for Lyme, rehabbed his hooves, got a chiropractor to adjust his pelvis,
put him on Pentosan for his joints, and began massage, stretching and range-of-motion exercises to teach his body it could go farther than it ever had and try to get him off his forehand. I started to work on basic dressage and he struggled with lateral work and moving forward, so I moved away from the traditional exercises and a trainer who thought he would be "limited." Instead, I began working on the ground in no tack, riding and releasing his poll to find his back through a more French approach that seemed to unlock him (thanks to a new trainer).
We watched his silhouette morph as the new hoof balance enhanced his limb alignment and gaits, an improved saddle allowed for more shoulder freedom, and he began to fly against the odds based on his confirmation. We are making great progress and hope for some jumping this spring!