|E B Top Cat, TC for short, enjoying a beautiful Upstate NY day.|
April in Upstate New York is a crapshoot, weather-wise. You never know if you’ll be sliding into snow pants or tossing that tuke in favor of a beloved ball cap until you roll out of bed and take a step or two outside. The beginning days of April looked promising – I was cleaning stalls in a long sleeve shirt, my beat up ball cap emblazoned with just the number 13, and lightweight rubber boots. I was hopeful. I’d planned a 35th birthday party for E B Top Cat on Saturday April 9th, invited friends and family alike, and spent a week obsessively cleaning my 55 year old barn.
Mother Nature has been fickle this year to say the least. Usually, I don’t mind. I was thankful for the light snowfall we experienced this winter. I feel like dancing every spring day that I don’t need a jacket. The bottom line is that the last three seasons have been mostly stress free for my older residents and for that I’m always thankful. So, when I awoke on April 9th and it was predicted that the day wouldn’t heat up past 30 degrees, I took a deep breath while sliding into my snow pants and was thankful for the people (my cousin, Sandy, my best friend, Jen and my little brother, Brian) who were willing to slide into their snow pants as well and throw a birthday party for a horse.
|TC and his life mate, Breeze.|
The closer we got to party time, the more regrets poured in on Facebook. In the end, we had about 35 people that braved the cold and embraced the silly magic of wishing a graying, elderly gelding a happy birthday. Some guests brought cards filled with wishes of many happy years to come. Others brought presents. My dear neighbor, Cindy brought Top Cat a new fly mask, a very thoughtful gift for a serious pasture weight! My friend, Joanne, brought Top Cat a can of Budweiser, as the old man loves his grain soaked in a can of beer. My caring trainer, Ginny, brought a feed store gift certificate, knowing that older horses have greater nutrition needs than their younger counterparts. She told me that he looked amazing and that she was very proud of my management of him. Every time I think of her saying that, I smile and my heart swells. It’s the best compliment I’ve received in a long time. Other guests brought carrots and bananas, handing them out as they leisurely floated from one stall to the next, each horse sticking a nose over their gate to investigate and be social. The wind was brutal that day, but the sunshine prevailed and our guest’s laughter and good will helped to make the day as bright as it could be.
|Party guests at TC's 35th birthday!|
There were beautiful blue cupcakes for the humans, and a birthday cake specifically for the horses – Sandy whipped a delightful combination of carrots, apples, no sugar apple sauce, flax seed, rolled oats and a hint of molasses into something that resembled a large protein bar. She cut it into 10 pieces and each horse enjoyed a piece. Top Cat couldn’t have been happier. He was surrounded by people petting him and feeding him treats. I’d rigorously brushed him that morning but decided against shaving him in a show horse fashion, instead choosing to leave him “in the rough”. Even with whiskers and a slightly grown out bridle path, he’s still stunning. Sure, he has a sway back that’s cartoonish in nature. Of course he’s going gray – his cheeks are almost white now and it’s travelling down his neck into his legs like diluted bleach. But there is a sparkle in his eyes that grows each year instead of diminishing. His coat shines bright and glossy in the summer sun. His feet are so hard they’ll break a farrier’s knife. And lately, he’s been cantering in the pasture when I call him.
|Love rocks :)|
I know the day will come when I will be the last thing he sees before cantering into the lush, green pastures of Heaven. It will be years before I stop expecting to see his happy face when I walk into the barn or hear his raspy nicker, but that’s a small price to pay for what he’s taught me. Not only have I had to learn about geriatric horse nutrition to keep him healthy and spry, but he’s taught me that no matter what comes your way, a positive, never-say-die attitude is your vehicle to survive it. And when you find it difficult to stay positive through the pain, be sure to surround yourself with friends that see the positive in you when you can’t. How do you find friends like this? See the positive in them. Hold a mirror up to them periodically, show them the magic within. Then, maybe if you’re lucky, you’ll be blessed with a group of amazing people who will pull on snow pants to help you prepare for a birthday party where the guest of honor is an aged equine.