Posted on June 23rd, 2017
Before you get into a lather, I should say that we will not sue, though we have every right. We will not stop paying our homeowners association dues, even though we are not being treated like a homeowner. In fact, we will withdraw our request to place G and our mule here at MGRF. We withdraw because I’ve found alternate accommodations that are just a few minutes from here, that welcome both horse and mule and old men, that doesn’t require a list of references, that affords many more miles of good trails than MGRF and offers access to the towpath, that offers big indoor and outdoor arenas with a better footing and better viewing areas, and that holds many clinics and events each year. They even offer lots of free long-term truck and trailer parking.
In the years since my horse has been at MGRF, I’ve heard many, many upsetting things about the operation here. The comments include
- the level of attention given horses by staff (“They found an abscess that was far advanced and should have been spotted days earlier. It was so big, you could put your hand into it.”),
- the sloppiness of the recommended dentist (“he only did one side of my horse’s mouth”),
- the malfeasance of the previous “official” vet (“I am certain he never did the x-rays that he claimed he had done”). Again and again I heard this vet was charging for work not done. And I can’t disagree: my horse got Potomac Horse Fever a month after he had been supposedly inoculated against it.
I know that the trouble that lurks in the horse operation is worse than most people think. I know that herbicides have been applied to sloping pastures just before heavy rains and that with Board permission and praise, a farm manager dumped illegal pesticides into Drew’s Lake, in an unsuccessful effort to stop Potomac Horse Fever. After a friend’s horse died of it, we received an email from the Board explaining that the horse mortality here was a “normal rate”.
For all of these reasons, I long ago stopped telling people where I lived. For me, there is no glory in living here — there is only shame and frustration. One neighbor is afraid of crows, another of germs, and a third thinks that a dozen dogs is not enough.
I regularly run into someone who wanted to come here, was told she was put on the list, but was never called back, or that fled MGRF and will not ever come back. Certainly the treatment that G and I experienced in his final month here stands out as an exemplary case of how not to manage a horse operation.
In those years while G was away, I imagined and hoped that the horse operation had improved. The barns were reconditioned and grass was beginning to grow in the pastures. I imagined that rationality had replaced emotion in the management of the horse operation, and that perhaps “drama” was gone as Katherine claimed. So I thought I’d give MGRF another try.
Immediately, I found that the ignorance, prejudice, and arrogance of the past has not changed.
I do not have any hope of changing those who’ve turned on me, but I must stand up for my horse G. He is not a bully. Never was a bully. He is not mean. He was a victim, and this is all about blaming the victim.
G is not a Bully
When I came to MGRF, Debbie and I became friends, and did lots of trail rides together. But then she decided that I had turned in the Stevens for cutting nearly all the trees between their house and river. She never asked me about this, so I expect that it would be easy for her to guess wrong. After all, I disapproved of the cutting and damage to my view. It is true that the Park Service interviewed me, but they also interviewed all of Stevens’ neighbors, including the Olsens, sent a helicopter in to get some photos from the air, etc. Debbie spent some energy telling people I had ratted out the Stevens, and Bess, for instance, stopped speaking to me. I let all of this go. But as part of her rage, Debbie started picking on my horse, claiming he was a bully. A psychologist might call this “projection”, for she surely is a bully. G never did anything to threaten or harm her; her dog, on the other hand, did bite me.
G is not a bully
- There are many reasons to believe that G is NOT a bully, and is kind to his pasturemates.
- G was field boarded here for about 6 years without incident.
- Gerson loved him, the Weaver girls loved him, Jacqueline (trainer) loved him. I think Henry loved him. None of the farm hands or Dave or other riders ever reported any trouble from him.
- For about 6 years, G got along great with all the horses in his herd, and especially with Blue, a gentle horse owned by Leslie Morgan Steiner. Blue had the lowest social rank in his pasture, and surely would have been picked on if G was a mean bully. Instead, it seems like G may have tried to protect Blue when others tried picking on him.
- I did many group trail rides, and G was never rude to any of his colleagues. I was regularly invited on trail rides, so other riders didn’t seem to have problems with G.
- After leaving Merry-Go-Round, G was boarded at several locations. All of the folks who ran these facilities will testify that G is mellow, fearful of conflict, never fights or bites or kicks, and prefers the company of low-status horses. G is so submissive that he will usually not enter a run-in shed for fear he’ll be confronted by another horse. For a reference, call Lyne Morgan (co-owner of the Surrey and Fairplay Farm, where G stayed for over a year) or Anna Slaysman (co-owner of Potomac Riverside, where G lives now.) Both of these people, as well as many others who know G, will vouch for his gentleness.
- G is now 17 years old. He is a gelding. That doesn’t leave him with the temperament for rough housing.
Debbie added a horse belonging to her sister to G’s pasture, and the trouble began, with that aggressive horse picking on G. Once I found G alone in a stall, with blood dripping from a bite over his eye. For a month, he’d have a new bite almost every day.
G’s vet, Elizabeth Gard, will vouch for all the damage he received in his final weeks at MGRF – damage that resulted in about $1,200 in vet bills for G the first month that the new horse was here. Debbie was aware of the damage, and feared I would sue, yet she did nothing to deal with these herd dynamics.
One day during this period, when Jeanne and I were driving past G’s pasture, we saw most of the horses thundering down to the far end of the pasture, with G in the lead. I soon realized that he wasn’t leading. They were chasing him. He wheeled and ran all the way back, and repeated this, traversing 4 lengths of the pasture. Finally, the horses were worn out, and eased off their attack. But one horse walked over to Blue, G’s best friend (and lowest status horse in the herd, who had not joined in the chase) and bit him in the butt.
I complained, and Dave promised to move the bullies out of G’s pasture. The next day, the bullies were back in. Dave explained “It didn’t work out. They didn’t get along with the horses in the pasture we moved them too.”
Mike O’Brien, his farrier at the time, will vouch for the damage to his coronet band — damage that came from being kicked. Dr. Gard thought it possible that I would never be able to ride him again.
Debbie began slandering G. She pitched an unfounded hostile position about G to Dave Chambers, who volunteered out of the blue: “Debbie says she is afraid to go into G’s pasture… G is a mean horse. He is mean to people, and mean to other horses.” Horses can be aggressive, but they are not mean. No one other than Debbie and Dave has ever said such a thing about G. And I honestly don’t know what Debbie was doing in G’s pasture.
On G’s last day at MGRF, I found G locked in a stall, and Debbie sitting on a chair in front of the stall door. With a grin, she said that Brian Rachlin had ordered G to be kept in a stall 24×7 until further notice. Maryanne Wathieu witnessed the entire proceedings.
Leslie Case offered to drive her trailer to take G away, and Jacqueline helped load G into the trailer. As we drove down Luvie, G and Blue bellowed to each other. A week later, without G’s protection, Blue was hospitalized for a week in Virginia. A month later, Blue was dead. You can ask Leslie Morgan Steiner about the love that G and Blue had for each other, about G’s gentle disposition, and about Blue’s hospitalization after G left.
I wanted G to live at Merry-Go-Round. We live here, and are paying for the right to keep him here. It’s where we live, and I want to see him every day. It is inconvenient to drive half an hour, as I now do, to visit with him or ride him. And it is hard to drive past the barns and horses every day, feeling that this place does not belong to me. I wanted G back here.
If it is right to deny horses because someone has claimed that there are issues with them, then Debbie’s horse that was causing all of the trouble should have been denied.
We won’t be meeting. But I hope that if you actually want to know the truth about G, that you will call at least one of the folks I mentioned in this email. Or you can buy my 700 page book on horses, Horse Science, Horse Sense. Buy it on Amazon, and learn how marvelous G is.