Goodbye dear Zhivago

Zhivago  July 1996-April 2017


If the definition of courage is facing what scares you, then Zhivago was a very brave horse. He was afraid of a lot of things…strange noises, things flapping in the wind, rabbits, ant hills, being alone, barking dogs, and even his own shadow on occasion…but when I asked him to face these things, he tried his heart out.  He always tried to be brave and to do what I asked which allowed us to trail ride in windy Wyoming, ride alone in big scary indoor arenas, and participate in clinics and horse shows with chaos all around.

Zhivago had many other great qualities. He was very smart and athletic. He was the most naturally athletic horse I have ever owned…and he knew it. Even though he was a very small horse, he knew he was fancy and never minded showing off whether running around the field with his tail in the air or puffing himself up in the show arena. I remember one time at a show, when I was leading him back to the trailer, a woman I didn’t know walked by and said, “Wow. He looks so much bigger in the arena!”

Zhivago was also very patient and eager to please. He was my first dressage horse and I thought I knew how to ride when I got him but as it turned out, I lacked a lot of the finesse and “feel” required in dressage that I didn’t need in the hunter world so my cues were often vague and clumsy. But while I slowly learned, he always tried to give me what I wanted. I do remember a time or two when he did say, “Enough is enough, woman, get it right!”…which looked like jumping in the air from all 4 feet while shaking his head and switching his tail…but 99% of the time, he just kept trying.

A snuggly horse Zhivago was not. He had no need for hugs, he was never ‘in your pocket’ as people say about friendly horses, but when you allowed him to come to you on his own terms, he was kind and gentle and happy to be in your presence, content with quiet companionship.

The bravest thing Zhivago ever had to do was adjust to his blindness. When it looked like his sight was really starting to fail I thought for sure he would become so anxious that it would debilitate him; I thought I would be posting something like this months ago. It was gradual enough though that through his courage, he found his way for a long time. He started to wait to be led in through gates and stall doors since he couldn’t find them and he learned to stay out of the other horses’ way for the most part.  If his vision didn’t keep getting worse, perhaps he could have coped.

So today I said goodbye to my friend of 14 years, who carried me through countless hours of riding and learning and partnering. He taught me more than I can say, leaving me with rich and amazing memories.

Thank you Zhivago. Happy trails.