Kalin went back to his old stables – where he’d been since he was a two-year-old, where he’d grown up, been trained, and had his pasture buddies. The day he arrived, his old friends Double or Quits, an old racehorse mare, greeted him with resounding whinnies. They trotted about, tails up, snorting happily, nibbling on each other’s necks. Kalin was obviously happy to be back. Of course, after a week he was back to ignoring the other horses in the field – he is a loner – but he kept his weight up and he didn’t become despondent. He was home. The jumping season started, but another problem arose. Julia had to have another operation on her heart. It would push their debut back nearly two months, and make it impossible to qualify for the Nationals. 

This time, the operation did some good, and the doctor was able to announce that most of the extrasystoles had been eradicated. It was good news, but the operation left Julia 11270262_10153331456235798_6654764557168814495_otired. She managed to get two shows in before Christmas – winning both of them – but then winter came and her schoolwork became the priority. Julia was now in her third year at the university and studying for her “license” – the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree – in teaching. She was teaching 9 classes in the local elementary school plus her own classes in Paris. With a heavy heart, she decided to forgo trying to qualify for the Nationals and just have fun jumping with Kalin. Together, they won or came in second in every show they entered. The dynamic duo was back together.

Kalin was no longer “au pair” – Julia was his only rider, and he was able to rest more. He spent the winter with a thick, fuzzy coat of hair, and didn’t get clipped until nearly March. Then he wore his bright red “cosmonaut coat” to keep warm. The spring & summer of 2015 were incredibly dry. The pastures burned to dust and the ground was 10299948_10152354584975798_2234314254724503338_nrock hard. Kalin was footsore. By now, the farrier had put light shoes on his front feet, but it was decided to add soles to them to protect him from the flinty ground. After that, he was fine, and Julia and Kalin spent the summer wandering around the countryside – with Auguste, of course, trotting along.

Fall came, and Julia went back to the university, this time in a Masters course for education. She is studying to be an English teacher. Kalin started off the new jumping season with one loss and one win – he’s been moved up to Club Elite this year, and seems to like the higher jumps. His style is completely different than from when he first started jumping for Julia – and now when we take him to a horse show he’s excited. He arches his neck and prances – he’s become a happy horse. 10009943_654752661253004_1007819310_o

I don’t know what this year will bring. Julia is going back to the cardiologist next week for a check-up. She’s very tired lately, but it could just be school and stress. Kalin is doing well. After last Sunday’s horse show (which he won!) his tendons and legs were fine. He loads happily into the van, doesn’t break his halters anymore, doesn’t kick the walls in when he’s put in a stall, and doesn’t make the farrier twitch and tie him up in order to shoe him. He hardly shies now, and when he does, you can tell he’s just being silly. He till sees his former owner, and now her two children run up to him shouting “Kalin! kalin!” and hug his legs. He loves children and stands so still for them that Marion uses him for her horse anatomy lessons for the exams, when the children run around pointing to various parts of his body when Marion quizzes them.

He’s still greedy, and searches all your pockets thoroughly for apples, carrots or treats. And he still loves to be brushed – especially his head – he’ll close his eyes and you can practically hear him purring. He adores Julia – his eyes just light up and he nickers when he sees her coming and he’ll follow her when she leaves – walking along the fenceline – tossing his head as if to say “stay with me!” (and feed me, lol). The season has just started, so we’ll keep up with the shows and post results. I’ll post Julia’s health bulletin too – fingers crossed she gets a clean bill of health next week and then it’s off to the next shows in November.

Update: Julia needed 2 more operations on her heart, so she decided to take Kalin out of the club and bring him to our neighbor’s farm and retire him from horse shows. He is now barefoot and fuzzy. He’s in a big pasture at a farm with loads of polo ponies – Kalin is the oldest and still the most handsome (we tell him this every day!). Julia rides him often, we go on long walks, and he even jumps in the arena, because he loves to jump. He’s over 20 years old now, and still in fine form. He was diagnosed with chronic lime disease (the vet says he’s had it most of his life) and Julia gives him cod liver oil with his feed. (She found a special ‘senior’ horse feed but we don’t tell Kalin that!). I’m eternally grateful for Kalin for keeping my daughter happy when everything seemed awful – when she was going thorugh so much stress and pain, Kalin was the one who comforted her. He was the best gift we could ever give her.