When You Lose a Friend


Vale Poteen 1995 - 16 May 2014  A much-loved and very special friend.

Vale Poteen 1995 – 16 May 2014 A much-loved and very special friend.

It has taken me a long time to get around to this, mainly because I could not face my loss. But on 16th May I lost a very special friend: the little horse that appears on my author and contact pages.

It was love at first sight, that day, eleven years ago, when I first met my future dressage pony, Poteen(pronounced Potcheen, Potch for short). He looked so happy, trotting up the hill with his cadenced rhythmic stride that promised piaffe, passage and extensions to die for. Too fast then, of course. But later, to my inexpressible joy, the promise was fulfilled, using the training methods of the AEBC.

It says much for his character that he embraced dressage, without a blink, after years of trail-riding and stock work. We had our first official dressage outing when he was nine and he went so well that I was thrilled.

A delightful personality, he was sweet, smart and full of lovable pony character. To add to all these wonderful attributes, he had a work ethic: willing and expressive. He also had a naughty sense of humour, but he was one hundred per cent loyal: In public, he never let anyone think he wasn’t a push-button, bomb-proof pony!

I was never really sure of his origins. We aged him by his teeth. He was believed to be a grandson of the legendary Dell Mingo out of a Welsh Mountain Pony mare. He may have been a heavyweight small galloway(14 -14.2hh) with a rich Quarter Horse colour, but his mind was all pony. Adorable!

It is impossible to explain the depth of the connection that develops between horse and human when you spend years together, painstakingly working on a common language: A language that becomes so refined that you only have to think of the movement you want and your horse, sweet and generous, does it for you to the best of his ability. What a privilege! The euphoria this brings is beyond description. Two beings, responding to the one thought. When you are that close, it is like losing a part of yourself when you lose them. Especially, when it is before their time.

I am in tears remembering the dreadful day that I found him rolling in agony, black with sweat, great drops rolling off his poor little face. I knew immediately that there was nothing we could do. The vet arrived to take away his pain. And it all ended on a patch of soft, green grass in the paddock where we’d spent so many happy hours together.

Au revoir, my dear little friend. There are still three beautiful horses in my paddock, yet it looks so empty without you. May you graze the lush fields of heaven to your heart’s content, without fear of colic or founder. You will be in my heart until the day I meet you on the bridge with all our other four-legged friends.

Life is just not the same without you.


Hendra Virus: It’s Evolving

Fruit Bats and Hendra

The fruit bat, Hendra virus’ natural host.
Picture: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Will deadly Hendra virus become our next pandemic? With the way the virus is evolving it cannot be ruled out. History shows us that about 70% of pandemics originate in animals.

The Spanish flu that decimated the world at the end of World War I originated in pigs in a Spanish village. In its first go round in 1917 it was relatively mild. But the next bout in 1918-19 killed more people than had died during the entire war. And anyone who has made the most cursory study of WWI knows that it was absolute and utter carnage. On a scale to take the breath away. Unimaginable! And the Spanish Flu was worse!

Like every other horse owner, I don’t need any more expenses this year. Poor seasons, poor markets take a toll on all of us. But now that live Hendra virus has been found in dead fruit bats in Adelaide, I know that it is time– time to take a look at the big picture – time to vaccinate.

The fruit bat, or Flying Fox, Hendra virus’ natural host, ranges all over Australia, except for desert areas. All our horses are in danger, and by deduction, us and our dogs.

Lets take a brief overview: (more info here)

First found in 1994 in the racing stables of Vic Rail, where it killed him and 14 of his horses. Since then there have been several outbreaks:

In 1995 the virus took the life of a Mackay farmer and in 2008 and 2009 two Qld vets.

Between 1994 and 2010 there were 14 clusters of Hendra virus.

In 2011 in Qld and NSW there were 18 outbreaks with 24 cases in horses and 1 dog. 2011 also chalked up another sinister first. The first case of Hendra in Chinchilla blowing the myth that Hendra virus would not come west of the divide and that our inland horses are safe. No horse is safe!

Now in 2013, the horrifying thing is not only that there have so far been 9 outbreaks in horses ranging from the North coast and tableland of Qld to Kempsey and Macksville in NSW, including another dreadful first, NSW’s first dog, but the virus has changed its clinical signs. Where once the signs were:

  • High temperature

  • Neurological

  • Respiratory

    The latest signs have included:

  • No rise in temperature

  • Founder or shifting lameness of the feet

  • Colic

    This means that none of us will know if our horses have contracted this deadly virus until it is too late. Over 50% of humans catching the virus have died.

    I cannot believe that any of us would put a value of less than $100 (the price of the vaccine at our local vet clinic) on our children, ourselves, our vets, horses and dogs.

    Please, take this warning from history and vaccinate your horses. The potential of this virus is too horrifying to contemplate.