My Boys
Ready Eddie
The Pirate King
Jades Aleuf

The Pirate King

April 26, 1993 - March 24, 2007

"My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today." - Watership Down

Mellow Sunday Ride
Sharing a Starbucks on a mellow
Sunday morning ride in 2003
The patented "pet me" look.
Training 1
A racehorse reformed.

I’m a girl that grew up dreaming of horses...sleek, dark, elegant, handsome horses; I’m someone who managed to make that dream come true. Since most of my equine exposure as a kid was at Santa Anita racetrack, it’s no mystery that when I pictured My Horse, it was a racehorse. I love all horses, and appreciate all the merits of different breeds, but my heart will always and ever be in thrall to the fleet footed Thoroughbred. In 2002 my heart found its dream come true in the soul of one sweet faced gelding, who became my Pirate King.

Pirate's birthplace
River Edge Farms, Pirate's birthplace
Pirate was born at River Edge Farms in Buellton, CA, of the lushly green Santa Ynez Valley. Like any self-respecting Prince Charming, his bloodlines were royal, and much of his background a mystery. His sire was prominent California stakes winner and sire Pirate’s Bounty. He was given a tattoo, and a wholly forgettable registered name. After that – who knows, really…maybe racing wasn’t his thing, maybe he was too slow, or they had too many horses to train…all we know is that he never recorded a race, and ended up some 9 years later at a rescue facility that takes care of abandoned and discarded racehorses.

He was adopted by a trainer from the Pasadena area who saw beyond the racehorse to a horse with a very steady disposition and lovely gaits. She found him to be an uncomplicated, fast learner and gave him a very solid basic dressage education; then posted his availability for sale. Right about this time I was at a point I my life where I needed a long term dance partner; I had cut my teeth on horse ownership with an elderly-yet-fiesty Thoroughbred named Ed, whose arthritis and age were going to take him out of competition. I needed a new partner; I found Pirate. I gained more than I knew; in Pirate, I found a friend, soulmate, teacher, student, lifepartner, child and beloved all rolled into one carrot-loving package.

I think a horseperson will ride many horses through their life, and enjoy many relationships, but have a deep bond with only a few. Pirate was one of those few.

Meeting over a carrot
Our first carrot on the day we met.

Pirate November 2006
Looking thoughtful in 2006.
Research on his tattoo brought forth his bloodlines. It seemed fitting to give him a new name for his new life, and it seemed obvious to incorporate Pirate...and as I happened to have my Gilbert and Sullivan CD in the car on the way home from his final, successful vet-check, dubbing him “The Pirate King” was the answer. And so he was duly registered with USAE and USDF, and our new life together was underway. Togetherness
One big happy family...
Pirate, me, Dave and Ed in 2005

Pirate as I'll always remember him...
flying without wings.
A little dozing after a nice roll.
Robby lovin Pi
My sister Robby giving Pi some love
(while Pi expresses himself...)

It wasn’t always easy. Pirate and I sent each other flying in different directions more times than we’d like to remember. Although his trainer had given him a good basic education, he still had major trust issues, as he had probably never had one single owner to partner with for any length of time. It takes a long time to overcome a horse’s decision that he can’t put his faith in anyone, if no one has taken the time to earn that trust over 9 years. Until we built that trust, Pirate’s number one defense for anything that alarmed him was (a) shed that extra weight off the back and (b) run away. First Test
Things going awry at our first show..
Pirate bolting through his canter transitions (you mean it's not a race?) while I laugh out loud.
No, we didn't win...

I got really good at NOT falling off, and learned to ride a horse going hell-bent and not listening. I had to learn not to be defensive about HIM – only one of us could break that downward spiral, and it had to be me. I had to have unshakeable faith that nothing was wrong, that I was in charge, to make him believe that was all true. In the process I learned to have faith in my ability as a rider and horseperson. It was an amazing journey. I had always been a somewhat timid rider, but I really had to step up and let that go, for he was looking to ME to be the brave one. It was hard, but worth it.
2004 Chapter Show
Things did improve...
2004 Chapter Show
Finally, relaxation!
LAEC 2003
And a nicer canter.
So, yes, we broke some bones (mine) and had to learn some manners (his) and define and re-define the boundaries of compromise and understanding. Eventually, in our final years together, we became one unbreakable unit of love, trust, harmony and belief in each other.

Santa Pirate
Being a good sport at Christmas.
Pirate was a music fan. Whenever music played, he rounded his neck, lifted his back, picked up his feet and could keep perfect rhythm. Riding that was the most phenomenal was like magic. An energy fed from him, to me, and back, and suddenly I contemplated riding at a level I never dreamt possible. It defied description, and it transformed my goals and dreams; from that day forward, when I visualized my rides prior to going to sleep, I added a soundtrack. While I couldn't always provide music for our time together, Pirate responded almost as well to my singing. Fortunately for all concerned, I mostly rode very early or very late, when no one else was around – because let me tell you, I’m no singing talent. Pirate never seemed to mind if I was off-key. He had some strong favorites: “Lida Rose/Dream of Now” from the Music Man, “Hang on Little Tomato” by Pink Martini, and of course his namesake song from Pirates of Penzance. It was hard sometimes to remember NOT to sing during our dressage tests; judges tend to frown on that sort of thing.
It definetely got us some funny looks in the warmup arena, though.

In February of 2006, I moved Pirate to a barn just a few blocks from where I lived, and we entered into an even closer relationship. Being the sole person responsible for his training and welfare was a huge, scary responsibility, but the rewards were immeasurable. My ex-racehorse now turned his talents to being a trail horse, and astonished me daily with his unflappable demeanor. Gone were the days of worrying and pacing and fretting; replaced with a calm, sturdy and solid "let's do anything" companion. These were the happiest months I can ever recall. Riding Lesson
Giving a good friend a riding lesson.

In May of that year, however, Pirate walked out of his stall one afternoon lame on his left front leg. What followed was an agonizing year of treatment, theorizing, frustration, love and patience, as we tried to determine what was wrong. Xrays, bone scans, blood tests, second and third opinions...nothing conclusive. Our original diagnosis was a hard-to-see fracture of the humerus. I responded with stall rest and massage, stretching and slow, careful handwalking. Sometimes we saw progress and improvement. Then the lameness would strangely return. Throughout the process Pirate remained cheerful, affectionate, eyes shining and coat glossy, returning love with love. We could no longer ride, but ambled just about all over western Altadena. I kept training as much as I could, keeping him responsive to voice and leg commands, looking forward to the day when we could ride together again, and go back to the showring and trails.
November 2006
Pirate during his long layup
November 2006
Last Ride
Our last ride, December 2006

By November 2006 the lameness had been joined by a small lump at the join of his left leg and chest. When it grew rapidly in December and January, we had a biopsy and ultrasound, which showed nothing untoward. By January, though, the lump had grown to an enormous size and Pirate could no longer use his leg effectively. My big old racehorse was starting to have trouble just walking out of his stall and into the arena. In March, we scheduled a last-ditch surgery at Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Clinic - ironically, just down the road from his birthplace in Buellton. We hoped to remove the lump and find out what was wrong.

Unfortunately, the news was bad. It was a malignant tumour, an extremely rare form of cancer, uncommonly found in horses, known as malignant nerve sheath tumour. This had been the culprit all along - for nearly a year, undetectable and impossible to remove, slowly destroying all the nerves in Pirate's leg until nothing was left to make it work. There is no treatment for this cancer, and no hope for the leg, or for my beautiful, brave Pirate.

On March 24 we took Pirate to a small, lovely ranch where a dear friend lives in Templeton, California. She and her husband gave us the amazing gift of a burial there; this is a luxury city horseowners generally cannot have. That morning he ate an obscene number of carrots and peppermints, was groomed until his coat reflected the rising sun, and grazed indulgently on lush, wet, spring grass. He was already in heaven.

Saying goodbye
A kiss, a carrot and a peppermint for the road.

I held Pirate's eyes with mine when the vet came; I asked him to wait for me, and I thanked him for all the wonderful love we had shared; and while a covey of quail sang a mourning song nearby, we freed him from his failing body. It was the single hardest, most painful thing I have ever done, and hopefully will ever have to do, but it would have been unfair to ask Pirate, a horse who loved to run and fly, and who was now unable to even walk, to give up his wings just to stay with me.

Over Pirate's grave we planted a young valley oak, to provide shade, and a place for birds to nest. In years to come I will visit that spot, rest in the shade, listen to the birds and remember my dream come true, who changed my life, taught me so much, and gave me so many wonderful memories of love.

Final Rest
Pirate's little tree.
Pirate's view
A lovely, peaceful view of forever.

A video of Pirate being his silly racehorse self in a turnout after a long winter rain in January of 2005, accompanied by his noisy little friend Flash the Terrier, at our old barn in Sunland. This is my first attempt posting video to the web, and its not very good, but you get the idea. He did love to to run and I always laughed at his big "come chase me!" SNORT at the end.

In my online browsing this week I discovered that my Pirate's dad, Pirate's Bounty, had to be euthanized in August 2006 due to the infirmities of old age. He was 31. I hope that Pirate and his daddy are racing together through fields of limitless grass and carrots across the rainbow bridge.