This evening in Vechta the fog is so thick you could eat it with a spoon. I have heard fog described as a cloud that touches the ground. With all this moisture suspended in the air, I wonder if this cloud is formed by the tears we have all shed for Cadillac.
Thank you to everyone who has been so kind to contact me by email or Facebook and to those few of you who actually got through on the phone or came by to see me. I have guarded my privacy this week, but I am also thankful for all the good wishes from friends, family and fans.
I am awed by the tears that we have shared—not only my own and my husband’s, but from all the people who knew and loved Cadillac. We have had no choice really. The only way to properly honor such a horse is with tears of tribute.
Everyone wants to know why Cadillac died. He sustained a minor tendon injury in a front leg, which escalated to a full rupture during convalescence. The rupture could not be surgically repaired, his fetlock dropped, and when we tried to stabilize his leg in a cast he began to founder on the opposite foot.
I made the choice to let him go—as if I had a choice.
I miss Cadillac terribly, and my husband is devastated after putting my best horse down. Life is not so easy sometimes, Rita.
Cadillac had a way of touching people who got to know him. There was something so innocent and trusting about him, yet he could be afraid of his own shadow in one moment and fearless about imagined adventures in the next.
If Cadillac had been human, he would have never left the house without a cap made from aluminum foil on his head. He acted like aliens could read his thoughts and that they would take him away in a spaceship one day. But with the right training, he started to believe in my world—the world of dressage—for an hour or so each day. The other hours were mostly spent eating (only from one specific red bucket at one point in his life), drinking, aqua training, hand walking, enjoying a good grooming and watching out the window for the space ship to come.
One spring day I heard him snorting and blowing in his box. His window was open, he was leaning out of it, his tail was over his back, his neck was arched to the limit with nostrils flared like a bull on the charge. I heard nothing out of the ordinary outside the stable. So I went into the next stall and peeked out the window. A large canvas carry bag from IKEA—bright yellow with the blue handles—had settled itself on the wooded path outside his stall.
The spaceship had landed.
I went outside and removed the bag, but he kept snorting all day, even when I rode him. I had put my left foot in the stirrup and swung my right leg over the saddle with him blowing like a whale. Funny thing, Rita, I was never afraid of him. Wherever he went in his head, Cadillac always took me with him in the real world.
Beam me up, Scottie, let’s go for a ride.
In recent years, this special horse learned to follow me in hand over blankets and plastic sheets laid upon the ground. He let me ride over those things too. He would do one-tempis calmly past my working students as they did jumping jacks or laid down making “snow angels” in the footing. I could ride him while twirling an open umbrella or carrying a blasting boom box on my shoulder. We had a pre-ride routine that involved lowering his head with a tap on the poll, Spanish walk with a tap on the leg and bending both right and left from pressure on the rein.
When he accepted all of these things, our work together became the better for it. I used these exercises to bring him into my world before I threw my right leg over the saddle. Our warm-ups became smoother, our workouts more productive. Most of the time. He still had days when his own world was far more fascinating than mine.
But intricate mentality aside, Cadillac piaffed and passaged his way into the hearts of the dressage world. The most difficult movements in dressage were the easiest for him to perform. He could piaffe while half asleep or turn pirouettes while staring at a hot air balloon in the distance.
My saddest and most exhilarating memories came from showing him at Saugerties last September. I got him to bend in the show ring, do proper half-pass, give full power in the extensions and balance in his pirouettes. He was supple and powerful, and we were on our way to a level of performance I had never experienced with him in the past.
Cadillac was high for the Grand Prix Special. The temperature had dropped from 80* F the night before to 45*F on the morning of our test. In Cadillac’s world, the aliens were landing on the backside of the berm at Saugerties. They had chopped the torsos off several helmeted riders and were bowling them along the top of the horizon. Their spaceships came sailing over the judge’s box at C in the form of golf carts, but we pressed on...
Rita, how many horses do you know who can turn down the centerline, shy, switch leads, change back and still execute a near perfect pirouette just past the letter D? I dare you to try this at home. The feeling was phenomenal despite the errors, and we won anyway. A fitting result for a final test.
Watch that test from Cadillac’s World: