It would be an understatement to characterize this post as past due since Faune retired with us in 2007. Faune is probably one of our best known residents, and many people know him as “the big French guy.” He arrived at our farm prior to our blogging days and he is long overdue for his very own post. I
harassed asked his mom way too much about this post as I wanted Faune to have his own post so badly. His mom came through for me in a big way and actually wrote the entire post herself! In her own words here is the story of her journey with Faune. She wrote this post for me this past Sunday, April 15th, which was Faune’s 19th birthday.
Like a lot of girls, I wasn’t able to take my horse to college, and my competitive junior career ended when I attended Syracuse. Although I rode on the inter-mural Syracuse Equestrian Team, my life was absorbed mostly with College and boys, of course. The years without a horse were empty in so many ways. I didn’t actually realize how empty until later. After college I moved to Washington, DC for grad school and eventually made my way to Boston – all fairly horse free at this point. I was a partner at a small public relations firm and working 80 hours a week – traveling every other week – and basically just existing without my passion in my life. Faune had other plans.
I began riding again at a local barn outside Boston, first just weekly lessons, which allowed me to get back in shape and realize just how barren my life had become without my first love – horses. The trainer I was working with at the time suggested it was time to go shopping, a terrifying prospect now that it was going to my dime. But, I went along with it, never really thinking I would find the right horse for me. All those years off had created a much more timid rider now in my 20s, and I would need the right partner to baby me along.
I sat on a few others before Faune was ready to go, and again, the same feeling of “just not me” was clear. Remembering the long process of trying horses as a kid, I simply knew I had met my match when I rode Elliot. It was instant. Then I sat on Faune. The first time you sit on Faune it’s like you’re sitting on a big, soft couch. As we walked to the ring, he curled his neck all the way around to touch my boot. I know now that he was in fact, looking for cookies. But still, I was smitten. It was instant, just like I remembered.
Faune was born and bred in Normandy, France in April 1993. His dam was Nymphe De Thurin and his sire was Digne Espoir, a successful stallion out of Ibrahim. He was imported by a family to do the jumpers in 1996 but was later sold back to his importers, apparently. Faune spent his first showing years doing the jumpers and then was moved into the professional hunter divisions with a few trainers. He was being sold as an “either/or” – hunters/equitation or jumpers; the horse would be suitable for both. For me, I didn’t really know what I wanted to show in – so I was happy to shoot for the 3′ amateur hunter divisions and go from there.
I moved Faune to an amazing barn in Dover, Massachusetts, called Shining Valley Farm, where I began training with Krisanna Onorato, one of Paule Valliere’s gifted students, now running her own farm, owned by Ron Zohar. Krisanna began showing Faune in the professional hunter divisions locally (he was later a Horse of the Year in Zone 1 before an injury sidelined them), and I spent my own time just learning to ride properly again.
Over the next several years I spent my time deeply engrossed in my horse – his health, his training, and some showing. We started out in the 3′ hunter and equitation divisions but over time, as I got older and had a few more falls, I began to experience a lot of anxiety jumping my horse. Faune is one of those horses that is so easy to ride, you never really worried about much while riding him. In fact, in flat classes, I would just whisper to him when it was time to trot, canter or walk. That’s how pushbutton he really was.
Faune spent a very short time on total stall rest and then we began turning him out because a big horse like mine needs to move, even if he can’t be ridden. Faune was a great patient, and I think really enjoyed his time off. We did both stem cell and ultrasound therapy on his left hind, and the swelling dropped within 8 weeks. Faune was brought back very slowly over about 8 months time, first handwalking, then walking under saddle, and at month 6 or 7, began to trot. Faune and I bonded even further during his recovery. I would often get to the barn late in the evenings, and walk him under saddle alone in our indoor ring with Stevie Wonder playing in the background. I would sing “Overjoyed” to him as we walked – and I really think he loved it. Of course he mostly loved the post-ride treats that I peppered him with.
After that injury, we never really showed again I don’t think. Although Faune came back and was fit and beautifully sound once more, neither of us really wanted to be competitors anymore. I was happy to do my lessons 3 times a week, hack my horse and go on the trails. We were so fortunate to have our farm on the Norfolk Hunt, where we had access to hundreds of acres of beautiful grounds to explore. We just enjoyed each other and I let my horse and myself relax into a purely pleasure role. Faune had had other health issues crop up as he aged, including very nasty and chronic bouts with Lyme Disease, which accentuated his arthritis.
Around that time I also began to notice a “stiffness” in his neck; the feeling that he was just uncomfortable somewhere. I started him on acupuncture, massage therapy and other non traditional methods to get him more comfy. No one else seemed to sense what I did – that something was just not right. He was still sound, still perfectly happy, but there were some days I noticed him carrying his head very low, and seeming ouchy. A neck x-ray showed nothing. But still, it was clear to me something was wrong.
The day I decided to retire my horse wasn’t something I came up with on my own. My horse told me it was time. Very clearly. We walked from the upper barn to the lower outdoor ring and as we approached the gate, Faune stopped. I leaned down and said to him, “what is it buddy?” He just stood there, looking at the ring. I dropped the reigns and said, “you tell me what you want to do.” Faune backed up out of the gate and walked me back up the road, and onto the trails. Faune was just done with the ring and he was telling me he just wanted to be a horse.
I started looking for non show barns to move him to so that he could enjoy more time outside, just being a horse. After working with my vet to try to keep Faune in the area, we decided a more temperate climate would be best. I looked into farms in Kentucky,North Carolina and then I went to visit Paradigm Farms, owned by a friend who I had known and chatted with on the Chronicle of the Horse boards. One visit was all it took, and the next several months were spent jointly planning my horse’s trip and future life with Melissa at her family’s home farm. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. It still is. But it was the right one.
By the way, my feelings on Faune’s head and neck proved not to be my imagination and a few months into his life with Melissa, Faune faced his biggest health challenge yet. I’ll let Melissa mention it if she cares to,but suffice to say that her unwavering care for my horse, as well as the amazing care provided by her vet, and later, the University of Tennessee, saved my horse’s life. I am forever grateful for their love and care for my most cherished possession. For my best friend.
It’s funny how things work out, as within a year of my horse moving away to retire, I faced a challenging battle for my own health, and wouldn’t have been able to focus on my horse as much as I had been able to prior. Today,I sleep well knowing that my friend is safe in the care and keeping of people who love him and allow him to be himself. When I visit, although it’s sometimes hard to swallow that he doesn’t seem to mind if I am there one way or the other – after all, his herd is his family now – I am forever grateful that he has the opportunity to retire in the most beautiful place, with trusted friends who will always put my horse’s wellbeing before their own. For that, I am eternally grateful.
Happy birthday to my dear Faune. My best friend. Thank you for showing me how to feel again.