Darcy arrived in late September. During the first few weeks, Darcy, my Irish Sport Horse and I grew acquainted with each other both in and out of the saddle. His hard-working, earnest, and loving demeanor charmed me from the start, and I believed that we were a promising team in the making. Originally trained to be an event horse, Darcy adapted to the demands of dressage and exhibited patience with his novice rider. From the start, I knew Darcy was my forever horse.
Born in Ireland with a genetic acclimation to damp environments, Darcy’s virulent desert allergies failed to present themselves immediately. Much later, I would learn that a horse’s allergies could stay dormant for weeks, months, and even years. Less than a month after coming to New Mexico, my new horse’s allergies exploded. Our partnership, which started brightly, soon disintegrated. As the fall allergy season flourished, we struggled in the saddle. Darcy’s sneezing and scratching worsened with his manic attempts to dive and rub his nose on his legs, chest, arena walls, and the ground until his condition grew untenable.
The first veterinary visit to treat Darcy’s visible discomfort netted an inconclusive and confusing diagnosis. Standing outside my horse’s well-ventilated stall, the vet raised the possibility of headshaking. Mostly affecting geldings around the age of nine or ten, a diagnosis of head shaking is like a life sentence to a horse owner. Darcy was ten years old.
Fast forward eight years. A diagnosis from an equine allergist confirmed respiratory allergies. Darcy stands placidly without a halter or restraint after years of trepidation about receiving twice-weekly allergy shots. My husband tells me that I saved Darcy, but in the end, this horse formidable in both stature and spirit is protecting me.
At the age of forty-five, I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
Will I be able to ride again I asked my neurologist? Unable to feel my body from my collar bone to my toes and strung out on steroids prescribed to counter the exacerbation, I wept the first time I mounted Darcy after nearly three months of intense illness.
Both Darcy and I have auto-immune conditions, but this is not the only similarity between us. Both of us are opinionated. Both of us seem to be thinking about our next meal. Both of us choose a handful of close friends in our respective herds rather than hundreds of Facebook friends. Both of us like nothing more than to strike out on the trail and breathe in the pristine desert air.
Darcy and I are twin souls separated at birth.