As it's Valentine's Day, we thought we'd write about our old rescue horse, Oberon, and his contentment with the new ladies in his life! If you've been reading our blog you'll know that we've had a rescued white male horse on the property for over a year now. He had been abandoned in the forest across the gorge from us and we were worried about him all alone over there, so we found out his history and brought him across the stream to La Cazalla.
For those readers not familiar with Oberon's story, here's a quick recap: when we first came to live at La Cazalla de Ronda a few years ago, we would occasionally be treated to intriguing glimpses of a white horse wandering in the forest on the other side of the gorge.
The horse would sometimes appear majestically silhouetted along the ridge line or ambling between the oaks and he became something of a mythical, magical creature for us, so we thought of him as our unicorn. Our eyes were persistently drawn to the forest, searching for a sight of him, and our infrequent glimpses always brought us joy. Naturally, we wondered why he was there, and why he was always alone, but information from our neighbours was sparse, except to say that he had been there for a very long time.
In late 2016, with winter approaching, we became concerned about our unicorn and, having consulted a local veterinarian, decided to start feeding him. He was wary of us, but tolerated our attention in return for feed and carrots.
One day in November we called for our new friend and when he arrived he was having problems with one of his eyes, being unable to open it fully. Worried for him, we decided to bring him across the stream and onto the property where we could keep an eye on his eye. The moment he saw all the lush grass at La Cazalla, and the persimmons hanging from the trees like sweet, succulent gifts, he seemed convinced that living amongst us was the right thing to do.
The spring in his step was wonderful to watch and his eye recovered remarkably rapidly. Now that we know him better and have learned just how smart this old boy is, we have wondered if there was ever anything wrong with it all... His strength, majesty and intelligence had us pondering a name for him for some time, but eventually we decided to call him 'Oberon', after Shakespeare's King of the Fairies in a Midsummer Night's Dream.
With Oberon living at La Cazalla, we renewed our efforts to discover his history, as we did not wish to upset any of our neighbours by unwittingly 'stealing' a horse. A local shepherd spotted a brand on Oberon's shoulder which would have been applied after his castration and we were incredibly surprised to learn that this particular cross had not been used for at least 25 years. Our new friend was no spring chicken, making his solitary survival for many years even more magical! Through investigations we tracked down the owner of the land he had been living on and ascertained that his original owner had died, leaving the land to his seven children. As none of the children had any desire to claim Oberon, one of the family agreed over coffee that he could remain with us. It was a happy day for everyone.
Oberon appeared content from the moment of his arrival - wandering around our 13 acre estate, completely unfazed by the comings and goings of guests. However, we came to realise that he was in need of company of his own kind. A neighbour has two horses on his land: a male and a female, and Oberon would spend a great deal of time at the fence calling to the mare. She certainly did nothing to discourage him, to the chagrin of her own mate! The day that Oberon broke through our fence, wandered up and down an old river bed and eventually forced his way into our neighbour's property, we realised we needed to find him some friends of his own.
Our search for friends for Oberon led us to make some new ones of our own! We came to meet Juan Jesús Guerrero Domingo - owner of stables in the Tajo de Ronda and experienced dressage instructor. Juan likes his younger horses to 'live like horses' for a few years before they commence their training and is therefore always looking for natural land upon which to keep his foals and yearlings. He was delighted to supply a few girlfriends for our lonely old boy. Juan brought to La Cazalla Rociana and her foal Rociera, together with a young female called Boticaria, resulting in this delightful moment:
Oberon was so happy with his new harem and all the horses settled in with one another very quickly. They've even been on some adventures together! In late-September last year, when much of the grass had succumbed to the Andalusian summer sunshine, Juan Jesús and his brother took all four horses to a field of golden hay for a month.
We missed him so much while he was away and were delighted to welcome all four horses back in November - just in time for Oberon's rescue anniversary.
At this time, on Valentine's Day 2018, only Rociera (the foal) remains with Oberon at La Cazalla. Rociera's mother returned to the stables once the foal was weaned. Unfortunately Boticaria injured a leg romping around the grounds and has returned to Juan's stables until she is better. Yet, despite the fact that they are an unlikely pair (one extremely old and a little grumpy, the other full of youth, energy and mischief), Oberon and Rociera appear extremely content in each other's company and are never far apart. And what better teacher could Rociera have for learning how to survive in the world! (Mind you, Rociera has tried teaching Oberon a few new tricks too, such as how to open the gate to allow them both down to the house by pressing the button with her nose. We're not sure whether Oberon found this lesson difficult or not, and simply decided to simply knock down the entire gate post instead...)
We hope that sweet Boticaria will join us again soon, as it's such a pleasure to have these three delightful horses around the house. We adore having these gentle spirits here, and our guests enjoy meeting them too. It's obviously such a hard life for them here at La Cazalla!