Today I announce a requiem for Gelu, Tudor, Olga and Luciana - four good horses who tragically have secumbed to the carelessness and imorality of others.
Readers will remember that I sold these four, plus Luciana's foal Luke, when I left Transylvania. I thought that I had sold them to a good home - to an Anglo-Romanian "charitable foundation", the British wife of whose director professed to love horses - where they would be safe and happy for the rest of their lives. It was the least that I could do for them after years of good service. Especially good old Gelu, a sweet and loveable gelding who had been with me for almost decade. But it was not to be.
I have just heard that all four were stolen "by the gyspies" two nights ago. By now they will have been slaughtered for meat or perhaps sold - either as cheap expendable labour for a peasant who knows that he has bought stolen horses or for export to be slaughtered abroad. The news left me shocked. I had hoped for so much better for these horses.
I remember happy rides with these horses over the years. Gelu I rode more than the others, a generous and loveable fellow, now approaching old age. It fills me with numbness and despair to imagine them in the hands of the dregs of Romanian society, cruel gypsies who live by stealing horses for the slaughter trade.
From shortly after I sold the horses, I had my concerns. I do still have several independent pairs of eyes and ears looking out for me in Transylvania, and the new owners have contacted me a few times too.
First there was the attempt to drive down the price after the deal was done and the horses delivered, based on some spurious bull***t that the horses were "not worth" the agreed price. (As if a safe, reliable riding horse somehow is not worth much more than the slaughter value. I sold those horses inexpensively so that people could readily buy them whom I thought would take proper care of them. Oh, and a deal is a deal amongst decent people.)
Then there were the requests for the most basic information - where to find a vet and so on. I gave contact details for two good English-speaking vets who, so far as I know, were never contacted. I gave details for the best farrier in the region, yet hooves were allowed to grow long and ragged. I know that another foreigner was also asked for basic information - where to get wormers - as if the owners were quite helpless and clueless. Yet they had money, friends, a well-staffed office, a car and driver - all that was needed to obtain information, supplies and help.
I have been told that the five horses received, shall we say, unreliable care. Last summer they were allowed to become seriously dehydrated for want of a thoughtful, sober groom. Last winter, I gather, they were not ridden because it was "too cold" - though of course the locals would have been out daily with their horses and carts. Their feet were neglected. Despite promises, a proper stable was not provided for the winter. The expertise of a willing American volunteer living nearby was spurned.
And now, after all that, I am told that "police raids have been organised on the places where gypsies hide stolen horses." So why exactly were the horses left outside unattended all night in a society where every peasant locks his horses in a barn during the hours of darkness? In eight years, I never lost a horse, and nor did a single one of my neighbours. I guarded these horses.
I am told that "a helicopter might be used to search for them." Really, after those attempts to screw me out of the last few hundred euros of the selling price? After no-one could be bothered to call the farrier?
I wish that I had euthanased those good, faithful horses rather than leave them to a fate that culminated, most likely, in painful confused final hours followed by a brutal death. Or that somehow I had managed to borrow the substantial sum needed to ship them to Britain and then given them to caring new homes.
As a local informant commented, "now the owners won't have to pay for them." Followed by the opinion that, if a peasant bought them, at least they will be shod and perhaps the vet called if they get sick. Well, knowing how careless some peasants can be, that is an optimistic statement. But there are good people amongst them, perhaps many good people, even if they work their animals hard.
In the unlikely event that the (now ex-)owners of those fine horses are reading this: do not bother to comment or email me in connection with this post. No, I will not take down this post - not unless, by some miracle, you manage to save all four horses from whatever fate awaits then and promise in future to take far better care of them. I trusted you to take care of those noble, kind, gentle animals, and you failed them. You had the resources to provide a good, safe home for those horses, but you were not prepared to make the effort. Now, thanks to your errors and omissions, they have most likely come to a grisly end that no horse deserves.
Numbed by the news, mechanically I have gone to work and returned home. I have travelled out to the stable, troubled by sadness transmitted from afar, to see almost the sole survivor of my horses who is not lost to my sight - the big brave strong roan stallion, Doru. The great horse thrust his elegant head out above the stable door and neighed, reaching out to be petted and receive a crisp apple. He and Pintea, at least, have been rescued to live out their days in security and happiness.
Goodbye to you all - Gelu, Tudor, Olga and Luciana - who have passed beyond my sight and perhaps beyond this world. You served me faithfully, and I did not intentionally fail you. May you all live happily in green pastures where pain or suffering are unknown.
Laura too reports this sad, pointless news from a more local perspective - see her post here.