A Thousand Saturdays

An open letter to my family, friends, and everybody ‘Ponyclub Moortje en zijn Vrienden’,

That I’ve been walking around the last six months with a bit of weight on my shoulders, is an understatement. The stress of change in ones life is never easy, even if the decisions we’re making are positive and are made to help us move forward. It’s still tough and emotional, knowing it affects those directly around us and everybody else involved. And I say this, because I want to emphasize that the decision to dissolve the adjusted-horseback riding club did not come easy, but did come with my sympathy and support.

Many wonderful memories pass through my mind as I write this. Please bare with me as I try to fight my way through them.

After nearly thirty four of intense and wonderful years on nearly each Saturday, being there for the volunteers, the animals, and the riders, the family has carefully come to the consensus that it is time to close the stables. Without going into specifics, some arguments to discontinue are that my parents require a more stress free environment. The last generation of ponies has slimmed down dramatically to just a couple (because of old age and illness). And to keep the place running a significant (financial) investment would have to be made, and this would not come without a risk. My personal input in the decision was that I felt it was smart and safe to finish with a last Spring season with a “quit while you’re ahead” attitude. We can finish without having to invest, with no major-injuries in our history, we have ponies we do not have to train, and we have volunteers we know and trust.

The other week I deliberately showed up at the end of the day, with a tiny knot in my stomach though. The last lesson. And past Saturday I looked proud at the many faces during the end of the season show-off day.

Yes, it’s a bit emotional, but none of it hit me until this morning. The weight was lifted, but it would be the first Saturday without lessons. An eerie sensation overtook me, realising that for the first time in my life, things have really changed. Something that was part of me is now gone. And it kind of fucking hurts.

Thoughts have run through my mind that I won’t be sitting on a horse to demonstrate to newcomers how to mount one. I won’t be a bystander keeping an eye out if a dangerous situation requires me to jump in. Or to instigate small talk to break the ice with a child that is shy or new in the group. I won’t be showing up during lunch to listen to the stories from the volunteers (friends that are basically family by the way) from the morning lessons. And I won’t see the joy on the faces of the riders that feel connected with the animals, and proud that they’ve made progress, or are simply happy because they’ve escaped their real life problems for an hour. I won’t be sitting in the sand in the middle of the arena when a new addition is introduced to the other ponies, in an attempt to build trust and to start a six months training process. To just name a few things.

Over the last handful of years I’ve distanced myself from the responsibilities of: (what is a known term for all of us) ‘Saturdays’, but what many perhaps do not know is that I have been visiting the stables and my parents after hours. Reading ‘the journal’ in the stables to keep an eye on progress, and then have coffee with my parents to hear about progress with volunteers, ponies, and share and discuss observations and opinions with them. When I had Mike and he was still healthy enough I’ve been showing up randomly to give him a hug, to jump on his back for a fifteen minute ride, or to just give him a quick brush. It has been very unfortunate that I have created a bit of distance, but I have my reasons, and in my way I have done my best to try and stay connected and to stay passively involved (as opposed to actively involved).

Despite that I feel confident about the decision we have all made, obviously it comes with sadness. If not only because it was all part of who I was, and it means I have changed. But please do realise and respect that from the last thirty four years there have been nearly eighteen hundred Saturdays, of which nearly a thousand have been dedicated to the horseback riding club, and that none of them have gone unnoticed. And that includes loving and respecting all the animals at the farm, everybody that has helped us out every damn Saturday that they could, and many even the other days of the week.

We as a big family have done amazing things, and it makes me, you and everybody who they are. Good people. And I am proud to have been part of it. Remember, we’re not a smooth running corporate company. We only learned from each other and our experiences. We’re just a private foundation that earned relief value and validation from a smile on a child their face. And with a little bit of humble.

Sadness of this ending might have overtaken me currently. But please do not be concerned, I love my family and friends, and I am confident in the decisions we have made about half a year ago. I have no doubt it has created room for something new for all of us.

I feel enormously lucky and privileged to have been brought up in a family that was able to show me diversity and respect for others. Which taught me to value others for who they are. That I can give without having to take first. And that doing good without expectation for a reward can lead to positive karma.

The faces of the many donors, huge group of volunteers, the vast amount animals we’ve had, and all the many children, are flashing passed me while going through the many memories that have filled my life. I want to express my deep appreciation to each of them for the tremendous honor of having been part of ‘Moortje’ over the many years. My life has been nothing but enriched through these experiences, and I believe it has been the stepping stones for all of our lives, and I use them to embark on a new path.

And a final message to everybody who has helped selfishlessly: Please know that your support has made a vital difference in the lives of many wonderful children who have been less fortunate due to a mental or physical handicap, or some illness, all thanks to your attentive care.

A special mention: Thank you my brother, who once got a little pony called Moortje, and let his silly friends from school ride it on Saturdays. Only to learn there was a value there you can’t put a price tag on. The start of it all.

Be well, and keep in touch,

Floris Fiedeldij Dop