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We Are Flying Solo

December 23, 2018

Somebody Bet On The Bay: Solo Finds A New Friend

This time of year is hard for me: ghosts do not respect pleas for quiet or mercy.  I mostly just hunker down & grit my teeth until it's over.  To help pass the time, I want to share the next (and mostly happy) part of the story...

I needed to find a more permanent friend for Solo & a project for me.  There was so much I liked about the OTTB experience that was Encore that I wanted to do it again.  My budget demanded that it had to be very green, but that was ok; my job is always getting more complex & I was in a mental & emotional place where I needed said project to involve small, slow steps.

Maybe it's just me, but horse shopping seems to get harder as you gain experience?  Could be that I get pickier, but I noticed the market has become tougher as well.  Prices were up significantly - when I got Encore, the OTTB resurgence wasn't quite under full steam yet.  It is now, which is great for these horses & their sellers, just more difficult for me.
I guess they can't all be this amazing
I looked at a LOT of horses.  Stories to share there too, that probably need their own space.  Finances & time meant I couldn't travel very far either.  Because I think quite a few people face these challenges, I'll offer this advice:

You can still find good horses out there for not-huge prices, but if you are working with extremely limited resources, like me, just prepare ahead of time that it's going to take a lot longer & require a lot of extra energy to hunt them down.  A lot.  It also helps to be naturally lucky.  I am not naturally lucky.

I wish I had a better understanding of that beforehand.  It was probably unreasonable of me to expect anything different, but if I was entirely reasonable all the time, well, how much easier boring would that be?
But I met a lot of super cute horses, like this one
I'll skip ahead to the "fun" part.  I say "fun" because I don't think it is possible to buy a horse without a hearty side helping of stress.  Which makes it doubly important to choose a horse that you REALLY REALLY like, because that will help you survive said stress.

After scouring both the real & virtual worlds, seeing some very nice but not quite what I wanted prospects, which even included bringing a horse home on trial (alas, we found an ankle chip & he was returned, but he later found a great home), my eye caught on a young gelding who'd just arrived at Benchmark Sporthorses.

It was funny because Benchmark is owned & run by the person, formerly of CANTER Mid-Atlantic, who saw Encore at Delaware Park & was involved in his let-down.  I had emailed her when I started shopping, even though her prices (which are very fair & well-deserved!) were a stretch, & often beyond, for me.  The tradeoff was that I knew her & trusted her, she knew what kind of horse I liked, her stellar eye & reputation are, well, stellar, & she has built a network of high-quality contacts in the racing world which means the horses she gets are nice nice nice horses.  Those things have a lot of value, especially if something Just Right comes along.

My checklist looked like this:
  • MUST HAVE
    • Gelding (Solo turns into an unbelievable jerk if he falls in love)
    • 16 - 16.2 h (damn my freaky long legs, I wish I could fit ponies but also don't want giant)
    • No greys (I like low-maintenance, but am also afraid of melanomas)
    • Excellent brain with sense (priority A1A for both happiness & safety)
    • Correct conformation with 3 correct gaits
    • Age 3-10 (but would consider older, unlikely in my budget)
  • WOULD REALLY LIKE
    • I liked something with mileage on the track, I think that can show durability
    • I loved my AP Indy horse (Encore's grandsire) & a lot of horses who have caught my eye since have been AP Indy horses, with that combination of sport horse build with sweet, good mind
The photo that snagged my attention belonged to a 2014 model who appeared to check all but one; he'd only raced 4 times (terribly).  I decided I could live with that, at least he had made it through training & out the gate without disaster (so was trainable & probably not homicidal) & he had completed his last race with no known significant injuries.  And it just so happened that he had AP Indy on BOTH sides of his pedigree - some things are good in double doses.   He wasn't orange, but he was still dirt-colored.

And I saw A Look in his eye, an undefinable something that spoke to something in me.  It said he might be Just Right.
Not original sale photo, but it is the original face
What came next can only be described as insanity.  Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only person who knows Benchmark's qualities, which means that many of her horses are purchased sight unseen.  Sometimes within 30 minutes.  For that reason, she has an excellent set of well-spelled-out rules on her website.  Essentially, the first person who either pays or sets up a vetting has dibs on the horse.

The short version is this:  I decide to take an enormous leap of faith & set up a vetting for this horse.  Whom I have not met.  Someone was faster than me.  Which was fair, but I'm only human, I cried anyway.

Benchmark reached out in kind pity & told me about another 4 year old just in she thought I might like, who'd been vetted clean by someone else, but they decided not to buy him for non-veterinary personal reasons.  He was stunning, amazing lines for sport, a beautiful mover in a short video.  He didn't have A Look, but I saw an incredible potential that could take me farther & higher than I could ever afford.  Even if he didn't work out forever, I could train him to sell later.

I planned a trip, hooked up my trailer.  Then I got a message from Benchmark:  the first horse had been vetted by an Advanced event rider, but she decided not to buy him.  Was I still interested?

We had a conversation.  He had some sesamoiditis in one ankle, but soft tissues were good, all his other parts looked good.  I was never ever ever going to want to do Advanced or anything close.  He needed rest & several hundred pounds of groceries.  She assured me he was sweet as pie & didn't seem the type who would beat up Solo (an important consideration).  She also just so happened to be shipping another horse to NC, so he could be delivered the next day for a very reasonable price (which would save me 13 hrs of driving, diesel & miles on my old-enough-to-vote truck, & stress of hauling a baby horse by himself).

Yes, yes, I was irretrievably interested.

I made the largest Paypal transaction of my lifeIn more funny-ness, aforementioned Advanced rider ended up purchasing the other horse I nearly purchased.  Which I think actually worked out perfectly, because I definitely saw upper levels (of anything you wanted) in that horse.               

24 hours later, I met Intensive Harmony.  A big shoutout to Scott Norris Horse Transport for excellent service.  As this still-technically-3-year-old stepped off the trailer, all legs & curiosity, 24 hours of oh-my-cod-what-have-I-done melted away.  He was everything Benchmark had said:  kind, calm, brave, beautiful...and his eye, that Look was real.
Fresh off the trailer, checking out new world from borrowed stall
In a burst of eloquence, I texted her:  OMG, I LOVE HIM!!!

It took me two weeks to come up with a barn name.  I have also kept his Jockey Club name for now; he is still very much a baby & we're taking it slow, we have time to try out "official" names.  But I'd like to introduce you to Echo (continued musical theme not intentional, it just happens, I swear), the newest member of Team Flying Solo. 
First day in my paddock - yes, he was super thin
He arrived at the end of January.  There are already many stories & naturally, vet bills to go with them.  As I often remind him, though, he is fortunate to be extremely adorable, which makes it difficult to stay in a bad mood even when things do not go according to the backup standby reserve backup plan.

He still has weight to gain & we're just working on basics under saddle.  But we are (occasionally) under saddle.  Feet are a big project, but progress is progressing in fits & spurts. 
First meeting
Echo: He seems neat! Solo: Great, another kid to train.
At a dark time of year (literally & figuratively at present), he is adding his own brand of light to Solo's steady beam.  The road isn't smooth or straight (is it ever?), but it's not a dead-end.

I'm not sure where this chapter will lead.  And I confess that part of the reason you haven't heard about Echo before now is that I really didn't know if there would be much of a story to tell. 

And once again, I was afraid to break any fragile shards of hope with the weight of naming them aloud.

It's a little...less brave, perhaps, to tell the story afterwards, less risky than sharing it in real time.  But he's a horse & I still own him, so there's plenty of risk still to come.  And I have missed this community of blog-land, even though I was lurk-reading. 

So I'm going to work on filling in the past year of lessons learned from this bold & ridiculously adorable dark bay who I've come to call my Baby Monster. 

I think he just may be something really special.
Because this face..

25 comments:

  1. Finally...I was going to beg! Can't wait for more...and both of my horses are chocolate horses and I would not have it any other way! Something very classy about a bay.. :)

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    1. Now I am not capable of looking at Echo without thinking of chocolate, haha!

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  2. He's absolutely beautiful...

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  3. He certainly does have "the look", doesn't he? I'm so excited for you :)

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  4. How soon can you post next? Not that I'm anxious or anything, LOL.

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  5. Congrats! Looking forward to hearing more.

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  6. Reading this post after the fact was a bit strange (as I thought for a moment it was happening in real time haha) but regardless of how, when, why you chose to share, thank you for sharing! I wish you and Echo all the best always and look forward to reading more.

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  7. Love Echo's face. Such a classic TB look. As someone who rather impulsively purchased a horse she saw lounging in a stall, while she still was dealing with the emotional turmoil of loss and upset, I get it. Sometimes they're the very best worst decisions we could make. ;)

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    1. I can't say it was the best way to go about things for me, but sometimes your gut is just too loud to ignore.

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  8. Ahhhh HE'S SO CUUUUTE! And also super handsome, congrats! I can't wait to hear more about him!

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  9. Congratulations! AP Indy, SC and Blushing groom are all ones I love to produce amazing jumpers and movers!

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    1. Heeheehee, I knew one of my fellow TB nerds would look it up -- but I promise I am going to do a post of his family highlights, he has a very interesting combination that have a lot to offer!

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  10. Awwe, thank you all. I won't tell Echo though, it will just go to his head, he already thinks too much of himself.

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  11. He’s lovely! I’m so happy for you. As someone else taking the slow route due to work/time/weather I’m glad you found the pony to take that journey with you.

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    1. I am finding it also provides a useful stress reliever when things inevitably go wrong -- you can quickly say, "It's ok, this just helps me go slower!" Heh.

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  12. Congrats! He's lovely and lucky to have you.

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  13. He's adorable -- and I see The Look in his eye that caught your attention as well. He's a special one for sure!!

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  14. Aw, happy for you! He looks like a sweetie-pie for sure!

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  15. What a lovely boy you've scored! <3 I'm still debating what to do for my horse situation. Sunny-bunny will need a companion whenever I'm able to move her closer. She is missing Vannah, as am I. I don't think she would do well being an only. That's a bridge I'll cross when it's time I believe (and hope for the best).

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  16. Thank you both! And blue, definitely understand that debate. One thing to consider is a donkey -- I have a couple of friends who have gotten adorable ones from a local donkey rescue group (both mini & standards). I would like to get Solo a donkey, but would have to add some fencing reinforcement to prevent escapes & just don't have the extra money at present. Actually goats would be even easier but I definitely do not have the fences for that, LOL!

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    1. Sunny has actually had some exposure to donkeys and mules. The neighbor on the other side of the woods has them. Several times over the last decade the fence has come down and the horses have gone visiting, LOL. That is definitely something to seriously take into consideration :)

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    2. Doooo it, I want to see adorable donkey pictures, heeheehee

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