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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label horse shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label horse shopping. Show all posts

February 6, 2013

Forbidden Love

My schedule is impossible.  Every time I think I get Encore back in a flow, there's some other appointment or meeting I must attend.  Stupid life.

So instead, let's visit Imaginary Land.  There, I have endless time and I build card towers out my $100 bills because I have soooo many extras.

Someone else visits Imaginary Land too.  Meet Roxy (she's the one that makes you go OMG SQUEEE!!!!).

About one month old this past July
Roxy was a 'surprise' baby.  A fellow boarder purchased her dam, a TWH mare, late this past spring as a pleasure horse under the assumption she was just buying a normal horse.  Three weeks later, Roxy fell out.  Surprise.

Roxy has, I believe, been given to the BO as a companion for a SSH (Spotted Saddle Horse, or to me, a paint TWH) filly he bred who is only a month older.  He will keep her until they (now best of friends) are about 2.5 years old, at which point he will start his filly and sell Roxy.

Cool story, bro.  Right?

This is where Imaginary Me enters.  See, I've been watching Roxy.  She's at the ugly seven-month-old-yak stage right now, but this summer -- well, you know how they say you see what a young horse will be at 3 days, 3 months, and 3 years?  I saw.  And I WANT.

What the heck are you going to do with a Walking Horse filly? you ask, quite sensibly.  For the sellers of her dam don't know who the sire is, yet "swear" that he was also a purebred TWH.  You don't even want a mare within ten feet of you!  This is true.

Well, if Roxy is a purebred TWH, then I am the second coming of Tinkerbell.  Because even as an ugly yak, this is how she moves (the painted filly is her BFF, Callie):



Why yes, that is a perfectly balanced canter that takes almost no effort to envision circling a course of 5' jumps!  With a lovely trot with just enough suspension to not be overkill.  At 3 months old, she was a dead ringer for an Oldenburg, with a broad chest, straight, well-boned legs, and skeletal structure that is pretty close to perfect.  She has never gaited a day of her life.  She is also very intelligent and will be a brave, but sensitive horse.  Even Encore is in love with her; the filly pasture is across the lane from my pasture and he hangs out near them when Solo is out and always stops to say hello when we ride by the fenceline, where Roxy does that adorable baby mouth thing (I need to upload that video).

BO has even offered to give Roxy to me.  Cruel and unusual torture.  Yes, she is a girl, by which I am pretty much never tempted.  But she has the look.  That look in her eye which made my decision for me when I met Solo and Encore both.  That look which says if you want, I could be your partner and we could be great together.  OMG$#*$&#^!

Sadly, I am unable to find a bridge between Imaginary Land and Reality, so I am forced to tell BO I will be happy to take her...the day she starts pooping money.  He has given me free rein to go in the pasture and play with her, although for now, her dam's owner spends a little time getting her used to being touched and handled and both Roxy and her BFF are friendly and inquisitive.  Maybe when she is a little older, in my Imaginary Free Time, I can teach her some round pen work and ground driving and hope that someone in the sport horse world discovers her because someday, she will be amazing.

May 25, 2012

Horses Are Horses And There's Not A Damn Thing You Can Do About It

I've been posting running updates on Encore on the TFS Facebook page, but I wanted to talk a little about the underlying issues.

I know there are people out there who will say, ha, I knew it, all OTTBs have issues and I will never buy one.

Well, you would be missing out.  Because you want to know the 100% honest truth?  You can never predict which horse will be sound throughout its career (pretty rare) and which horse will have issues on and off and which horse will have to be retired prematurely. 

You can buy a beautifully perfect two year old warmblood with impeccable bloodlines who has never been touched and it can try to reach the wrong clump of grass and break its silly neck in the gate.

You can buy an 18-year-old campaigner who's evented through Advanced and been working since he was 3 and he can never have a problem and you can show him until he's 30.

I know (well, online "know") an excellent breeder/owner who produces beautiful eventers and raises them exactly the right way.  They start out with road work and cow work on all types of terrain, they build their bones and soft tissue, they don't start jumping till they are four or five, I mean EVERYTHING right.  Yet one of her horses still suffered a catastrophic bone shatter on course after reaching the top levels of the sport.  It's a cruel and horrible thing, but there is no insurance that says your horse will never have a problem.

Horse ownership is a risk, plain and simple.  When you start to compete, you (exponentially, I have concluded) raise that risk as you ask more from the horse and his body.

Encore raced steadily for three years and 26 races and as far as I know, did not have issues.  Parklane Hawk, who is currently taking William Fox-Pitt on a run for the eventing Grand Slam, raced 144 times and is insanely athletic and brave and takes on the biggest, baddest jumps there are and keeps on winning.

Some of it is heart, some of it is luck, and the rest is just...horses.  Each one is unique and (if you are a pushover like me) each one is special and has something to teach. 

So my advice to you is to never walk away from a horse just because "it's an OTTB" or "it needs a hock injection" or "it's over 10" or any of those types of reasons.  There are so many great diagnostics and treatment options out there and OMG, BUY INSURANCE and when you find a horse that you click with, give him a chance to be the best he can be and I promise that you will have time of your life, even when there are speed bumps.



September 9, 2011

A Stork Came To My Barn This Morning

He was delivering red thoroughbreds.  SURPRISE!!!

Yes, the best picture I have so far is a crappy one I took with the farmhouse growing out of his back.  He minored in architecture...

Ok, jokes aside, THIS IS MY NEW PONY!!!

What?? How??? Ehhhh??? You ask -- rightfully so.  My amazing, wonderful mum stepped forward during my abysmal grief over Solo's lingering injury & offered to help find a Solo-understudy.  Yes, I do know how awesome she is.

I started poking around, rifled through my backfiles of all the fantasy shopping I had done over at CANTER's website & snuck down to Southern Pines last weekend to meet this guy.

Crucial Stats:
6 year old Thoroughbred gelding by an AP Indy stallion named Crowd Pleaser, out of an Allen's Prospect mare.   He's about 16.1ish feeling to me right now, might gain another inch with groceries & fitness.

At present he is barefoot & very athletic, despite his pinfire scars from the track.  He ran about 26 races, breaking his maiden at Pimlico as a 3 year old & finished his career at Delaware Park, retiring sound after winning his owners about $80,000. 

His Jockey Club name is Joyous Jester, however, that just doesn't do anything for me, so he is now wearing his new moniker:  Away Again.  In the barn, we'll call him Encore, a tip of the hat to his sire (who has a race at Delaware Park named after him!), as well as to his role in following in the giant hoofprints of the one & only Solo.

Crucial-To-Me Stats:
He is quiet, impeccably mannered, kind, honest, & brave.  Hacks out on a loose rein with a lovely, marching walk & hops over Novice sized logs without batting an eye.  He has jumped all of 3 times so far & is very green but has a heart of gold.  AND HE HAS A FORELOCK.  Don't tell Solo, he might get jealous.

He was picked up from Delaware Park in December of 2010 by Jessica Morthole up at CANTER's Delaware Branch.  He was tired & ready to be done with the racing game & his trainers were kind enough to donate him into a retraining pipeline before he was run into the ground.  He quickly found his way down to NC, where Allie Conrad & Suzanne Konefal did a FANTASTIC job turning his mind & body towards a new career.  He is gaining weight after a hard post-track crash & he is muscling up in all the right places. 

I have to sign off for the moment -- I am now going to run laps of my living room yelling "PONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONYPONY!!!!!!!"

March 17, 2011

Are You Ready To Be A Horse Owner?

Wondering if you are ready to take the big step of having a horse of your own? I have come up with an iron-clad test of preparedness for horse ownership.

Step 1: Go to your bank and withdraw $500 or the balance of your account, whichever is greater. Small bills are better.

Step 2: Take your cash home and carry it to your backyard.

Step 3: Carefully arrange your bills in a pile on the ground. This is why you want small bills -- it makes a bigger pile.

Step 4: Sprinkle the pile liberally with diesel fuel.

Step 5: Drop a match into the center of the pile.

Step 6: As you watch your money burn, carefully evaluate your feelings.

If:  you are bothered by the sight of your hard-earned cash being incinerated before your eyes for no apparent reason, you are not ready to be a horse owner.

If: you find yourself undisturbed by the sudden and unexpected disappearance of your money and maybe, in fact, you even giggle a little and dance around the flames, congratulations: you will make an excellent horse owner! You have no emotional attachment to your liquid assets and will remain calm when asked to part with most or all of it on a regular basis. Head on over to DreamHorse now!

That's a pretty big smile -- obviously a seasoned owner!

December 17, 2009

A Love Story

All girls dream of ponies. For at least a brief time in their lives. Some girls never stop dreaming.

That's me.

When I was growing up, every Christmas morning I would lie still in my bed, eyes scrunched tight shut, holding my breath, firmly believing that if I was just still enough & wished hard enough, the sheer power of my longing would make a horse wearing a big red bow appear in my window when I looked out.

Alas, it appears I was unable to keep my eyes closed long enough, for the horse never appeared.

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Yeahhhh, they didn't really have helmets back then.  Oops.
As a result, I begged & borrowed rides where I could. My mother did half-lease me a pony when I was 7 (that's Sassy below, circa mid-80's, half Welsh Mountain Pony & what you see is the grand total sum of tack that we had) & she bought me riding lessons from age 8-15. After that, I cleaned stalls, exercised what I could, schooled a backyard prospect or two.

And every day I dreamed of when I would be able to write my OWN horse's name on a bucket of brushes.

There were many gentle teachers & loving hearts along the way. There was the headstrong paint dressage gelding who ran away with me & knocked me out but taught me triumph when I could finally control him. There was the quiet chestnut who gave me my first real canter & jumped a faithful straight line while my arms were outstretched & eyes closed. There was the leggy thoroughbred who won me my first blue ribbon, when I was in college riding hunter equitation. The black ex-Rolex quarter horse who met my truck at the gate every day & despite his age & (unbeknownst to me then) intestinal cancer, always made me smile with his joie de vivre & finely tuned cues.

But none of them were mine & each I had to give up as owners changed their minds & life moved inexorably on. There were years when I couldn't even touch a horse; then I would pull my truck into random horse barn parking lots & sit there absorbing that special barn atmosphere with tears in my eyes because I missed it so much. I was 26 years old & I finally couldn't take it anymore; that horse-shaped hole in my heart had sat empty for too long. I didn't have any money -- I worked (and still do) as a state biologist & rented a house in a "transitional neighbourhood." But dammit, sometimes, it's just TIME. I wasn't going to get any younger, no CHANCE of getting richer, & I wasn't going to miss out on it any more.

I flipped the switch. I gave myself permission to horse shop. I gave myself a budget & started looking. I searched, I visited, I tried. A 3 year old black Percheron who was greenbroke (What was I thinking? Helloooo, I wanted to JUMP!). A beautifully built tri-coloured Appy (and I don't even go for Appies usually) who had learned to rear to dethrone his rider. A conformational trainwreck of a TB with uneven heels, mile-long pasterns & a limp but the heart of a saint.

Frustrated.

A few months earlier, I had coincidentally started dating this guy. This guy who in about four days I knew would change my life forever. And it turned out that this guy could make my life's only sure dream of horse ownership come true. He gave me a check & said, "Go find what you need." Hell, if you ever want to make a girl love you, that'll do it!

I revised my search with renewed hope of finding a horse that didn't limp & didn't have a death wish for humans.

Solo's first day - 6 June 2006
I was tired of driving around, but one final ad caught my eye: a chestnut Appendix QH named "Benson," with a little chrome. The pictures weren't great, but he looked to have decent conformation & he was a good age (10). I decided what the heck, I wasn't doing anything else, & I drove two hours to check him out.

I pulled into one of the million Carolina sandhills hobby farms & hopped out to meet the owner in the barn. As I walked in, Benson stood in quietly in the crossties awaiting my inspection. I looked at him. He looked at me. And something settled inside me.

I patted him on the neck & proceeded to look him over. He had the worst shoeing job I had ever seen with uneven gaps between hoof & shoe. Zero muscle tone. As I rubbed his lopsided white blaze his owner commented, "Huh, he trusts you. He doesn't do that for many people." So I asked to see him go & to ride him. A young European girl had been schooling him on the trails, said he didn't know a lot but seemed agreeable. She did a couple of circles at the trot & canter in the middle of the pasture (this is my actual video from that day, below) & then I threw my leg over.


He was crooked. He leaned hard on my left leg. He picked up the wrong canter lead. But he didn't fuss. And I felt safe. Which is a big deal to me -- due to aforementioned runaway Paint horse, I don't do bolters. Ever.

I loved him.

I brought a vet out a week later to do a Pre-Purchase Exam. Turned out not only was Benson criminally out of shape, he had bone spurs on his front coffin bones & if you pressed down on the right side of his SI, his back legs would buckle. His stifles popped & his back was lopsided.

I think I can fix that, I thought. "I'll take him," I said.

It was Memorial Day weekend 2006. I found a friend (N) to board him with. She generously drove with me to pick him up in her trailer. All the way there, I was buzzing with excitement, anticipation, & fear. What if the horse didn't like me? What if he turned out to be secretly crazy? What if he had some mysterious ailment/injury/handicap that would kill him six months from now? The horrible possibilities spun choking webs in my brain. I was stark-raving nuts.

He always knew he was sexy!
When we turned up at the seller's farm, I turned over my envelope stuffed with a wild array of cash & money orders that I had pulled together the night before. I signed the bill of sale & collected a Coggins certificate. Naturally, Benson had stepped on his own hind foot that day & ripped open his coronet band on his white hind foot. It was bloody with a chunk missing. I choked inside, I think my eyes rolled back in my head as I thought, "See, I told you he would be hurt!" I just wanted him on the trailer & out of there.


After a brief period of uncertainty, Benson agreed to step on the trailer. The seller proceeded to turn out the mare that was his best friend, who then ran up & down the fence calling for him as he rocked the trailer in a sudden panic. My heart broke for him & N was in tears for his distress as we pulled out. This wasn't starting well.

But we got him home with no further event, settled into his paddock, & let him inspect the place. "What do you want to feed him," N asked? "Ummmmmmmmm..." I knew nothing about horse feed, aside from the sweet feed we had when I worked at a boarding stable in the mid-90's. N, bless her heart, took over. Feed, amounts, hay, all taken care of. Farrier visit set up to rid us of those terrible shoes.

Photobucket
Grazing on the first day home.
I was helpless to do anything but hang on the fence & stare. He was mine. Mine mine mine. Finally, no one could stop me from riding him whenever I wanted. I already had a shiny new halter & lead rope.

I just needed a new name because "Benson" was horrendous & untenable for this shining hunk of a horse. So he became "Solaris" & in my star-struck eyes, he shone brighter than his namesake. His nickname, "Solo," carried its own hidden meaning: he was & is the culmination of a lifetime of longing, my one true dream, my sole hope & goal come to fruition.

I drove home to write a name on my brush bucket.

August 22, 2009

With Great Power Comes Great Responsiblity

I hung on the fence for hours, my chin on the top board, just watching My Horse. He grazed, he rolled, he "talked" to his pasture neighbours (he was in his own paddock). And every second was mine.

And then it occurred to me: OMG, HE IS MINE! Like an anvil from the sky, the weight of that responsibility slammed into me so hard it left me reeling. I found myself slightly short of breath at the prospect of being completely in charge of this huge and complex life standing in front of me. Dear god, what had I gotten myself into?! I thought 20 years of riding, working, being around horses would pretty much prepare me but all of a sudden I felt like I knew nothing. What if he got sick? How would I know? I didn't even know what a horse's baseline vitals were supposed to be. Sure I could ride, but I had never learned MANAGEMENT. What was his weight supposed to be? What kind of wormer did I need? How often did he need shots? I was going to kill him, I just knew it....

After nearly giving myself an aneurysm out of sheer panic, I had to swallow it all -- there was no turning back now! At least I had that tool without which all horse people would be lost: Google. There I could get so much information that I was in danger of being paralyzed into inaction, but dammit, I WOULD educate myself!

So I got to work. And I rode.

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And I rode and I rode and I rode. And then I rode some more. With glee. There was no arena, but it didn't matter at this point. We needed conditioning. So we trotted up hills and walked down them. We walked up hills and trotted down them. We cantered across hills and circled up them.

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It wasn't pretty, we were both out of shape and I couldn't afford lessons. I had purchased him with the lofty goal of "some messing around and maybe some 2'6" hunters." Of course, first we had to be able to trot for more than five minutes without being out of breath... But it was all about saddle time and that, at least, I knew how to do!

August 21, 2009

Home At Last

It was Memorial Day weekend 2006. S.O. was away on business, so I could not drag him with me, but at least I had something to do now! I found a friend (N) to board him with. She generously drove with me to pick him up in her trailer. All the way there, I was buzzing with excitement, anticipation, and fear. What if the horse didn't like me? What if he turned out to be secretly crazy? What if he had some mysterious ailment/injury/handicap that would kill him six months from now? The horrible possibilities spun choking webs in my brain. I was stark-raving nuts.

When we turned up at the seller's farm, I turned over my envelope stuffed with a wild array of cash and money orders that I had pulled together the night before. I signed the bill of sale and collected a Coggins certificate. Naturally, Benson had stepped on his own hind foot that day and ripped open his coronet band on his white hind foot. It was bloody with a chunk missing. I choked inside, I think my eyes rolled back in my head as I thought, "See, I told you he would be hurt!" I just wanted him on the trailer and out of there.

After a brief period of uncertainty, Benson agreed to step on the trailer. The seller proceeded to turn out the mare that was his best friend, who then ran up and down the fence calling for him as rocked the trailer in a sudden panic. My heart broke for him and N was in tears for his distress as we pulled out. This wasn't starting well.

But we got him home with no further event, settled into his paddock, and let him inspect the place. "What do you want to feed him," N asked? "Ummmmmmmmm..." I knew nothing about horse feed, aside from the sweet feed we had when I worked at a boarding stable in the mid-90's. N, bless her heart, took over. Feed, amounts, hay, all taken care of. Farrier visit set up to rid us of those terrible shoes.

I was helpless to do anything but hang on the fence and stare. He was mine. Mine mine mine. Finally, no one could stop me from riding him whenever I wanted. I already had a shiny new halter and lead rope.

Photobucket

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Grazing on the first day home.


I just needed a new name because "Benson" was horrendous and untenable for this shining hunk of a horse. So he became "Solaris" and in my star-struck eyes, he shone brighter than his namesake and his nickname, "Solo," carried its own hidden meaning: he was and is the cumulation of a lifetime of longing, my one true dream, my sole hope and goal come to fruition.

I drove home to write a name on my brush bucket.

August 20, 2009

A Meeting of the Minds

I was tired of driving around, but one final ad caught my eye: a chestnut Appendix QH named "Benson," with a little chrome. The pictures weren't great, but he looked to have decent conformation and he was a good age (10). I decided what the heck, I wasn't doing anything else, and I drove two hours from to check him out.

I pulled into one of the million Carolina sandhills hobby farms and hopped out to meet the owner in the barn. As I walked in, Benson stood in quietly in the crossties awaiting my inspection. I looked at him. He looked at me. And something settled inside me.

I patted him on the neck and proceeded to look him over. He had the worst shoeing job I had ever seen with uneven gaps between hoof and shoe. Zero muscle tone. As I rubbed his lopsided white blaze his owner commented, "Huh, he trusts you. He doesn't do that for many people." So I asked to see him go and to ride him. A young European girl had been schooling him on the trails, said he didn't know a lot but seemed agreeable. She did a couple of circles at the trot and canter in the middle of the pasture (this is my actual video from that day, below) and then I threw my leg over.



He was crooked. He leaned hard on my left leg. He picked up the wrong canter lead. But he didn't fuss. And I felt safe. Which is a big deal to me -- due to aforementioned runaway Paint horse, I don't do bolters. Ever.

I loved him.

I brought a vet out a week later to do a Pre-Purchase Exam. Turned out not only was Benson criminally out of shape, he had bone spurs on his front coffin bones and if you pressed down on the right side of his SI, his back legs would buckle. His stifles popped and his back was lopsided.

I think I can fix that, I thought. "I'll take him," I said.

Mission Impossible

I flipped the switch.   I gave myself permission to horse shop.  I searched, I visited, I tried.  A 3 year old black Percheron who was greenbroke (What was I thinking? Helloooo, I wanted to JUMP!).  A beautifully built tri-coloured Appy (and I don't even go for Appies usually) who had learned to rear to dethrone his rider.  A conformational trainwreck of a TB with uneven heels, mile-long pasterns & a limp but the heart of a saint.

Frustrated.

A few months earlier, I had coincidentally started dating this guy (yeah, you know who you are!).  This guy who in about four days I knew would change my life forever.  And it turned out that this guy could make my life's only sure dream of horse ownership come true. He gave me a check & said, "Go find what makes you happy."  Hell, if you ever want to make a girl love you forever, that'll do it!

I revised my search with renewed hope of finding a horse that didn't limp & didn't have a death wish for humans.

The Real Beginning

All girls dream of ponies.  For at least a brief time in their lives.  Some girls never stop dreaming.

That's me.

When I was growing up, every Christmas morning I would lie still in my bed, eyes scrunched tight shut, holding my breath, firmly believing that if I was just still enough & wished hard enough, the sheer power of my longing would make a horse wearing a big red bow appear in my window when I looked out.

Alas, it appears I was unable to keep my eyes closed long enough, for the horse never apppeared.

As a result, I begged & borrowed rides where I could.  My mother did half-lease me a pony when I was 7 (that's Sassy below, circa mid-80's, half Welsh Mountain Pony & what you see is the grand total sum of tack that we had) & she bought me riding lessons from age 8-15.  After that, I cleaned stalls, exercised what I could, schooled a backyard prospect or two.

Photobucket


And every day I dreamed of when I would be able to write my OWN horse's name on a bucket of brushes.

There were many gentle teachers & loving hearts along the way.

There was the headstrong paint dressage gelding who ran away with me & knocked me out but taught me triumph when I could finally control him.

There was the quiet chestnut who gave my my first real canter & jumped a faithful straight line while my arms were outstretched & eyes closed.

There was the leggy thoroughbred who won me my first blue ribbon, when I was in college riding hunter equitation.

The black quarter horse who met my truck at the gate every day & despite his age & (unbeknownst to me then) intestinal cancer, always made me smile with his joie de vivre & finely tuned cues.

But none of them were mine & each I had to give up as owners changed their minds & life moved inexorably on.  There were years when I couldn't even touch a horse; then I would pull my truck into random horse barn parking lots & sit there absorbing that special barn atmosphere with tears in my eyes because I missed it so much.

I was 26 years old & I finally couldn't take it anymore; that horse-shaped hole in my heart had sat empty for too long. I didn't have any money -- I worked (and still do) as a state biologist & rented a house in a "transitional neighbourhood."  But dammit, sometimes, it's just TIME.  I wasn't going to get any younger, no CHANCE of getting richer, & I wasn't going to miss out on it any more.