SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

October 30, 2021

An Introduction Is In Order

Say hello to Mouse:  a new addition to Team Flying Solo!

Mouse surveys his new home
I feel very lucky to have found this little guy.  I'd been combing the listings for months, knowing I would need to find a new friend for Solo & a new project for me, & knowing that it was going to be even more difficult than usual to succeed within my financial constraints.  As anyone who has attempted to horse-shop recently knows, the horse market is just as nuts as everything else at the moment.  

My budget range means that I'm looking at the things that are thin or scruffy or very green or in need of training or outside of the box for some reason.  Or a combination of all those things.  But the turnover on sales is still happening so crazy fast these days that I got very, very discouraged after a few months of getting replies of "sorry, it sold yesterday" when sellers even bothered to reply at all (what usually happened).  

I didn't care too much about breed this time around as long as it was a gelding with a kind, sane brain (I'm not into unnecessary nonsense), who was not-grey (I'm way too twitchy to add worries of hidden melanomas to the mix), had proven he could stay sound in work, had non-disaster feet that were appropriately sized to his body, was big enough that I didn't have to buy all new tack, was not metabolic (my very grassy farm would kill them) & had parts attached in mostly the right order in mostly the right places.  It also had to be something close enough that I could go look at it, I wasn't up for the sight-unseen purchase again. 

Meeting Solo
A few weeks ago, I finally just threw the door wide open & sent a message with a basic list of what I was looking for to a seller I had been watching on the Instagrams for a while.  I had heard good things about Alice at Shenandoah Sporthorses from a friend's trainer & my Trainer Neighbour had also sold a horse to her circle for breeding & reported a positive experience.  Alice seemed to get a steady stream of OTTBs & I liked the look of quite a few, so it was worth a shot.

She responded right away (delightful change of pace) & pointed me towards a young OTTB she'd just gotten in.  I'd scrolled past his initial post because my brain incorrectly read "2017" as "17 hh" & that was bigger than I wanted.  When I went back & re-read his ad correctly, he was only 16.1 (perfect), did indeed sound promising & I loved his breeding - AP Indy (of course I must have!) combined with Not For Love (that will be its own post).  Lexington, VA isn't terribly far from me, so I went up to have a look.

Mouse immediately met the "Jimmy Wofford criterion" of horse purchasing:  I liked him as soon as I saw his wide blaze stick over the stall door.  I liked him even more when I got on him in a saddle that didn't really fit great, with a girth that we couldn't quite tighten all the way (don't try this at home, I had very carefully gauged his temperament & my own abilities), for only his second ride post-racing (his last race was mid-September) -- & his default when he didn't understand something was...stopping.

First day here - just a cute face
The PPE vet really liked him too, so I took a deep breath & handed Alice my quarters.  If I had any doubts about my read on his big, kind eye, they were reassured when we transferred him to my trailer in a random city park by a chain link fence covered with banners & he didn't care a lick.  Nor did he flinch when we got home in the dark & I led him across my yard into a strange shed.  He's a Very Good Boy.  And Alice was really fantastic, I would have no qualms about doing business with her again - so shout out & thanks to her!

The past week, I've just been letting him settle in & begin stuffing his face.  Solo has accepted him, although he is working through some initial jealousy.  As for his particulars:

He came with the name Mouse, but I rather like it.  His JC name, however, I will not be using -- "Stephanopoulos" is just a mouthful, so we'll figure out something more suitable for the future.  He didn't race as a two-yr-old, but had a steady two-year career racing once or twice a month in WV as a three- & four-yr-old.  It doesn't appear he was particularly impressive on the track, he only won one race, but he brought home a few checks now & again.  He originally raced off a farm, so he is excellent at trailers, but trainer scheduling forced him to move to the track, where he apparently did not like living full-time & lost a bunch of weight.  Hence the decision to retire him.  

Mouse has clean legs, his feet appear decent, he is extremely polite to work around, & he has NOT ONCE even offered to put his mouth on me, which I love.  During my limited test-ride, where I only did a little walk & trot because I didn't think it was very fair to ask much due to the tack situation, he felt balanced & willing, with a hint of some power & lift in his future.  So far, he's remained extremely level-headed, taking novel objects in stride & accepting human direction with equanimity.  

First pony around neighbourhood today
He was initially a little (understandably) cautiously watchful while he decided what type of human I might be.  But he has quickly warmed up as I readily dispense meals, massages, & itch-scratching, & he already walks over & follows me around in the pasture.

So we begin again.  I'm still trying to untangle the mess in my head, trying to remember how to look forward to positive things again.  It's going to be a slow process to unlearn the expectation of disaster at every turn, just like the slow process to rebuild & retrain Mouse to a new career.  We'll both just take it one step at a time & help each other (hopefully) figure out a better, happier rhythm to our days.    

October 10, 2021

We Hit A Dead End

 A few weeks ago, with a heavy heart, I took Echo to his new home.  

His foot just wasn't getting better.  When he first started having problems, I said I'd give him a year, trying to give myself some boundaries since I don't have unlimited resources.  I gave him a year & then I gave him more time after that.  The vet & farrier & I poked & prodded & tweaked & tried, but there didn't seem to be any real progress.  I found myself, emotionally & financially exhausted, at a crossroads.

I'll miss this face
There wasn't much more we could see down in that foot without doing an MRI, which was well beyond what I was financially capable of & even if I did it anyway, there were no guarantees it would even offer any information we could do anything about.  Echo wasn't comfortable doing work, but he didn't have any problems enjoying himself in the pasture.  He'd take a wonky step or two on a hard spot, but otherwise was perfectly happy to play with his friend, canter in for meals, & be his bright-eyed, goofy self.    

So after much agonizing over the spring & summer & finally admitting that denial wasn't going to magically become productive, I decided to try to find him a new place where he could just be himself & do what he was best at:  making friends & looking decorative.  He'd turned out to be a really good companion horse:  he submitted to authority, he didn't have an aggressive bone in his body, he loved to play so would be good to keep a senior horse active, & he loved human attention & was pretty easy to handle on the ground.  

I put my nose to the ground, in search of the right person, while making sure I was clear on what he needed & what his limitations were.  If I was unsuccessful, I'd have to re-examine my options, but it was worth a shot.  It took time, but we finally met a wonderful person who is exactly right for the Baby Monster.  He is living his best life with another TB-lover who adores his ridiculous personality & her older mare, who was going to lose her aged companion, is enamored with this flashy new boy-toy.

I feel so grateful & fortunate to have found a place where I know he will be safe & loved.  But this gratitude coexists with the inevitable sadness & my own frustration that my time with Echo ended this way.  Apparently, sometimes these foot injuries just don't resolve cleanly no matter what you do & it's difficult to predict when that will be the case.  I'm sure his physiology didn't necessarily do him a favor & I learned that I won't buy a small-footed horse again -- sometimes they do fine, but not this time.  It's just a bit gutting after working so hard.

It is possible that eventually, Echo's body will find a new equilibrium & heal or compensate successfully.  I hope that's the case for him, but even if it isn't, his new mom will still take great care of him.  If he does come riding sound, she got the horse bargain of a lifetime.  I had intended to sell him anyway once I'd realized he wasn't quite the right fit for me.  I certainly learned that one should immediately sell a horse upon discovering this & not wait for them to hurt themselves & lose all value.  Hindsight...

I do get some consolation in knowing that I improved Echo substantially.  I taught him to be a good farm horse, so you can throw blankets on him, handle him easily, do weird human things around him.  He definitely has a lot more skills under saddle.  His body condition finally blossomed - he grew to be a lovely horse, filling out his body, with a shiny, dapple-y coat, & I was finally able to reduce his feed a bit from "infinite."  I worked out the huge, deep knots in his hips & got his SI back where it belonged.  His back feet looked pretty darn good & even his mismatched fronts were vastly better than where they started.  All that took a very long time, but it's not nothing. 

Looking damn good this past June

Now it's time to try & look forward.  It's hard to do in my demographic of "fiscally challenged," but I'm keeping my ears open for a cheap, kind (sound, with proper feet!) gelding who is probably green but is looking for a good life.  Solo has the temporary company of our borrowed neighbour gelding, Gabe, but I  know he will be happy when he can be the boss again.  I'm trying not to get too frustrated with the crazy horse market right now, telling my stir-crazy brain to try & be patient while I find the project it desperately needs.  

Life would be easier if I could just care about something like knitting.  Doesn't make nearly as interesting stories though...