Years ago when I sold my last horse I made myself a promise. One day, I would own a horse again. And I’m beginning to think the time to keep that promise may be rapidly approaching. Don’t get me wrong. I love riding Luc. He will always hold a special place in my heart and I will likely always keep riding him on occasion. But the reality is, he isn’t mine, despite what my amazing sister likes to tell people. He belongs to her, and while she would happily let me ride him as many days per week as I wanted, I know she has riding goals and dreams too, and they don’t really include paying all the bills for a horse her sister is the primary rider for.
Then there’s the aspect of actually getting to ride together—which is a dream we both share. There have been a few occasions where we’ve had the opportunity to go for a ride together thanks to the gracious people who have lent me horses over the years, but it would be so wonderful for that to be a more regular thing.
I have to admit that I’ve actually already been to see a few. Given my modest budget, I’m looking for a diamond in the rough who can turn into what I want with some polishing. I know I can’t afford a readymade horse, and I can’t afford another Luc (he’s priceless after all!). So off Jen (my sister) and I trekked—six hours to go and see what could be the one.
Only when we got there, despite numerous exchanges with the owner, the four-year-old filly wasn’t what was advertised. She was gorgeous, and there was a world of potential, but it was wrapped in a package that needed a whole lot more work than I was comfortable with. She wasn’t just unstarted, she was barley handled and she was dangerous. She even ended up kicking her owner and trying to run us down (twice). When you have to run for your life during the trial, you know it’s not a good match.
I was heartbroken, to the point where I contemplated for days how bad it would be if I actually bought her and then immediately sent her to a professional for 30 days. Then I came to my senses and had to tell myself there was no way I could be that crazy person who buys a horse and then ends up afraid of it. No, no, no!
I’ve since seen four more, all at the same location. Two horses actually escaped during the trial. I swear I don’t remember looking at horses being this eventful the last time I was in the market to buy! I did have the opportunity to actually ride two of them however (the ones who didn’t escape while being handled). Neither had been ridden or handled much in the past year, but both have previously been started to varying degrees. Given my broken finger, and the fact I have to be a bit more cautious than usual, I had my test rider, aka my sister, get on the horses first. Once she cleared them as safe, I hopped on.
The nine-year-old mare was rusty, but all the buttons were there. She walked, trotted and cantered with little issue and was happy to move forward or come back as asked. Unfortunately, I knew as soon as I got on, she just wasn’t the right horse for me. There was absolutely nothing wrong with her, and in fact was a lovely horse, but she is much more of a thoroughbred ride—a quicker step, a less fluid gait, and very sensitive to the aids (which isn’t a bad thing!). I’ve been horribly spoiled by Luc’s warmblood movement.
Before I get flamed by those who own thoroughbreds, let me say I have no issue with the breed. In fact, my very first horse was a well-started OTTB. It’s just that it’s not the type of ride I enjoy. I don’t think they’re all hot, and I don’t think they’re all spooky. This lovely mare barely batted an eye with all that was going on around her, and she hadn’t been under saddle in a year! But I am allowed to have a preference.
The second horse I got on was a six-year-old who had been under saddle at some point, but like the mare, it had been well over a year since anyone had been on him. When he proved himself to be level headed on the lunge—no antics, and in fact had to be encouraged to keep going instead of just stopping and turning in to stare at the people—we decided to have him tacked up.
Unfortunately, there was an issue with bridling him (they weren’t sure they had one that would fit him!). So we did something less than ideal. We rode him while on the lunge line. Jen got on first and walked and trotted without too much trouble. There were a few tense seconds when he gave two very small crow hops that caused me to panic a little as I thought he might be getting ready to throw a buck… but he didn’t and in fact continued on his merry way. She didn’t canter him because he’d had difficulty with it on the lunge, and well, without reins and a bridle you’re putting a whole lot of faith in the person on the ground.
Then it was my turn. As I was leaning over his back just to see what he’d do, I had a thought that this might not be the wisest decision, considering I had only just recently broken my finger the week before. But I shoved down that little voice in my head and got on anyways. He stood rock still while I got on, and then turned around to nudge my foot with his nose. Hmm, that seems awfully familiar. He was happy to walk around on the lunge while I had a death drip on his mane with my one good hand. It is very unnerving riding without reins and on a lunge line. I know I did that when I was first learning, but man I don’t enjoy that feeling of limited control now!
After a few laps around at the walk, with me having to give him an occasional reminder with my legs that we weren’t just going to stop and turn around to look at my foot, I urged him into the trot. It was wonderful—a lovely floaty movement and he didn’t require too much leg to keep him going. Admittedly I didn’t trot for too long as it just felt strange not having much control over the steering. I hopped off and gave him some pats. What a good boy!
For having very minimal handling in more than a year, I was very impressed with this fellow. I have a few more questions to ask, but will likely put in an offer. He reminded me so much of Luc, only less pushy and easier to keep going (sorry Luc!). But he has that same type of sweet personality, where he’s genuinely interested in what you’re doing, and likes to be around the people.
I’m trying not to get too excited just yet. I know from past experiences how many things can happen from the time you find a horse to the time you’ve had it vetted and are ready to take it home. When I looked the last time around, I vetted three before I found one without any large underlying medical issues. The heart has to remain detached for now, but if this fellow checks out I could easily see myself falling hard for him.
Wish me luck in my search!