That white blaze a few stalls down from B ended up belonging to a 15.3H 6 year old OTTB who was built more like a QH and had an overall zen type feel about him.
He sauntered past crazy eyes without missing a beat or taking much notice and stood in the cross ties like an old man. His kind eye and old man soul really captured my heart from the get go. He was pleasant to be around, neither pushy nor scary. I’m not really an “in your pocket” type horse owner. That drives me crazy. He was soft and quietly enjoyed attention without balking or begging.
Of course, stand in had no information on him but I was easily able to find his online sales ad. No use trying out a horse double my budget!
The ad pulled up easily enough and I introduced myself to A. According to that, he was a professional eventer’s horse and was currently running novice. He had no vices, was described as being “honest but not dumb brave”, and had a “catty feel in stadium without being hot” Interesting. I’m not exactly sure what that last part meant, but he was so gentle and kind looking that I had to give him a go.
I walked all around him poking, prodding and picking up his feet. At one point I looked over and found Wyatt wrapping his arms around him in a huge hug. A just stood there with a soft look in his eye and took the hug like a champ. Brownie points achieved.
The arena was a 10 minute hike through deep sand to the back of the property and I headed off as soon as he was tacked up to get a head start as well as to secretly spy on his progress. He stood still to be mounted at the mounting block and walked casually off when asked.
The stand in girl was a prelim level rider, so it wasn’t a true test of how he would do with a newbie like me but it would be interesting since she had never ridden him before so at least it wasn’t someone who knew all his buttons like the back of their hand. She also used her own tack which was a high end CWD saddle which was dangerous. I forgot how good a high end saddle could feel.
The arena ended up being a large open field with a small dressage court marked out on one end and jumps strewn about the other. She started to fiddle with her stirrups and he ambled around. That raised a red flag for me as I wondered if he didn’t have any brakes, but it turned out that she just didn’t care because as soon as she asked him to halt he did.
She then proceeded with the now familiar show of the horse: w/t/c both directions and then several jumps taken from the trot and canter. Her biggest comment was that he liked a lot of contact to go in the lovely frame she had him in but other than that she said nothing stuck out at her during her first ever ride on the little guy.
It was then my turn and all my new horse nerves kicked into high gear. I was fully prepared to not like him. He looked like he was a lot more forward than all the others I had tried and I climbed aboard with a knot in my stomach.
As soon as I got him going though it disappeared. He felt like coming home. After riding all those long, lanky horses A felt so much like my Gem in his forward and shorter strides and more compact way of going. Yet he listened and had brakes.
I got him to collect into his nice frame for short periods but I wasn’t able to get him to hold it like she did. I’ve never ridden a horse that required so much contact, but when I rode him correctly it felt really good.
He was sensitive to my leg in that he required a light aide to respond, but he was nowhere near as hypersensitive as Gemmie. It was a good feeling to have him respond without the need for me to constantly nag yet allow my leg to remain on without becoming hollow and tense. He was the way I wished Gem was.
I also liked that he put up with my incredibly rigid grade C riding that was occurring. I was starting to fade in the heat and with all the nervous energy I had carried all day. My rigid elbows and tense hips would have given him every reason to act out and yet he didn’t. He simply went around dealing with me the best he could and trying to give me what I was asking for. Even when I was asking for two different things at the same time.
While the flat work was fun, what really lit me up was his jumping. When he rode with the girl, he looked like a sports car out there eating up the inside turns. I approached the jump from an insanely slow and tense trot and he followed suit jumping over without hesitation and coming back to a trot on the backside. The second approach I eased up a bit and he stayed with me. He looked for the jumps and I knew he would go over anything I pointed him at.
I finished wishing I had ridden better but I was hot, tired and not on my A game at all. I walked back to the barn with him and the wheels were turning in my head. I liked him. I really liked him. He was kind and patient. He was much more the type of horse I thought I’d end up with versus the huge beasts I had been trying. Would he be a good match for me? Could I get over all the lessons Gem taught me and learn to relax on him? I wasn’t as insta-relaxed as I had been on the mare F, but I also had a lot more fun riding him with his more effortless and forward stride versus the constant nagging of all my leg aides to get the mare going.
But he was only 6 and had been a pro ride for the last two years. Would he be able to handle my mistakes and mixed signals and PTSD? Would he backslide in his training when he realized we wouldn’t be going novice like ever?
As we left I sent Trainer all 20 videos from both N and A and hunkered down to await her reply. I wanted A. I could picture the next 20 years with him. He was the only horse I had tried to date that I could picture excitedly pulling from the pasture and riding. I knew he would test me more than the other lesson type horses, but I also knew he had the most potential to unlock things for me and push me to trust and enjoy this sport.
I wanted A.
I made Dusty’s ears bleed the entire 2 hour drive home. Was I making a bad decision? What did he think? He has known me through all of my time with Gem. He knew me before her as we travelled through France together horseback. He knows me better than anyone. His opinion? Buy A. He thought he would be good for me. Fun, trust worthy and would force me to continue to learn and grow instead of becoming a passenger. He knew I could ride him better once I let go of my issues and trusted him. He could picture Wyatt on him in the not so distant future.
I also texted Emma and probably made her eyes bleed. I sent her his JC name which I had already looked up (18 starts, 1 win, $9800 earnings) and then when I got his USEA/USEF name I sent that to her as well. We found his record. We found some pictures from his recognized shows which were all up in her neck of the woods and found out that he had been through the YEH program. We also found a picture of his one RF on record where he crashed in front of the fence. I’m not sure I recommend finding those. She brought up good questions which I later brought up to Trainer.
Was I out horsing myself? Would he do well outside of his professional program? Was his record at novice strong enough to make him educated enough for me? Would I bring him home and crash and burn?
Or would I learn to ride him better over time and put away my doubts? Would he open new doors and teach me how to trust? Would he take me across the next cross country course calmly and with bravery? Would his past training with the pro shine through?
All the while I was convinced Trainer would laugh at me and tell me hell no. He was only 6! And not a lesson horse! And so very different than all the others!
When she called me that night and told me she loved him I was ecstatic. She wasn’t worried about his age and she loved his easy going nature. She answered all my questions and responded to my doubts. She loved him and told me she was excited to begin lessons for us.
The two people I trust the most both told me to buy the horse.
I slept on it that night and annoyed both Trainer and Hubby again the next morning. I still wanted A. Badly. I asked Trainer for the dozenth time if she would be ok with me purchasing him. After all she would be dealing with us for years to come.
After they both repeated that they were on board with this decision, I messaged the seller and put my deposit down. Then on Monday I scheduled the PPE, a whole journey of its own. It is scheduled for tomorrow and if all goes well he gets to come home with me right after.
This is a whole new world for me. A well trained horse. An off the track thoroughbred. A 6 year old. It will mean learning to trust and let go. I can’t wait to begin this new journey of opening up new doors and learning new skills on a partner who is equally interested in the adventure. Gem took me places I never dreamed of going and taught me so many things I never would have learned without her. Hopefully A can do the same in a much more forgiving manner which can then allow me to also ride Gem but with more skill and knowledge.
It’s a new age and hopefully it begins tomorrow!