Whenever someone asks me how I finally came to buy a new horse, my explanation is brief: “I got the flu.”
If it’s a horse person, they usually nod in understanding, like one female friend who simply said, “I call it looking at horse porn.”
She was referring to perusing the Internet for ads of horses for sale. I’m normally not a browse-the-Internet kinda gal; I do my online shopping the same way I do any other: swift and decisive, and with a list.
But since I had the flu and my doctor and boss had each banned me from coming into the office until I was no longer “catchy,” I suddenly had lots of extra time on my hands, and cruise the Internet I did–looking for The Horse of My Dreams. And since I was in total indulgence mode, my criteria was very specific:
color: buckskin. My first pony was a buckskin. Maybe I was reverting back to my childhood, or maybe I was subconsciously influenced by the gorgeous horses on the cover of Julie Goodnight’s book, Goodnight’s Guide to Great Trail Riding, which I recently read for the second time.
gender: male. If he were still a stud, I would geld him immediately.
age: between 2 and 5. Old enough to be started under saddle, not so old that he could have bad habits that were difficult to undo.
height: between 15 and 16.2 hands. I’m 5 foot 9, but I don’t want to have to use a stepladder in 20 years.
build: athletic, with a medium to heavy bone.
breed: preferably Friesian mixed with a warmblood. I wanted a Friesian cross because that’s what my husband’s horse is, and he’s a sweetheart. And yes, I know, Friesians don’t come in the color “buckskin”-so there had to be something else that does come in buckskin, like a Quarter Horse, in the lineage somewhere.
temperament: laid back
level of training: very little, or started under saddle using natural horsemanship methods with a reputable trainer who would know better than to push a young horse too hard. At my low budget, it was easier to buy a younger horse and have him started correctly than to fix an older horse with nasty habits.
hooves: preferably maintained in a barefoot trim and never shod. Our farrier, Keith Jacobson, believes you can cause lameness issues in a horse’s later life by shoeing him too young, and I agree.
Of course there was one more criteria on the list that I could only decipher in person: connection. If that intangible and yet very important element didn’t exist when I regarded the horse and he regarded me–well, I would walk away. It didn’t have to be a thunderbolt from the sky, but I would need some kind of gut feeling that this horse liked me, and vice versa.
I spent months looking, saying, I’m not in a hurry–until suddenly I was; spring had sprung and I was missing some great riding weather and best reason of all, I had signed up last year for a Julie Goodnight clinic that was coming up fast. But since I work full time and have a family in addition to a menagerie of horses, dogs and cats, I usually have zero extra time to indulge in things such as horse shopping.
Then I conveniently got the flu. Funny how those things happen, isn’t it?
I recovered and narrowed down the prospects. After some other promising candidates didn’t pan out, I found myself face to face with a 3-year-old buckskin Friesian cross colt.
His dam was a Friesian/Appendix cross, and his sire was an Oldenburg who had a Hanoverian for a grand dam, so the colt had substantial bone. He measured at 15.3.
He had a kind eye, and although still a stud, didn’t protest at all to being tied, loaded in a trailer, led off the premises away from all his friends, having his feet (which had never been shod, yay) picked up or any number of things I asked the seller to do.
I looked closely to see if he had sweat marks or showed other signs of being worked that morning, or if he appeared to be so mellow that perhaps he was on something, but I saw neither. When I asked the seller if he was on any kind of medication that would show up in the vet’s blood draw, she didn’t hesitate to say no and didn’t appear bothered that I would check.
So far, I had kept my distance, both literally and emotionally, from the colt. He only had a month of training under saddle, so the seller saddled him up to ride him first (I can see you nodding in approval as you read this, saying, Well, maybe Amy is capable of learning, after all).
While she got him ready, I stepped up to the colt’s large, furry head, leaned in close to his nostrils and exhaled a breath from my nose into his to say hello.
As soon as I did, the colt froze, as if to say, REALLY?, and in the instant after that, he lowered his head even closer to mine and gently breathed his own hello right back. We stayed like that for several moments, talking back and forth with our breaths, and I couldn’t help it, my heart gave a little leap.
When I rode him, he was green and awkward and unsure of what to do, so I only trotted him around long enough to determine that he had a willing attitude. The rest he could learn, and I knew I had the perfect mentor for him back home in horse trainer Larry Fleming.
So, my fellow horse friends, meet the latest addition to our herd. He still needs a name–his given name, Seren, sounds too much like “sarin” which is a poisonous gas, so that’s got to go, despite some folks telling me it’s unlucky to change a horse’s name.
Since his arrival in Colorado, the colt’s been gelded, had a wolf tooth removed and his teeth floated, been given his spring shots and introduced to Larry, who has begun to gently work him.
They didn’t exchange breaths, but I knew the colt had Larry’s stamp of approval when the trainer, who is a man of few words, turned to me the other day and said, “This colt’s got a really good mind.”
I called Larry the other morning to see how my new boy was doing, and ended the call by saying, “Give him a hug for me.”
“I don’t know about that,” Larry answered in his slow drawl, “but I might scratch him on the head for ya.”