Horses are like houses. The first time you lay eyes on a horse/house, you know that is the horse/house for you. That is how it was for me anyway. My first house was love at first sight. It was a beautiful 2 storey brick house in a nice neighbourhood, with a pond and a gazeebo in the backyard. I loved it. It was a little out of my price range, but I didn’t care. I knew I wouldn’t be happier with anything else.
My first horse (after my return to eventing), was the same thing. It didn’t matter that he was all gangly, narrow chested and had never evented a day in his life. He was beautiful and I wanted him. Enter Chester.
Chester, as we all know, has suffered a pretty bad injury, which has kept him on the Injured Reserve list since December 30, 2010. In the meantime, I have been riding other horses here and there. This is partly due to the generosity of my barn owner who is letting me ride some of the horses at the barn and partly because of my xc coach, John. John, might be one of my heroes. He is a retired 60-year-old teacher, who has spent his entire life riding, bringing along horses, becoming a farrier, steeplechasing, etc etc. He has a no nonsense way about him and will tell it to you like it is. No Fluff. No BS. I love him.
John gets calls every day about horses that people want him to come out and take a look at, start for them, looking for new owners etc. He has been on the look out for me for the past little while. There was a little mare whom I loved named Nikita, which was a potential free lease for me. She is cute, brave, athletic and just learning how to be comfortable jumping. unfortunately, the logistics of the situation didn’t allow for it to work out. On to another one…
Enter Kieran. Kieran is a big black bold TB of a horse. He is powerful and he knows it. He is also a black lab. If he could climb into your lap, he would do it. He is 7 and knows next to nothing save the basics. But, he is very willing and has a great attitude. The first time I met him, he snuffed my ears and neck and goobered all over my sleeve.
He gets a little bit insecure when you first get on him and it takes a little bit for him to relax. I think this might have to do with the fact that he has never really been asked to do anything…once he relaxes, he is a little bit lazy – if that is possible for a TB – and you have to work to keep him in front of your leg. He is also like a centipede and when I ride him, it feels like his front end isn’t connected to his back-end. Think about trying to ride a slinky. He also doesn’t know how to canter. Yet. But, he has potential and his enthusiastic attitude is unmatched.
Then, we have Foster. Before I even met Foster, I wanted him. 5 years old, oldenberg gelding, 17.2 (a TRUE 17’2, we sticked him), bay, most gorgeous horse (other than Chester), I had ever laid my eyes on. Confirmed flat movements, jumps the moon, I could event him within 2 weeks if I wanted too…even though he had never been asked to jump anything xc related, it wouldn’t have been a problem and I knew it. The woman who owns Foster, had too many horses, not enough time and was basically looking to give the horse away, free lease, whatever. John had started him a couple of years ago and immediately thought I would be a perfect match for Foster. When he called me to tell me about him, he said to me: “Carrie, this is your kind of horse.” And, he is. I loved him. Everything about him. Big, bold, brave, gorgeous and one of the most well put together horses I had ever seen. He was as close to perfect – in my eyes – as a horse could get. I should have taken him then and there.
But, I didn’t.
There was talk about him being a Wobbler – which is basically a disease characterized by an abnormal gait in the front and/or hind legs. It is referred to as “wobbler” syndrome, as the horse may seem wobbly when walking or exercising. Normally, you can tell within 18 seconds of riding a horse if they have it or if they don’t. He also had a full set of x-rays done on him at the Equine Research and Medical centre at the University of Guelph up here in Ontario…to which the radiologist wasn’t able to confirm Wobblers. A good sign. The horse doesn’t have wobblers, he didn’t feel off in the least and he wasn’t walking around like he was drunk. But, WHY would there be so much talk about him having wobblers? John figures he might have been unsound at one point and they weren’t able to zone in on the area that was causing all the issues. If anything, he was a little stiff through one of his hocks…but conditioning would have helped that out immensely. Now, I had a choice to make.
BUT, did I want to be stuck with TWO horses who were potentially unrideable?!! I had to think about it. Okay - Chester, is on the IR list for who knows how long, Foster can be eventing within 2 weeks. Proper conditioning will make him stronger and happier and I would have a horse to ride (for FREE) who has potential to do very very very well. Buuuttttt, he also might have an underlying condition which could make him unrideable for any given length of time. I decided to take the chance. John and I discussed it and we were going to go ahead with Foster on a 3 month trial at which point, I would either keep him or give him back. No questions asked. A lot can be accomplished in 3 months and I figured I didnt have anything left to lose and that this potentially could be a very very good thing. I would be able to pick him up on Saturday.
When I was driving home from work on Friday, John called me. When I saw who it was, I figured he was calling to let me know about logistics for Saturday and what time I could show up and load Foster. When I answered, I knew immediately that something was wrong. John told me that someone from Toronto had come and picked up Foster that very morning. I was unbelievably disappointed and couldn’t help but feel as though I should have decided on the spot to take him. Horses like Foster who are practically free, don’t come along very often, or, well, ever.
Thinking about it, cost me Foster.
And the search continues…