The First Ride

I showed up on Saturday morning with a pretty decent idea of what to expect. I had googled the address and a place called “Ashwell Farm” showed up. Before ending up at Bit O Woods I had looked at every barn within an hour’s drive and I thought I had looked at this one. When I rolled up the driveway after driving past it once in each direction I realized I had not, in fact, looked at this farm.

It was amazingly quiet (volume wise) for how busy it was. There were six or seven men hand walking or bathing lanky horses. I saw two gorgeous Thoroughbreds casually gallop by on the training track a couple hundred feet from where I parked my car.

I wish I had taken a picture of the actual track. If I hadn't
been cackin' my pants I would've realized how beautiful it was.

I started laughing the hysterical laughter of a mad person. Runkle wasn’t an OTTB. Or he was but the ‘OT’ didn’t stand for “off the track” it stood for “on the track”. This wasn’t an eventing barn like I thought, this was a race track barn.

I had come too far to turn around, even though I did think I should because this was clearly the stupidest idea I had ever had and there was no way I was ready for this kind of horse. I was an amateur who clearly thinks her shit didn’t stink anymore and went off by herself trying strange Thoroughbreds that she had no business looking at.

I think this speaks for itself.

His exercise rider met me in the barn and was really welcoming and knowledgable. She picked up Runkle’s bridle and then one of the tiny flat exercise saddles they use to work the horses. Of course those were the only saddles they had because I was at a race training barn and what the hell was I even THINKING???

I swallowed the next bout of crazy laughter and (rather casually, I might add) mentioned that I brought my saddle and would it be okay if I tried it on him?

So cool, Megan. Like ice.

I figured if he was a nutjob I wouldn’t get on. I have nothing to prove. The arena we rode him in was next to the track and the horses were thundering past and I was definitely spooking worse than Runkle was. But walk, trot, canter, jump, he didn’t put a foot wrong so I got on.

I've ridden probably a hundred horses in my lifetime. And not just Thoroughbreds. Evil Shetlands. Lumbering draft crosses. Mules. Western pleasure horses. Polo ponies. I've ridden horses bought from auctions for $200 and fancy imported warmbloods worth $200,000.

But as soon as I asked Runkle to walk off I knew he would be my favorite thing I had ever ridden. I had been trying to force that 'ah-ha!' moment on other horses when it was waiting here, in a really unexpected place. We’d be great together, and I’d have fun every step of the way. He had so much potential, and his exercise rider was really enthusiastic about his promise and mentioned all these local big name riders who had tried him and loved him, and seen his budding talent too.

On the drive home I let myself get intimidated. The first twenty minutes I spent lamenting the fact that he was so talented, and I was so chicken shit. All I had done was go training, did I really think I had the confidence and ability to take him as far as he could go? As far as other people thought he could go? I already felt guilty for wasting his talent. On the drive home from seeing him for the first time.

By the time I got to I-95 I took a step back and saw what I was thinking for what it really was. It was me shying away from a really fantastic opportunity to own basically my dream horse because I didn’t think I was ‘good enough’. And with that kind of attitude I would never be good enough. I couldn’t believe I was sabotaging myself from this amazing horse that I really loved riding that hit every single thing on my checklist and was in my budget (ish).

My new regimen.

I need to remind myself every day until I get it through my exceptionally thick skull that I deserve every opportunity that comes my way and not taking advantage of it is a worse crime than trying and failing.

Four days later, Dr. Mark from Unionville Equine did a thorough vetting in which Runkle stunned us all with his magical flexing abilities and patience for being poked with needles, prodded, and examined beyond anything he’s probably ever experienced before. He even faced down the scary x-ray machine demon to show us his lovely, clean joints. My only concern was the vet liked him so much he wanted him for himself...

We had to bribe him with drugs.

The check was written and a few hours later he was home. My horse. MINE.


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