Wednesday, August 26, 2015

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.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Finding 'The One'

On July 1st, I moved back from six months working abroad in London. I wasn't even completely de-jetlagged yet before I started horse shopping.

If only they went on sale.


After riding for over twenty years I was going to do this. Buy my OWN horse. And not just any horse, but a small infant tiny new babe*. And not just any small infant tiny new babe, but an off the track Thoroughbred.

MEGAN YOU ARE SO FULL OF SMART IDEAS.


Why OTTBs Are So Awesome I Had to Buy One

  1. Price. You can't beat how cheap they are. Even though they've gotten more expensive over the years you can still get something baller for pretty cheap.
  2. Experience. If you get a horse that's raced any amount they've seen a lot. They've probably been hauled all over, clipped, mane pulled, bathed, and been around really busy nerve-wracking settings. They know needles, vets, and farriers.
  3. Thoroughbreds are awesome in general. When I was a little kid I had an imaginary horse named Diamond. She was Shagya Arabian, Morgan, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse. In retrospect I have no idea what that abomination would look like but I have since grown and realized that no matter what I ride (and I've ridden A LOT of different horses), I've always come hurtling back to the Thoroughbred. They're nervous little shits, sensitive and often have crappy feet but they are disproportionately athletic and have a ton of heart. And if I'm flying at a trakhener and I'm scared I want a Thoroughbred under me more than anything else.
So started my search. I wanted a bay mare. With little white socks. Who could jump like stink but also came when I called her and ate cookies and was adorable and not mare-ish. Ideally she would be 4-6 years old, 16.1-16.2 hands, flawlessly sound and a 10 mover at all gaits. Perfect self loader and would stand on the trailer for days without fussing. And also in my budget.

That horse doesn't exist. It really doesn't. It would if I took off the budget caveat but alas...

I don't have one of these in my yard. I don't even have a yard.


I tried to buy the first two horses I saw and my trainer thankfully slowed me down. In retrospect I knew deep down they weren't right for me but they were right enough. And I can see potential in anything. But she kept gently guiding me away, being diplomatic (ish) and ushering me along to the next prospect. 

I thought it would be easy, but it wasn't. It had been two months. I had seen 15 horses. A lot of them were rehabbing from injuries or had foot issues that led to unsoundness. I was getting desperate. I turned to the internet. Dreamhorse.com is like Google; if you have to go past the first few pages of your search, what you're looking for doesn't exist.

WRONG.

Somewhere on page seven or eight, past all the nice picture and video ads, there was a very short, simple ad for a Thoroughbred gelding. His name was Runkle, he was four years old and he had excellent bloodlines and an okay race history but it was clear he wasn't going to work out as a racehorse. He was at the very top (okay, let's be real, he was outside) of my budget. But I figured hey, maybe they were negotiable, maybe it was to scare off tire kickers and shitty homes. I wasn't doing anything Saturday morning anyway and I had nothing else to ride. Why not?

Why not indeed.

Heart: OMG SQUEE.
Brain: Oh no, we are in trouble.


*Babe being a relative term. I wanted something green broke. Ish. I'm not completely insane!